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Old 08-01-2013, 01:37 PM
 
Location: East Coast of the United States
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There have probably been other threads on this topic. But I wanted to hear some discussions about it from people who have been through this already and are atheist/agnostic.

As for me, I have not yet experienced this in my own life. But my parents are in their 80s and it's only a matter of time that the inevitable will happen. I want mentally prepare myself for that now and was wondering if people here have any words of advice and what to expect - which have nothing to do with God, of course.
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Old 08-01-2013, 01:44 PM
 
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If these were good people, just continue the legacy they built. Their deaths are ends to what is normally suffering. I'm not good with these types of subjects, but that's what I did when my father passed a couple years ago. Ironically, it seemed to be much harder on the theists in our family.
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Old 08-01-2013, 01:58 PM
 
Location: Portland, Oregon
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To prepare, make sure that you aren't leaving anything unsaid that needs to be said. Settle any issues that exist between you. Note that the preceding do not necessarily involve anyone but you; often you can get to the point of feeling clarity and completeness in your relationships with just introspection. If you do need to have a conversation, have it soon. It is actually possible to resolve feelings of incompleteness after the person has died, but why wait.

This is actually the same advice I'd give to a theist.
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Old 08-01-2013, 02:54 PM
 
Location: Northeastern US
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My elderly mother died a day or two after a car accident but I was able to visit with her in the hospital. My father died basically of old age but I had several day's warning. My wife died of a rare disease but it took years. My oldest brother died of cancer but he had a 6 months heads up on it. In other words every time I had warning and the opportunity to speak at least one last time with them. But this has taught me to leave nothing unsaid with anyone I'm close to, because you never know if something sudden will happen. Ask yourself what would upset you to have left unsaid or undone if you got The Call right now. And then don't delay to take care of that unfinished business. If you don't know how to approach it then get advice, professional advice if need be.

The fact about grief is that its intensity is pretty directly proportional to how much a part of your daily life that person has been, and how recently that has been the case. On that basis, grieving for my wife was by far the most difficult of all those losses listed above, even with plenty of time to prepare. But I would imagine that the people who you grew up with (parents, siblings) would be a bit of a special case. I had a good relationship with all of my family, and I am the youngest of four boys by a full 10 years, so was not as close to my siblings as most people would be and I didn't have any unfinished business. I am sure that if you did not feel full love and acceptance from any immediate family members then there is the additional loss to grieve, that you never got to resolve that. So the other practical thing is to do everything you reasonably can to either resolve such relationship issues or reconcile yourself to whatever aspect of it is beyond your control.

I think it's a very good idea to understand the process of grief and loss, death and dying. Google about Thanatology. Read some of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross's books on the topic. Demystify it.

Finally and perhaps most importantly, deal as thoroughly as you can with the fact of your own mortality. If you're terrified of your own dissolution then it will be much harder to handle the dissolution of others.
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Old 08-01-2013, 06:37 PM
 
Location: Sitting beside Walden Pond
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rob Allen View Post
To prepare, make sure that you aren't leaving anything unsaid that needs to be said. Settle any issues that exist between you.
Rob, that is really, really good advice.
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Old 08-07-2013, 04:06 AM
 
Location: Earth
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I have been around a lot of dying people. They die and you grieve. I would be prepared to respect your parents wishes around what type of service they have. It is in my will that there will be no religious service at all.
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Old 08-07-2013, 05:15 AM
 
Location: NJ
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I agree with others it is good not to leave anything important unspoken. Although I'm not sure that answers your question of how do you "cope" with the loss (although it should make "coping" easier").

For me it is pretty straight forward. You grieve. You may get angry. You may get depressed. And then you get over it. But you never forget. Hopefully you hold on to the good memories. The bad ones don't matter any more.
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Old 08-07-2013, 02:42 PM
 
Location: WA
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I had to look beyond traditional ways of mourning. When my mom died, there was the church funeral, wake, memorial masses, gravestone, etc. I tolerated being involved in that, but I didn't especially find it necessary to the grieving process. I found that the best way to cope was to come up with my own "memorial": planting her favorite type of flower bush and remembering her a little bit every time I walk by it.

You might have to get creative, but when the time comes, I think its important to do something that is meaningful to you, not something that a church says is meaningful.
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Old 08-08-2013, 12:36 AM
 
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Live each day with people as if it will be your last together.

Ask yourself often "If this person died today what would be my biggest regret?" and then take steps to ensure that regret never comes to reality.

Ensure that the living know how you feel about them in the here and now before it is too late to tell them when they are dead.

When someone does die do your best to incorporate the best of them into your own life so that the best of them lives on in you, and through you in others.

Help those that also loved that person to cherish the memories and to work through their grief. Grief shared is easier to work through than grief in isolation.

Always remember that grief is not something to be avoided or ignored but a wound to be worked through and helped to heal.

Be mindful and watchful that theists and other charlatans do not try to use your grief, or that of the people around you, to sell their lies, wares or other methods of taking advantage of the weakened and vulnerable. Such people above all like a soft target and people in grief are one of the softest targets of all.
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Old 08-08-2013, 10:03 AM
 
Location: Northeastern US
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Quote:
Originally Posted by seattlenextyear View Post
I found that the best way to cope was to come up with my own "memorial": planting her favorite type of flower bush and remembering her a little bit every time I walk by it.

You might have to get creative, but when the time comes, I think its important to do something that is meaningful to you, not something that a church says is meaningful.
Ritual is a very useful tool for processing grief and loss, among other things. One should not make the mistake of thinking that it is the sole province of religion or that it cannot be built around anything but religious ideations or that it can only be concocted by religious authorities. The subconscious mind processes things symbolically; therefore, performing symbolic actions can help one deal with challenging situations. It works better for some than others, just as some people are more attracted to religions heavy in ritual and others are repelled by such things.
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