Grieving for the loss of god
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08-06-2012, 12:26 PM
Grieving for the loss of god
Ok, I've been thinking ( hubby would say: "oh, oh!")

There are quite a few atheists here who used to be seriously practicing christians.

For a practicing christian, god occupies quite a large part of life, things one does and thoughts one has. It's a way of life and a way of thinking.

The medical definition of grief:



Quote: Grief: The normal process of reacting to a loss. The loss may be physical (such as a death), social (such as divorce), or occupational (such as a job). Emotional reactions of grief can include anger, guilt, anxiety, sadness, and despair. Physical reactions of grief can include sleeping problems, changes in appetite, physical problems, or illness.

So, looking at this from a purely medical point of view, when one removes a large part of daily practices and habit, grief replaces it until that issue is resolved and the void that has been created is filled again. (from other readings I gather this takes a minimum of a year and likely several years).

When a person who is a huge part of your life dies, at first you surround yourself with memories and you think about everything that happened with them and analyze things to death. (no pun intended)

From what I see, atheists who used to be practicing christians do much of the same. They read the bible and other books of faith and analyse them and discuss them and spend a lot of time on this.

I see all the symptoms of grief coming up repeatedly - anger, guilt, anxiety, sadness, and despair. (humor is not precluded here, just because the afore mentioned feelings are present doesn't mean that all others have ceased to exist, life goes on even when grieving).

I also see people who are at the door of letting god walk out and letting atheism in go through a lot of the things you go through when anticipating the death of someone very close - clinging to hope by coming up with a never-ending flood of alternative possibilities - anything but the death of faith will do. Some strange logic comes up this way...

So that's what I have been thinking about. Your thoughts?

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08-06-2012, 12:51 PM
RE: Grieving for the loss of god
I couldn't tell you personally as every instance I had with christianity was self induced, so there was no empty space inside for me left to fill.

I always looked at it like a confusion that hits someone like on the day of labor. You kind of think you know what's gonna happen, you've seen videos, you've talked to people who have been through it, you think you're prepared. But then it happens, and its so much more than what you were told, it's different, and scary, and hard, and now it's you doing it instead of someone else and everything you were told to do suddenly isn't there anymore.

Eventually you get through it, but not always.

For me it scarred me. And I'm a dude. I almost think it's better for the ladies because if it's like it was for my wife, you're so drugged up that you forget most of it anyways. I remember everything. Every last disgusting detail. I remember wanting to punch the doctor in the face for pulling so hard on my kids head. Then I remember seeing the bag o' goop. Ugh.
Maybe how long you're in the cult determines how well you succeed at getting out of it, and how long it takes to recover.

"I think of myself as an intelligent, sensitive human being with the soul of a clown which always forces me to blow it at the most important moments." -Jim Morrison
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08-06-2012, 01:07 PM
RE: Grieving for the loss of god
(08-06-2012 12:51 PM)lucradis Wrote:  I couldn't tell you personally as every instance I had with christianity was self induced, so there was no empty space inside for me left to fill.

Huh? Not following the "self induced" part.

Quote:Maybe how long you're in the cult determines how well you succeed at getting out of it, and how long it takes to recover.


Yes, that fits with the grief principles. Length of involvement is a big part of it, as is intensity and the amount of space it occupied in your life at the time.

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08-06-2012, 01:11 PM
RE: Grieving for the loss of god
Sorry, what I meant by self induced is that I went in search of religion for answers, as opposed to being told at birth that religion is true. I never accepted it as true. Not once. What I should have said was that I was never an addict, or I never bought into the hype.

"I think of myself as an intelligent, sensitive human being with the soul of a clown which always forces me to blow it at the most important moments." -Jim Morrison
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08-06-2012, 01:12 PM
RE: Grieving for the loss of god
Dom, you're onto something here.
I was really thrown for a loop with my own emotional response to becoming an atheist. After leaving the ministry, I had been a defacto agnostic for several years and just went about life with my normal amounts of angst and depression. Once I came to the realization that I was indeed an atheist, I assumed I would feel a burden of belief lifted from my shoulders. And maybe I did for a minute or two. But it wasn't long afterwards that I slipped into some pretty major depression. Looking back now, I can see it as a realization of the extent of loss I had experienced when I gave up a lifetime of belief and a lifestyle and social life that accompanied my Christian Worldview. I feel like I'm still picking up the pieces, but almost a year later, I think I'm getting there and this place has had a lot to do with my recovery.

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08-06-2012, 01:42 PM
RE: Grieving for the loss of god
(08-06-2012 01:12 PM)Erxomai Wrote:  Dom, you're onto something here.
I was really thrown for a loop with my own emotional response to becoming an atheist. After leaving the ministry, I had been a defacto agnostic for several years and just went about life with my normal amounts of angst and depression. Once I came to the realization that I was indeed an atheist, I assumed I would feel a burden of belief lifted from my shoulders. And maybe I did for a minute or two. But it wasn't long afterwards that I slipped into some pretty major depression. Looking back now, I can see it as a realization of the extent of loss I had experienced when I gave up a lifetime of belief and a lifestyle and social life that accompanied my Christian Worldview. I feel like I'm still picking up the pieces, but almost a year later, I think I'm getting there and this place has had a lot to do with my recovery.


Yep, a year minimum. Or several years even. One thing is clear though, it takes time, time is your friend here. Every day is another step toward being all healed.

