Sunday, November 15, 2009


In the final analysis, we are all really alone.

Sometimes I feel more alone than others.

I have a very supportive family, and a wonderful network of friends.

The grieving support group has provided me with another group of people who can relate to me and to whom I can relate in ways that my friends and family thankfully cannot.

But I have yet to happen upon another non-theist** who has lost a child.

I've read, and continue to read, several blogs of parents who have lost a child. Most are openly religious, in a structured sense. Church, prayer, reading and quoting the bible. Some are less structured, and appear to believe in god but in a less formal way. Angels, seeing loved ones in heaven, more prayer.

Allow me to formally digress into a disclaimer. I have nothing against religion. It is a useful and powerful tool in the lives of many, including many people whom I love and respect. It's just that I don't believe in god, and I can't imagine ever believing in god, just as strongly as those who do fervently believe in god can't imagine not doing so. It's part of the deep fabric of my being since I went through my own self-directed religious journey in my late teens. It may be arrogance, but I think that I've thought about god a lot more than many people who believe in god.

Anyhoo, I feel like the only one (my husband excepted.) I haven't met/read/heard of a fellow non-theist grieving a child. Of course, they exist...they must. I wish I could find some. We as grieving parents have so many emotions and experiences in common; our real and cyber-relationships are so supportive. But I get lost, feel shut out at times, when the healing turns to god and the relief that people seem to get from that belief and relationship. I just can't go there.

Where is the nearest Pseudo-Buddhist Non-theist American Grieving Parent support group?

**My newly preferred word for my belief system. Atheist is so loaded these days. I'm not anti-god, I just don't believe in one.


...tom... said...


Where is the nearest Pseudo-Buddhist Non-theist American Grieving Parent support group?

Hmmm. ... 'PBNAGP'

Yur gonna have to come up with a catchier acronym. ...:minism:...

I assume Google finds nothing..?? I suppose it would be a miracle to find another PBNAGP...

. . .wait, 'miracle' would require ...oh never mind.

Just teasing ya of course.

' who is not stalking Dr. Smak ...but just happened to notice the 'new post indicator' at his blog...

Anonymous said...

I have been faithfully reading your blog for quite some time. I didn't know you were a non-theist. I actually had to look the work up for a definition. I enjoyed using my dictionary. I was wondering what you think happens when we die? Nothing? Just cease to exist and decay in the ground? No spirit in Man? I am not offended by any who claim non-theism or atheism. Faith in a unseen God is Faith. Some have it and some don't. It's difficult for me as a person of Faith to adequately explain why I believe. I have tried not to believe before and no matter what doubts or questions persist I could not stay in my unbelief. I have read the bible and believe it is the inspired word of God but I do not claim to have some amazing understanding of God. I get Jesus more than the rest of the bible. My questions are not meant as anything other than curiosity about the non-spirit filled death belief. I hope I am not to blunt or insensitive. You appear to be so open with all your raw feelings, emotions and thoughts. I have often read your blog when I want to be reminded about what is important in life. Thank You, Toni

Snickollet said...

You might find the grieving non-theists as members among your local Unitarian Universalist congregation.

I'm not at all saying you should join a UU church, just that many people who are not religious in the traditional sense of the word, even non-theists, go there to find community and to make sense of life in general or specific life events.

I don't want to hijack your comments, so I'll write you more in an e-mail.

Texas reader said...

I am an atheist and it never occured to me until reading this post that most grief groups would be heavily religiously oriented and a non-religious person wouldn't feel comfortable in that.

We non-believers really do need to make more of an effort to come out of the closet so that we can be there to support each other. I wish I knew of a grief group for the non-religious.

Thank you for continuing to share your journey with your readers. At whatever time you need to stop I will be sad but will be happy that you have made the decision that is best for you and your family.

pelican said...

I'm a non-theist pseudo-Buddhist, although not a parent.

Your blog is one of the blogs that makes *me* feel less-alone ... a smart and loving woman facing head on, but gracefully, the full realities of life. Thanks for blogging.

I hope you connect with someone who can help you feel less-alone in your grieving.

A Doc 2 Be said...

Dr. Smak,

I feel for you... while I am a theist, I DO believe there is a God for many reasons, I'm not an organized religion follower. That said, yes, there is a comfort in having a belief in something greater than myself, especially when it came to my own son's death.

I wish I could help you. I wish I could point you in the direction of a group who likewise looked at life as "here now, not later", instead, all I can offer you is a warm, extended, heartfelt online embrace, and warmth.


Jen said...

I would second the suggestion to contact your local UU group- they often offer many programs and groups which certainly include non-theists.

I can empathize with you- I'm a non-theist as well, and I used to feel very out of place even at the parent support meetings at our hospital...I even had someone try to convert me the night before my daughter went into surgery, solely because I mentioned that I did not want a chaplain to sit with me in the waiting room. If I ever run across anything like what you are looking for, I'll let you know.

Anonymous said...

As a fellow non-theist, I understand, partly. Since I don't have a child, let along a child who has died, I can't share or comprehend that particular experience. However, I have had the experience of grief from losing my parents and a man I loved.

When believers would tell me God has a plan, however inscrutable, I would think about how the "plan" of the whole universe is impermanence. Everything changes, everything dies. I didn't find that at all comforting, and I would wonder how the idea that a being, a god, deliberately created that plan would be comforting to them. I was glad I didn't have the burden of believing that!

What helped me through grief was the simple realization that although these people I loved were lost to me, there were people I love who were still available. And there were more people out there to find, more available to love. When I focused more on the love and joy still there for me, I gradually made peace with what I'd lost.

Grief is hard for everyone, theist or non-theist. Time really is the best healer.

Kim said...

I also am a non-theist leaning towards psuedo buddhism but I have not lost one of my children, however I often wonder how to explain death to them. I wish there were more support or that people that are non believers would start to speak up more.

Billie said...

I cannot help you with finding a non-theist support group, but I can empathize with your desire for one. I am a non-theist (or perhaps an agnostic--though I most definately do NOT believe in a god or a higher power or a plan).

Losing a child (which I have not) is the only thing I can imagine that would make me WANT to believe in a god and a plan and an after life. I do not feel capable of believing it, but it brings such comfort to those who do. I can see how your journey through this would be entirely different from those who believe God brought their child "home" for a reason and they will meet up again in the afterlife.

Best of luck.


Anonymous said...

Dear Dr. Smak, are you familiar with a resource It is for, among others, non-theistic parents raising ethical, caring kids without religion. I took a quick look and there's a forum topic "death and consolation" ( I would suggest you post your query. Even if the forum users do not have suggestions, Dale McGowan, the author of the website, will share any resources he may have come across. My very best.

littleharves said...

well i'm about a year behind you but i am what you looking for in this post at least xxx anne