My little sis took her own life!

TonyZXT
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My little sis took her own life!

I'm still in shock.  It's been almost a day since I found out my little sister committed suicide.  She was only 22 years old.  I won't get into why or how she did it here, but obviously it was a complete shock to everyone.  It somehow doesn't seem real.  I've seen some profoundly sad things on TV about families that have dealt with the loss of a young family member, but never thought I would actually have to experience it.  My parents aren't taking it well, basically what you would expect. 

I really don't know how to deal with the whole thing, but there's one thing in particular I want to ask everyone here about.  My parents want to have a "blessing" at their house for immediate family only, after the wake.  Now my sister was an Atheist, albeit not vocal or strong in her lack of faith like me.  My parents aren't exactly bible thumpers either, though I suspect my mom clings to xianity solely as a way to deal with death.  My dilemma is should I stick up for my sister's beliefs and mention that she may not have wanted a blessing and maybe my parents should have some other type of thing with the clergy?  I really don't want to make any kind of stink about anything right now.  All the crap my parents are dealing with right now is more than enough for anyone, and I don't want to make it any harder.  I'm not even sure where my sister would be on this issue.  I don't know if she would care enough to make a stink or not.

The other part of that issue is my taking part in a theist ceremony.  I have avoided that successfully for the last 16 years or so that I've been an Atheist.  By the looks of things I may not be able to avoid this without hurting feelings of people that have all this to deal with already.  Again I don't want to create any friction.   What if I'm asked to say something at this thing.  Ugh! 

What would you guys n gals do?  Am I making too much of this, and I should just sit back and deal with things in my own way, and let everyone else do their thing?

The other thing I have to figure out is how to explain this to my 4 year old!  I have no Idea what to say, when/how to explain death to him.

 

"They always say the same thing; 'But evolution is only a theory!!' Which is true, I guess, and it's good they say that I think, it gives you hope that they feel the same about the theory of Gravity and they might just float the f**k away."


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I'm sorry for your loss.Um,

I'm sorry for your loss.

Um, I think, if it was me, I would try not to cause any trouble. However, if I had to speak at the ceremony...I can't lie. I would have to say what I really thought about it. Nevertheless, I would definitely focus my speech on her character rather than theism.

 

Our revels now are ended. These our actors, | As I foretold you, were all spirits, and | Are melted into air, into thin air; | And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, | The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces, | The solemn temples, the great globe itself, - Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve, | And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, | Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff | As dreams are made on, and our little life | Is rounded with a sleep. - Shakespeare


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dealing with your loss

Dear TonyZXT

I'm so so sorry for your loss.  Suicide is an event that "kills" many more people than the loved one who does it.  I can't imagine how you and your family must be feeling, as I've not lost anyone in that manner.  All I can say is to embrace "loving kindness" in everything you do connected with honoring your sister, helping your parents deal with the waves of feelings of failure and self-blame that are sure to come.  In terms of your quandary about "making a stink" over whether there's a blessing or not, theist or not because she was an athiest...right now your most effective action would be to care tenderly for the living. Your sister's choice or impact in the matter of her memorial really has no bearing now.  That doesn't mean that you, as an atheist have to pretend to be a theist at any ceremony.  Participating in a ceremony or memorial that mentions god or commends her soul to god, etc., doesn't make you a hyprocrite.  When called upon to speak about your sister, you can find words that describe her goodness, the immaterial gifts she gave others, her lasting mark on those who loved her, what is beautiful and touching about humanity, etc. All these things you can do without mentioning a diety, and without tearing down the false constructs others cling to give them comfort through horrendous grief.  

 

As far helping your young son understand, that's a very tough one because we adults can't understand it, but there are many sources on the web for counseling young children about death, and the appropriate words to explain death by suicide so that your child will not feel that he's at fault in any way. That's what's important, that he not think that he failed to do something that might have prevented his auntie from taking her life, or that YOU might do that. That will be his biggest fear, if you get sad or mad at him, he might fear that you will leave him just like she did, so address that directly and reassure him that that will never happen.

 

Again, I'm so sorry for your loss and I hope my brief words above have helped you in some way. There's a link to my website on the left of this page, "Truth is Viral --Spread it through ART!"  You can contact me directly there, if you'd like.  I wish you deep comfort in this storm and many brighter days to come for all whom you love.

