Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Four Years Ago - Some Thoughts On Grief

It happened 4 years ago today.  I was on the way out the door to drive to Kansas City to spend the holiday weekend with some friends when I got a text to go over to my brother's.  He had something to tell me that he wouldn't tell me over the phone.  That could only mean someone had died.

I was expecting it to be our grandmother or our great-aunt, both who've had failing health in recent years.  But I was wrong.  It was our father.

Maybe it was the fact that I'm a bit of an emotional robot.  Maybe it was me never having a belief in any afterlife.  Maybe it was something else entirely.  But I instantly skipped the first four stages of grief[1] and accepted that he was gone.

I've experienced anger due to his death, but I wouldn't qualify it as being part of the grief.  It was justified anger at the hospital staff who didn't do their jobs[2].  I do experience occasional sadness during times his presence would be most desired, like when I want to get his opinion on something or I find a new game I think he'd enjoy.

Denial and bargaining are things I never experienced.  Denying it never seemed like a productive use of my time.  Who the hell would I bargain with?  And for what?  To make him rise from the dead?

Sometimes I wonder how my reaction would be different if had ever believed in Heaven or any other afterlife.  I suppose the idea that he lives on in Heaven could give me comfort if I thought it were true.  But even many believers question its existence.  Is a shaky idea of an afterlife barely believed in any comfort to the grieving?

I'm sure many can compartmentalize enough to achieve proper acceptance, but I'm sure many others never do.  For instance, I've had Christians tell me, with sincere belief, that we never die.  They think we simply go to either Heaven or Hell, where we live on forever.  The idea of them achieving acceptance seems unlikely if they don't actually think their loved ones are dead.  Maybe they don't actually grieve then, but I doubt that too.  Surely, they miss those who are gone, no matter where they think they've gone.

How is closure achieved if the grief stage of denial is preserved by a religious idea that encourages us to pretend the dead are not really dead?  Do believers in an afterlife ever really accept that people are dead?

For me, I'm glad that I don't think my father has gone to Heaven.  I'll never see him again, and I'm not happy about that.  But I'm happy that I'm not living a lie about it.  A comforting lie is still a lie.

Besides the fact that it's not real[3], I see the notion of an afterlife to be a waste.  If I thought my father lived on elsewhere, I'd probably have less appreciation for the 29 years I knew him.  If I thought I would live on after my time on Earth, I'd have far less appreciation for that time.  An average of 70-some years is nothing compared to eternity.  But it's a hell of a lot when it's all you've got.

Death sucks[4].  But so would eternity.  It would suck infinitely.  Some people sure seem to like the idea of an afterlife.  But I just don't get it.

Believers can have their delusions if that's their desire.  For me, I'll stick to reality.  I'll stick to my grief being a reminder to appreciate what I've still got.  I'll stick to doing my best to appreciate my limited time in this life and my limited time with the people in it.

2.  Something I can't go into further for the obvious legal reasons.

1 comment:

  1. Very well said, Robert. :') Thank you for this post.