God has no place in my grief.

It’s pretty much inevitable when you lose a child (or anyone that you love) for the religious platitudes to be rained down around you:

“God has a bigger plan for him/her.”
“God works in mysterious ways that we don’t always understand here on earth.”
“God needed another angel.”
“God will get you through this. Lean on Him.”
“You’ll see him/her again in heaven.”

Normally, when I hear these kinds of phrases, I nod and work up a smile. It’s not worth the effort to explain that I don’t believe in their God. I don’t believe in any kind of a God as deity.

But it was that last phrase one day that broke my patience and willingness to ignore the assumptions of others about my faith and belief system.

“You’ll be together with her again in heaven one day.” It was said with a knowing nod as if I should be okay with the death of my child because, one day, she and I would be reunited in heaven.

That day I couldn’t bring myself to simply nod and smile. I quietly but firmly replied with, “No, we won’t. I don’t believe in heaven. Or your God.”

Her expression was one of shock and slight horror. She stammered and fumbled with words about God and faith. Our conversation didn’t continue much longer. She moved away from me as quickly as possible.

Grieving the death of my daughters of hard. Living without them is the hardest thing I will ever do and I do it every day. Having to deal with repeated assumptions that God is somehow part of my grieving process only adds to the burden.

Let me be clear, not believing in a God isn’t what makes grieving harder.

It’s people’s assumption that I do – or more accurately, should – believe in a God that make it harder.

It’s the assumption that if I just had more faith, things would have or will be better. Like somehow if I had had more faith, they would be alive still. Or if I have more faith now, God will provide me with another child, a child that would live beyond my womb. Or if I have more faith, God will somehow take this pain of loss away.

I don’t believe in a God or deity that has plans for my life. I don’t believe in a gold-gilded heaven that will bring me and my daughters back together again for eternity. I also don’t believe in a hell of fire and brimstone.

I do believe in life. In kindness and love. I believe in beauty and the grace in which life cycles from beauty to ruins to beauty again. I believe in the goodness of humanity and the evolution of the world. I believe that out of every chaos will come grace and peace and rebirth.

Would it be nice sometimes to have a belief system that gave me answers to painful, devastating losses like that of my children? Absolutely. There are many times I wish I could believe that my daughter’s lives and deaths were part of some bigger plan of someone bigger than me.

I do believe in something larger than me – I believe in life and it’s interconnectedness. What I do impacts all others, what others do impacts me. We are not separate creatures of life – we are forever and always bound to each other.

I take comfort in knowing that any and all life – however brief – impacts all of life.

My daughters, though their lives were altogether short and brief, impacted all of life. The echo of their lives will sound throughout life as long as life continues to cycle here on earth.

That is my understanding of everlasting life and faith.

The truth is, neither of us really know who is right. Is there a God deity who has a greater plan for all of life and humanity? Is life simply an interconnected web that cycles and rebirths itself in new ways over and over again? Is it both? Is it something entirely different that I cannot even conceive of yet?

I guess I’ll find out for sure when I leave this earthbody of mine behind and move into whatever comes next.

In the meantime, I would ask of those who do believe in God and heaven and religion of whatever form, please respect and acknowledge that not everyone believes as you do. Please don’t assume to know what my faith looks like – or that I have a faith at all. And please, please don’t assume that your belief is the only right belief. It’s not, it is simply your belief.

For those who, like me, are grieving without God, please know that you are not alone. Your non-religious path is every bit as valid and beautiful and true as those with a belief in God.

With or without God, may you know that you are not alone and that you are loved.

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    Emily Long

    Emily Long

    Emily Long is the mama of two daughters gone too soon, a Life Archaeologist, coffee shop writer, consumer of bagels and hot cocoa, endless reader, lover of travel, and occasional hermit. Emily is committed to supporting families who experience the death of a child and writes frequently on the topic of pregnancy and infant loss. She speaks nationally advocating for the voice of grieving parents and families. In her downtime, you can usually find her in her hermit house re-reading Harry Potter (again).

    September 12, 2017

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    2 Comments

    1. Reply

      Krisfine

      September 13, 2017

      It is incredibly tiring to grieve publicly when you aren’t a Christian/don’t believe in God. I have learned to navigate and shrug it off but those first few years…whew. Thank you for writing this. Also not to be weird but after reading your bio, I think we might be long lost sisters because half of it basically described me.

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