Take good care. Rachel

P.S.  Here's a quote I often use, perhaps you may find it helpful if called upon to say something about your sister, as many will find it hard to see her life in any way but the bleakest terms, given how she exited so early, but there are other ways to look at it ...

"To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived, that is meaning of success." Ralph Waldo Emerson. 


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Without some sort of note,

Without some sort of note, which is rare in these situations, don't rack your brain as to why. Many here, not all, but many of all walks of life, and religious stripes have thought about calling it quits, for whatever reason.

No one here can know what you are going through in your personal experience. But all of us know what it is like to lose someone we love, believer or not, for whatever reason.

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I'm so very sorry for your

I'm so very sorry for your loss.

It seems to me that your parents are doing this to make themselves feel better. I would let them get on with it.

I too have a 4 year old boy and I have wondered how to explain death to him.  I decided to wait until it was necessary. I think that time has arrived for you.  It might make things less confusing for him if you explain it.


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 I'm very sorry for your

 I'm very sorry for your loss.  I honestly can't imagine how it must feel, but you have my sympathy for what it's worth.

I can totally understand how you feel about the religion thing, though.  My father was an atheist, and at his funeral, I honestly would have thought I was in the wrong building except that I recognized people who knew him.  Speaker after speaker stood up and spoke about how he was a god-fearing man.  He wasn't even in the ground before his entire life history was re-written.  When I cried, it wasn't for his loss.  It was because everyone had to lie to make themselves feel ok about him being gone.

I didn't speak at his funeral.  I didn't want to.  I couldn't have gone along with the lie, and I didn't want to be the one person to stand up there and call everybody out for being liars.  In retrospect, I kind of wish I'd spoken.  I really, really wish now I'd have said:   "Listen, I knew my father as well as anybody, and I know he wasn't god-fearing.  He didn't believe in God.  I'm sad that he's gone, but I'm happy that he's not in pain anymore (He was in a lot of pain for a long time before he died.)   It was a privilege to know him.  He was a great man who didn't need to believe in god to be a great man.  I'll miss him very much."

It would have upset a lot of people, but it would have been the truth, and in retrospect, I haven't even seen most of those people again.

I don't know how it will be for you if you decide to speak honestly.  All I can say is that if you do, try to be matter of fact about it, and don't point any fingers of blame.  Just talk about the sister you knew and what she really was.

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

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Utmost sympathy.....

 This is one of those times in your life where you'll have to dig deep to make sense of it and subsequently deal with it.

 

Against my better judgement I attended my Father-in-Law's funeral late last year but refused to speak. He was a regular at the local methodist church and I just bit back my usual spiteful remarks in favor of silence. I felt like I'd sold out at the time but he was a great man and deserved to have a peaceful send off. 

 

I wish you the best and you have my utmost sympathy.

How can not believing in something that is backed up with no empirical evidence be less scientific than believing in something that not only has no empirical evidence but actually goes against the laws of the universe and in many cases actually contradicts itself? - Ricky Gervais


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I'm not being cold. I'm not

I'm not being cold. I'm not being callous.

Don't go to the funeral.

You won't be going for her. You won't be going for yourself. You'll be going so that the other people can see that you went.

Spend the time reconciling with yourself. Think about good times, bad times. Write down some memories in a journal. Put it away. When you think of something about her, write it down in the journal. Or even share it here with us if you'd like.

Don't kid yourself or others that a loss can somehow be comforted by getting together and weeping. Don't try to 'put it behind you', but carry it somewhere out of the present, just past the edge of thought.

That's my advice and I 'practice what I'm preaching' too.

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 You know... Darth may be

 You know... Darth may be onto something here.  If anybody grills you too hard about not going, you can just look really angry and say, "Don't tell me how I'm supposed to feel!"

 

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That really sucks. You have

That really sucks. You have my deepest condolences.

I'd be a real prick about this if I were in your shoes, with the info given. I'd refuse to take part in any religious ceremony at all. Unless I had the impression she wouldn't care at all if one happened. I'd see it as an insult to both of us that her atheism was ignored and spit upon when remembering her. Things would not go well.

