Sunday, August 11, 2013

Sundays at Grandma's: Part 2 of Grieving without God--Giving up the Ghost

Written by Awesome Aunt Kristi

In the last section of my 2 part "Grieving without God" series, I mentioned that for a long time I was very cynical about religion.  The last seven months have radically changed my scope on religion and have helped tame my cynicism toward this God concept. 

But when did I give up the ghost, as they say?

The day my niece died is the day that any lingering belief in an omnipotent being also died within me. Yes, that initial moment when my brother-in-law called to tell me that, "We lost the baby," I began to bargain with God or the universe. Asking him/it/she to make this undone, that I would be the best Christian/Muslim/Buddhist/etc. that would ever be if only this whole thing was a mistake.

As the hours passed, sitting in the waiting room specially made for the sad family members, I started to become angry at whatever deity. Blaming, condemning, and discarding their existence because how could a deity do this to my sister and brother-in-law. If said deity did exist, then they were horrible and I wouldn't want to believe in them anyway.

And then more time passed. With every minute I could feel this anger release, just as my bargaining had turned to anger, my anger was turning to despair. Nothing would bring my niece back. Nothing would take this pain away. Nothing would reverse time and undo this tragic experience. And that's when I realized that nothing was to blame. No one. No deity. No doctor.

It was all just a horrible game of chance. Yes, eventually we found out that Nora became sick with e.coli, but how she contracted it we can only speculate. And even then, blaming is not helpful. Blaming doesn't bring people back from the dead. Blaming doesn't allow you to time travel back to a happier time and correct this mistake. Blaming is exhausting and pointless, as was bargaining and being angry at a God I didn't even believe in.

Eventually, when I had spent all those hours pondering and processing this situation, I came out the other side of discarding the deity and I felt free. Giving up God allowed me to grieve in a whole different way. I couldn't blame him, therefore I couldn't be mad at him, therefore I could take my grief and use it to spend time with my niece. Instead of talking with God about bringing her back, I talked to Nora about how I wished she was here. What we would have done as Aunt and Niece. How I would have been AWESOME to the n-th degree. Instead of spending time praying to a God to take my pain away and help me through my grief, I asked Nora to do that instead.

Perhaps some find comfort in blaming God or finding reason with God for why a tragic experience happens, but I don't. And in not finding responsibility with anyone or anything, I feel I have found peace with this experience. Does this mean that I am "over" her death or that I don't grieve anymore? The answer now, and forever, will always be NO WAY! I will always grieve for my niece and miss everything that could have been, but I grieve with love now, not hate or anger.

I truly believe that grieving without God has really transformed who I am. It feels as if a weight has been lifted. I can just grieve for my niece without having any interference from anything else. Now, I can be in the presence of my niece's memory and feel comforted, not angry. Negative emotions are so exhausting and energy draining, besides, I decided the day she died that I would remember her in happiness. I started a journal to her, but more often than not I hold conversations with her inside my head. They are often one-sided because I don't need to give her a voice, she doesn't need to say anything because she has taught me so much already. Often, I thank her for what her short existence has taught me: love.

All Nora ever knew was love, which is possibly the most beautiful experience in the world. If only all of us could experience the vast and infinite depths of love, like Nora. Nora has taught me that love is binding, unbreakable, and can bring us out of the greatest depths of despair. Love is healing. We are beings of love, but often we forget that. Love involves giving of yourself to others without any expectations in return.

Would I give all this up to have her back? Would I trade all the love in the world to have my niece here? Yes. In a heartbeat. In a second. If I could give my life for hers, I would. But nothing can change the outcome of this situation, so I choose to honor my niece's memory with love.

If, in the end, when I die I am put before God and all my beliefs on the topic have been proven wrong, then so be it. At least I will have lived true to myself and others, and done my best to be kind and love, and I don't think a deity would blame me for that.


  1. I'm grateful that you all post your struggles like this. I too went through all of the above for many years after I lost my son at 23 weeks. Ultimately, my belief in "something" that emerged was based solely on the fact that if I didn't, I would never see my son (and all the others) again in some form of an afterlife. Thank you for sharing your stories. It's nice to know that I wasn't the only one that struggled like this.

  2. Thank you SO MUCH for writing this. As a secular grieving momma, it is often a lonely road.

  3. Kristi you have a way with words. I like that on this site we can explore all beliefs or lack of them openly. I love the Macklomore song "Same Love" where he says, "Whatever God you believe in, we come from the same one." That is any God or no God. We are all connected anyway it is woven together and LOVE is what binds us all.


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