Sounds like it all fits.

I don't have that with religion, that hasn't been a part of my life in eons and I certainly have no holes to fill. It just struck me how very similair the loss of god seems to be to my loss of my husband. And, looking at the medical definitions, it is much the same feat.

And while my loss is different, this place is helping me a lot with my recovery, too.

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08-06-2012, 05:33 PM
RE: Grieving for the loss of god
(08-06-2012 01:42 PM)Dom Wrote:  It just struck me how very similair the loss of god seems to be to my loss of my husband. And, looking at the medical definitions, it is much the same feat.
I've minimized my own feelings in this area because I feel my loss is imaginary while you lost someone dear to your heart. But the thing is, when I was a Christian, I wasn't in name only. I really bought into the Relationship that God has with his Believers. God was dear to my heart, the lover of my soul and I loved God...real or not, there is a loss of my central source of guidance and comfort and even identity as a Child of God. Stuff that seems hokey to non-believers, yet it was all very real to me. I guess that's why I appreciate your posting of this topic. Smile

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09-06-2012, 07:16 AM
RE: Grieving for the loss of god
Imaginary or not has nothing to do with it.

If it occupied your time, was a big part of your self image and occupied your thinking and activities, the removal of it causes a large void and the void causes grieving. Grieving is involuntary.

Grief means having to re-invent yourself. The larger the void left by the loss is, the harder this becomes. All the empty spots have to be filled with something else.

What helps a bit is if you are aware of the triggers and the process. The triggers are always the same, your response to them changes over time. Letting go on a rational level is not that hard, but you keep running into things that bring back the old thinking, you have a lot of conditioned responses to all the aspects of your life that were based on or touched by your loss.

That is why a year is the minimum grieving period, whether you like it or not. In a year's time you go through some trigger situations a whole lot, but each one at least once (seasons, holidays, scents, tastes, everything).

No matter how free thinking or intelligent or emotionally secure you are, you are still Pavlov's dog. You are still full of conditioned responses, and all of these need to be uprooted and changed, one by one. There is no magic wand that changes everything in one swoop.

So you feel like you keep running into a brick wall. And that can make you angry or sad or any number of strong emotions. Now you are not only fighting to find rational substitutes to fill the voids, but you are fighting your own emotional responses.

Grieving is a bitch. But, whether you stumble through this maze blindly or with wide open eyes, you will eventually adjust. There will always be traces left, but they won't be dominating your life anymore.

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09-06-2012, 07:43 AM
RE: Grieving for the loss of god
(08-06-2012 12:26 PM)Dom Wrote:  Ok, I've been thinking ( hubby would say: "oh, oh!")

There are quite a few atheists here who used to be seriously practicing christians.

For a practicing christian, god occupies quite a large part of life, things one does and thoughts one has. It's a way of life and a way of thinking.

The medical definition of grief:



Quote: Grief: The normal process of reacting to a loss. The loss may be physical (such as a death), social (such as divorce), or occupational (such as a job). Emotional reactions of grief can include anger, guilt, anxiety, sadness, and despair. Physical reactions of grief can include sleeping problems, changes in appetite, physical problems, or illness.
So, looking at this from a purely medical point of view, when one removes a large part of daily practices and habit, grief replaces it until that issue is resolved and the void that has been created is filled again. (from other readings I gather this takes a minimum of a year and likely several years).

When a person who is a huge part of your life dies, at first you surround yourself with memories and you think about everything that happened with them and analyze things to death. (no pun intended)

From what I see, atheists who used to be practicing christians do much of the same. They read the bible and other books of faith and analyse them and discuss them and spend a lot of time on this.

I see all the symptoms of grief coming up repeatedly - anger, guilt, anxiety, sadness, and despair. (humor is not precluded here, just because the afore mentioned feelings are present doesn't mean that all others have ceased to exist, life goes on even when grieving).

I also see people who are at the door of letting god walk out and letting atheism in go through a lot of the things you go through when anticipating the death of someone very close - clinging to hope by coming up with a never-ending flood of alternative possibilities - anything but the death of faith will do. Some strange logic comes up this way...

So that's what I have been thinking about. Your thoughts?


I've been in the stage of knowing my faith was dying for the past 2 years and going as a foreign exchange student where I was all alone and had time to think for myself was what finally killed it, as I became basically agnostic halfway through my year here but I have yet to feel any of these symptoms of grief, I've just felt more relief from judgments and restrictions and have allowed myself to hang out with a wider variety of people and experience more things, but I haven't had to return home and face the consequences of my decision yet nor be in a familiar environment. I think it was easier for me to change my beliefs and let go of the old ones because I'm across the world right now in a completely foreign environment already, so I've become sort of numbed to the feelings of change and don't even notice them sometimes.
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09-06-2012, 08:52 AM
RE: Grieving for the loss of god
Thinking about people I have known that are very involved with their church I would have to say there is quite a hole to fill and not just due to the loss of belief.

Sunday school, church services on the weekend and on Wednesday nights (that wasn't part of my Catholic experience), the groups such as those that feed a family who has experienced a loss or illness. Retreats, revivals...all the rest. There would simply be a lot of time to fill that had previously been filled by church/fellowship activities.

Since I wasn't heavily into religion, I didn't have that time void to fill but I could see where you would feel a little lost without that aspect of your life being in place any more.

I'm not anti-social. I'm pro-solitude. Sleepy
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