Many people have a hard time dealing with death. I know I do. Many people have left my life far too soon. My parents, my best friend and three children are the ones that hurt the most. Both of my parents died when I was in my twenties. My best friend died right before my wedding when he was to be my best man. I lost my first daughter who was born prematurely and two other children to miscarriage. Dealing with loss is horrible. But not letting go can make things so much worse.
My friend and my dad died a year apart between 1998 and 1999. That was a very hard time for me, losing the two men in my life who meant the most to me. I had a hard time believing they were really gone and even to this day I feel as if I missed opportunities to really get to know them. My dad died when he was just a dad to me and nothing more. I was barely 21 when I lost him so I hadn’t really reached the point where I was interested in knowing who he was before he was my dad. Now I feel like I never really knew him as a person. I took him for granted and it hurts. My mother died alone in her home 8 years after that and that makes me sad. I wasn’t there for her at the end of her life.
When my wife and I found out were pregnant for the first time, we were so excited. We had just found out in February of 2004 that we were having a daughter. We couldn’t have been happier. It wasn’t to be. March 1, 2004 was the day she died. My wife’s water broke when she was only 5 months along with my daughter, Tiffany Diane. She was stillborn when she came into this world. We had been trying for years to have a baby and our first child was gone as soon as we started making plans for her in our life. We never had the chance to get to know her. After she was born, the doctor handed her to us and we were able to hold her. She was perfect and absolutely beautiful. It’s the hardest thing I’ve been through in my life. I could have held her forever, but that would just not be healthy. We eventually had to let her go and move on. It’s been almost 15 years and it still hurts. I would look at her photos every few years, just to remember her face and grieve some more. I haven’t looked in years and I am not sure I could look again as it is just too painful. It just reminds me of what could have been and not what is.
Religion is a lot like a death in the family. For anyone who is really committed to religion, letting go can be the hardest thing to deal with. I think that is the reason people hang on to religion even after realizing they no longer believe. It’s too painful. It’s the idea of going on without it that is too unbearable. It’s like holding on to your child after they have passed on. You know it’s too late, but you just can’t come to terms with the reality that they are gone. You don’t want to believe it and you don’t want to go home without them in your arms. I have been through both situations and losing my faith is the only thing that comes close to the pain I felt when I had to let my daughter go. I knew my faith had passed on but I still held on to it and didn’t want to think of a future without it. I held my faith in my arms for years, not wanting to accept that it had died.
There are many Christians out there who are living a lie. They put on an act for the audience and can be quite convincing. They know they no longer believe (or have real serious doubts) but facing the reality of not having religion in their lives is too much to bear. So they keep holding on to their faith, knowing it’s already gone, but clinging to it because it is something they love and still feel they need. Going through the motions of the religious life is a better way to live for some than the alternative. Admitting you were wrong and changing your life accordingly is not something everybody handles well.
I loved my daughter from the moment we saw the positive pregnancy test. I still do. I never got to know her but I still love her dearly and miss her every day. But I could no longer live in the past and dwell on what could have been. I now have 4 beautiful children here with me. I have to live for them and not look back. Looking back just brings sadness and pain. I need to be here for those who are here with me. I had religion for most of my life, but it died a long time ago. I just couldn’t admit it and face the facts. I just kept cradling it in my arms and hoping for a miracle to bring it back. But again, I cannot live in the past. I have a family who needs me here and a life worth living without the fantasy that I was raised in.
Many of my loved ones are gone. My father, my mother, my best friend, my three children…and my faith. I learned a lot from all of them and I have good and bad memories from them as well. I am who I am because I had them in my life. If I had not been in religion, I wouldn’t have the empathy for those trapped in it now. If I hadn’t gotten out, I would still look at atheists the wrong way. I needed to have it and lose it to get to where I am now. It is definitely like a death when you lose something as important as religion, but you can recover from it. You grieve and then you move on. That’s all you can do. Lay it to rest and live your life to the fullest.