Dealing with grief when surrounded by religion

Any advice?

My mum passed away about six months ago, a short while after her diagnosis (pancreatic that had spread to lungs and liver). 
My family all have a very deep faith (evangelical Christian).  It’s fundamental to who they are and they naturally believe that as my mum shared their faith, she is in heaven having a lovely old time. Even better than that, when they die, they get to be reunited with her there. What an awesome prospect. 
So the difficult bit is that I don’t share their faith. I grew up surrounded by it and spent 20+ years as an adult trying to fit in before finally coming to the realisation that it wasn’t for me. 
I find a lot to admire in their faith and on one level I am envious of it. If it’s true then there’s an awful lot of upside. The trouble is that I don’t believe it. I don’t believe there is an almighty and the further away I get from it, the less comfortable I am being around it. 
I’ve felt it would be too painful for them to hear my true thoughts on the subject so have largely kept quiet on the subject. I’m sure they know but it’s never been discussed. 

As a result of all this, I’ve felt a real distance between me and the rest of my family. Mum’s death brought with it lots of prayer, lots of religious songs and lots of praising God for her life. I feel I miss her so much but that I can’t grieve with them as they’re too busy celebrating her life and looking forward to seeing her again in heaven. 

I love my family very much but I’m finding it tough to reconcile their beliefs in so many ways. That makes it tough to be really connected at a time where I crave their support. 

I suspect I’m just going to have to tough it out but wondered if anyone else had a similar experience to mine and had any sage words of advice. 

  • Hi it's so sad that you feel you are mourning your mother alone and don't feel able to discuss your feelings with your family.  

    Everyone is different and only you can best guess how your family will respond but if I were you I would tell them how you are feeling.  They may be celebrating her life and be looking forward to seeing her again but they will still be in pain and missing her right here and now in the present and hopefully that's what you can connect with and support each other with.

    My children are like you and don't believe in Jesus and God (although they would love to).  Although my husband and I do believe I don't think that would stop us from being able to mourn the loss of a loved one with our children as we would still feel the pain of the loss.

    I hope this helps you in some way and I am very sorry for your loss.

    Macmillan Support Line - 0808 808 00 00, 7 days a week between 8am-8pm

  • Hi

    My condolences on the death of your mum. Hope you're dealing with it well

    I too am an atheist. I really don't like organised religion and believe it all. A lot of it is rank hypocrisy and I believe can do some harm and perhaps is not a good thing for sensible human advancement. Some practices still carried out in the name of religion are appalling.

    I have two types of cancer, and the thought of turning to Jesus or God has not occurred to me even though I was brought up as a Catholic! And No way are you alone ! 

    I just get on with it, accept it -  we all got to go sometime and I am honest enough to admit some of my ill health was caused by my own behaviour...smoking, drinking heavily, far too many curries and binge eating chocs and crisps. (I wasnt chronic in those things but still i think they took their toll as i grew an ulcer which turned cancerous. I believe my bad eating in last 5 years - because of the stress of caring for my very elderly mum - resulted in the ulcer growing).

    We don't have to believe in anything like the after life but it makes some feel better, so I guess it's good for them. 

    Chose your own path and follow it. Best wishes Joe x

  • Hi Joe and Choffer,

    I too was brought up a roman catholic and lost my faith at 17, with an atheist philosophy teacher who opened our eyes to other religions & philosophies. I am more of an agnostic, as I am attracted by bouddhism but do not practice it either. As for mourning my mum, I was like you, Choffer, on my own, as everyone around me had their faith to help them. I believe that my mum is always with me, when positive things happen in my life, I thank her. It might sound daft but it is comforting. Like you, Joe, my cancer was caused by stress, I don't believe yours was caused by your excesses. An ulcer is often caused by stress too.

    On my mum's birthdays, I light up a candle by her photo (I know, symbol remaining from the religion I grew up with!) and I just think of her even more than other days. I have a little tear or 2 but I feel better afterwards. It do not believe in afterlife or reincarnation (hence not really bouddhist), but I like to think of that question mark, the "not knowing"....

    I am not sure you will find support in people who have faith. A christian friend of mine is determined to convert me again! It took me years to admit it to her as she was such a believer. But when she knew she thought I had to put things "right" again...We avoid the subject nowadays, as I told her she would never succeed.

    |Your mum lives within you Choffer.

    With love,