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My deepest sympathies, both

My deepest sympathies, both for your loss, and the family drama you're facing. I have no real advice, as I've agreed with everyone so far, even the contradictory things. There's no right way to deal with this, except that way that you feel best. Logically, your sister doesn't need defense against theism. Emotionally, she's still alive in your head, and will be for a while.

Good luck, Tony.

"Yes, I seriously believe that consciousness is a product of a natural process. I find that the neuroscientists, psychologists, and philosophers who proceed from that premise are the ones who are actually making useful contributions to our understanding of the mind." - PZ Myers


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How to deal with pain:

How to deal with pain: ritual of closure helps. It's nothing unknown to atheists and it's no big deal. Remember that 90% of people at the gathering couldn't give less of a damn about some god. There is nothing you have to demonstrate on that level. They might care about you and your family, or they might not.

What you have to do is empty your mind and think about yourself as 80 years old. All the people you know now are long gone, including your parents. Think about your sister and your grown up kid, what kind of memory of her do you want to preserve and what kind of person do you want your kid to grow into. Most importantly what kind of man do you want to remember being in this situation. Answers will come by themselves.

Logic is a systematic method of coming to the wrong conclusion with confidence.


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 As far as you going or not

 As far as you going or not going to her funeral or you making a issue out of it being religious, I can not give you advice. That will be up to you. But if you are asked to speak at it you can just focus on her life and you do not have to bring up anything religious. Just remember the good times. 

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and hang them up before the Lord
against the sun.” -- Numbers 25:4


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There are resources for the

There are resources for the families of suicide victims.  I urge you and your family to use them.

As to the theistic ceremony thing: ceremonies are for the living.   The dead are obviously beyond caring, so what matters is whether you can live with how you said goodbye.  If what you object to is the theistic overtones of the ceremony, I would suggest that you approach your parents and find out if you can have some private time before or after the main ceremony to say your own secular goodbyes.  You may want to bring some friends, or even your closest family members, for emotional and moral support.

You may want to handwave the explanation to your four-year-old, at least until the kid is a little older.  Your child definitely should know your sister won't be back, but might not be ready to understand just what death means. There are also resources for this question.

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I'm leaning heavily towards

I'm leaning heavily towards just letting everyone deal with it in their own way.  The point was made that ceremonies are for the living, and that makes sense here.  It really makes no difference if someone blesses her ashes or not, they may as well be saying abbra cadabbra for all it matters.  She did leave a note, and though I haven't put my parents through the pain of reading it to me over the phone I do know that the only wish she mentioned relating to this was to be cremated.  I suspected that the religiosity or lack thereof may not have been at the forefront of her mind, and since she didn't mention it I would rather leave the subject alone that put everyone through more turmoil.  Since my parents know how strongly I feel on the subject, it may come up anyway, I may say that there is no need for anyone to speak of her as if she was xian.

The only point stuck in my head is if I'm asked to speak I will speak truth, not satiate people.  Exactly what I would say is a whole other thing I have to think about. 

"They always say the same thing; 'But evolution is only a theory!!' Which is true, I guess, and it's good they say that I think, it gives you hope that they feel the same about the theory of Gravity and they might just float the f**k away."


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how terribly sad.  i'm very

how terribly sad.  i'm very sorry.  look, i won't even suggest what you should do, but i'll just tell you what i think i would do: if i couldn't say anything that would comfort my parents, whether in their ignorance or their enlightenment, i would remain silent.  i would figure i owed them that much for my life and my priveleged, relatively happy childhood.  may whatever real blessings there are in this chaotic universe find you and your family.

"I have never felt comfortable around people who talk about their feelings for Jesus, or any other deity for that matter, because they are usually none too bright. . . . Or maybe 'stupid' is a better way of saying it; but I have never seen much point in getting heavy with either stupid people or Jesus freaks, just as long as they don't bother me. In a world as weird and cruel as this one we have made for ourselves, I figure anybody who can find peace and personal happiness without ripping off somebody else deserves to be left alone. They will not inherit the earth, but then neither will I. . . . And I have learned to live, as it were, with the idea that I will never find peace and happiness, either. But as long as I know there's a pretty good chance I can get my hands on either one of them every once in a while, I do the best I can between high spots."
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TonyZXT
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You know, I keep imagining

You know, I keep imagining my parents having to find her, and deal with all the other crap surrounding this situation.  After having that run through my head a hundred times it's kind of hard to imagine being a pain-in-the-ass at the funeral.  I just want to do right by her for whatever that's worth now.

I feel you on what you said iwbiek.  Just trying to find a balance that makes me feel a little less uncomfortable about everyone saddling her with all their xian baggage associated with her memory.  Really my parents are pretty open minded about religion so anything they say probably won't bother me as much as what other people may say.  I have pictures in my mind of people saying she's in heaven, or she was a good little christian girl or something while I half bite my lip off in the corner, know what I mean?

"They always say the same thing; 'But evolution is only a theory!!' Which is true, I guess, and it's good they say that I think, it gives you hope that they feel the same about the theory of Gravity and they might just float the f**k away."


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    I don't see a clear

    I don't see a clear cut choice either way regarding whether or not to emphasize her status as a non-believer.  Perhaps you should trust your instincts and play it by ear.  See how things play out.

    I'm sorry for your loss.

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My condolences and best

My condolences and best wishes. I don't want to tell you what to do but I will try to give advice. If the plans aren't finalized then perhaps you could suggest an unorthodox funeral at one of your sister's favourite places (you know if she liked books then the library [ok they might not let you but you get the idea]). As for the blessing, personally, i wouldn't care what my parents do but I would respectfully decline. If they get to upset then just remember, you're coping too and any crying is a result of the death, not your atheism. Maybe you can suggest that the family, say, volunteers for a cause she was adamant of.


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I can only say how sad that

I can only say how sad that is. I doubt I would bother making an issue of the abracadabra myself, but I've never been in a position to have to make that decision. If other people want to feel better by saying she's with God or the Easter Bunny or whatever, I don't think that's enough to insult her memory. They're just trying to express grief. They want to say that she was good, and that's their way of saying it. I wouldn't take it as a slight.

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Thanks for all the support

Thanks for all the support and advice.  Believe it or not it does help me gain perspective reading everyone's posts! 

Obviously I plan on not making a fuss over everything, but a couple things do stick in my mind as things that are going to irritate me at the funeral.  The first comment that comes to mind is "she's in heaven now."  I can almost guarantee that someone will say that to me, even though the bible clearly states otherwise.  That brings me to the other religious platitudes that people will use.  I'm reasonably sure I remember correctly that someone who commits suicide can't go to heaven, which I'm assuming means they go to hell.  Yet all these xians will be throwing around these comforting little gems, dispite the fact that this is where their barbarian like religion says quite the opposite.

I guess we'll see how good of an actor I am on Saturday. 

"They always say the same thing; 'But evolution is only a theory!!' Which is true, I guess, and it's good they say that I think, it gives you hope that they feel the same about the theory of Gravity and they might just float the f**k away."


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 You have my sympathy, and

 You have my sympathy, and your parents do as well, for what that is worth.

 

ZuS probably has the best advice.  Personally, if it were me I don't think a death ceremony is the appropriate time or place for making a stand on atheism.  Most of the people saying religious things don't really mean anything other than a general platitude anyway, unless there are some real holy rollers on site.  I would try to take the words for what the caring they represent, rather than the literal meaning.

Everything makes more sense now that I've stopped believing.


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 I really hope it all goes

 I really hope it all goes well for everyone. 


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 It really depends on the

 It really depends on the denomination whether they believe suicide sends you to hell.  I'm honestly not sure where they get that from the Bible.  (Then again, it's not like many things are crystal clear in the bible.)

When people told me my dad was in heaven, I just grunted or ignored it completely.  I couldn't bring myself to reinforce their beliefs.  Honestly, I just got out of there as fast as I could.  It was a miserable experience.

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Hambydammit wrote: It

Hambydammit wrote:

 It really depends on the denomination whether they believe suicide sends you to hell.  I'm honestly not sure where they get that from the Bible.  (Then again, it's not like many things are crystal clear in the bible.)

When people told me my dad was in heaven, I just grunted or ignored it completely.  I couldn't bring myself to reinforce their beliefs.  Honestly, I just got out of there as fast as I could.  It was a miserable experience.

Don't know if this is the time or place, but the reason suicide is hellworthy is because it is impossible to repent for the murder that you commit. Repentance must include regret so intention counts preventing a posthumous letter of repentance.

Trumping this is the self-sacrifice clause, which still counts as suicide if the person knows they will die in the act. 'Constantine' the movie portrayed this whole theological rules debate well.

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darth_josh wrote:Hambydammit

darth_josh wrote:

Hambydammit wrote:

 It really depends on the denomination whether they believe suicide sends you to hell.  I'm honestly not sure where they get that from the Bible.  (Then again, it's not like many things are crystal clear in the bible.)

When people told me my dad was in heaven, I just grunted or ignored it completely.  I couldn't bring myself to reinforce their beliefs.  Honestly, I just got out of there as fast as I could.  It was a miserable experience.

Don't know if this is the time or place, but the reason suicide is hellworthy is because it is impossible to repent for the murder that you commit. Repentance must include regret so intention counts preventing a posthumous letter of repentance.

Trumping this is the self-sacrifice clause, which still counts as suicide if the person knows they will die in the act. 'Constantine' the movie portrayed this whole theological rules debate well.

but there are a lot of protestant denominations--particularly all offshoots of calvinism, most baptists, and most evangelical parachurch organizations--that believe in "eternal security" or "once saved, always saved."  they use various passages, particularly from the book of romans, to argue that by "asking jesus into your heart" (completely nonbiblical) you are "identified" with him, "covered" by his grace, and/or "adopted" by god, and thus no matter how much you backslide you will go to heaven, as long as your initial conversion was genuine.  of course, there are arguments about whether a genuine convert ever could possibly backslide.

most such christians differentiate between a "relationship" with god and "fellowship" with god.  a backslidden convert still has a relationship with god, meaning god will bail his ass out in the end, but his fellowship with god is broken, meaning his life here and now is fucked up.  under this plan, a suicide is covered.  contact your local insurance agent...er...preacher. 

"I have never felt comfortable around people who talk about their feelings for Jesus, or any other deity for that matter, because they are usually none too bright. . . . Or maybe 'stupid' is a better way of saying it; but I have never seen much point in getting heavy with either stupid people or Jesus freaks, just as long as they don't bother me. In a world as weird and cruel as this one we have made for ourselves, I figure anybody who can find peace and personal happiness without ripping off somebody else deserves to be left alone. They will not inherit the earth, but then neither will I. . . . And I have learned to live, as it were, with the idea that I will never find peace and happiness, either. But as long as I know there's a pretty good chance I can get my hands on either one of them every once in a while, I do the best I can between high spots."
--Hunter S. Thompson


TonyZXT
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Again thanks for everything

Again thanks for everything that was said, and for helping me think my way through this!  I just got back home after a 12 hour drive, and I'm glad the funeral part is over. 

Honestly I have to say it wasn't as bad as I thought.  As sure as I was that someone was going to stick their foot in their mouth theologicaly, noone did!  Everybody was very supportive, and didn't push any beliefs.  A few voiced their version of things religiously, but in a very sincere, heart-felt way.  I was actually glad to hear people I have love and respect for, get that stuff out, and hear how much they love my sister. 

I am kind of numb from everything, and haven't cried since Saturday.  I feel like that's a little odd, and I'm sure even a week later this hasn't fully hit me yet.  I'm sure at some point in the next few days I'm going to break down and let it out, but for now I'm coping with everything OK.  Right now I'm just beyond tired, and feel like I might actually get a decent nights sleep!  In the mean time I'm trying to figure out how to make this horrible experience into a turning point for me..... 

Off to think about it, and then sleep til noon!

"They always say the same thing; 'But evolution is only a theory!!' Which is true, I guess, and it's good they say that I think, it gives you hope that they feel the same about the theory of Gravity and they might just float the f**k away."


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TonyZXT wrote:I am kind of

TonyZXT wrote:
I am kind of numb from everything, and haven't cried since Saturday.

Definitely normal. When my best friend died a few years ago, I was numb for a long time. I don't think I ever had a huge cry about it, but I wish I could have, to be honest.

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