After Tragedy, Nonbelievers Find Other Ways To Cope

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The Mile High Gliding facility at the Boulder Airport in Colorado is one of Carol Fiore’s favorite haunts. And it’s a perfect day for flying: clear, breezy and with a gorgeous view of the Rocky Mountains. 


Fiore used to fly gliders regularly, but a few years ago she stopped. Flying them had become painful. 

“I felt, in a way, that I was searching for something that wasn’t there,” Fiore says. “I was looking for that laughter and that incredible time that I had flying with Eric, and he wasn’t in the plane with me. I was by myself.”

Eric was Fiore’s husband for 20 years. After they married, he flew F-15s in the Air Force. Then the couple moved to Wichita, Kan., where he was a test pilot for the airplane manufacturer Bombardier.

On Oct. 10, 2000, the plane Eric was co-piloting crashed upon takeoff. When Fiore arrived at Via Christi Hospital, she learned that her husband had sustained burns over 50 percent of his body.

“Then I found out they had given him his last rites,” she says.

That wasn’t a surprise, since Via Christi is a Catholic hospital. But even after Fiore announced that Eric would not want anyone praying for him, a priest hovered and prayed, day after day. Finally, she kicked the priest out.

Bristling At ‘A Better Place’

“I think that was a turning point in the whole religion thing for me,” Fiore recalls. “That was the point when I said, ‘You know what?’ — and I told Eric this when he was laying there on the bed — I said, ‘Eric, I don’t care anymore that we have to pretend not to be atheist.’

Written By: Barbara Bradley Hagerty
continue to source article at npr.org

7 COMMENTS

  1. I work as a bereavement counsellor for school children (as well as being a science teacher) in the UK. During my training I was told never to mention any ideas of heaven to children, as this can exacerbate the feeling of loss in children, particularly phrases such as ” mummy has gone to live with Jesus.” Some people on the course challenged this. I pointed out that my atheism derived from my experience as an 8 year old. My 10 year old sister had died from complications leading from measles. I asked my local priest why she had died, and was told “God doesn’t just want old people in his garden”. I could never make sense of such a selfish god who would take your loved ones and never mention any ideas of religion in my counselling. I feel for the author here, who could not have readily available secular bereavement counselling as there is here.

  2. Grieving is not any harder for an atheist than it is for a believer. Whether you are one or the other, bereavement is still a loss of a loved one, and that’s what is hardest to bear, not that loved one’s destination after death.
    Religious ‘comfort’ following such a loss is very shallow indeed – you only have to listen to the priests or ministers ‘consoling’ the bereaved after a tragedy – I remember one on TV after a little girl’s murder -they just repeat the same devotional formula and I remember thinking that I certainly would not be consoled by any of it. References to the departed person being in a better place have worn so thin that they are quite meaningless and the last thing the family want to hear since they would much rather have the person alive and well than in some imaginary place of which they are probably not even sure.
    The religious are not saying anything else than you or I wouldn’t say but special gravitas is somehow granted to them because of how they ‘dress it up’ and because of who they are.

  3. I didn’t find it necessary to read very far before recognizing the weary old pattern of events.

    The clergyman sounds like some creep hanging around outside school in the hope of seeing someone who might want to be friends with him. The more he hangs around the more of a creep he becomes, but he’s too insensitive to realize it.

  4. All the grief groups she found were attached to a church … so she tried the self-help section of Barnes & Noble.

    Why wouldn’t she just go and find a grief counsellor of some kind or a psychologist or psychiatrist ? Are they are religious in the US or would that cost too much ? But I would assume her husbands professional job would come with health insurance if she wasn’t working.

    I’m not meaning to criticise, she is clearly a brave women, I just don’t understand the US healthcare system.

    Michael

  5. At present both the emergency services, after an accident or a natural disaster, and the police, after a murder, use the services of specialized psychologists to assist the families of the victims. These psychologists also assist families after a natural death. In fact many nonbelievers make use of these services to ease grief and find some comfort.
    Whenever I go to a religious funeral of a family member or friend, the priest on duty always says the same speech of “comfort”: the suffering of Jesus on the cross facing the cruelty of the Roman soldiers is an example to follow in our hour of grief, etc, etc. I always end up thinking about the Hollywood films on Romans I used to see in the late 1950′s and early 1960’s; automatically I stop thinking about the dead one and start thinking about the actors who performed in those movies

  6. In reply to #6 by Odalrich:
    .

    Whenever I go to a religious funeral of a family member or friend, the priest on duty always says the same speech of “comfort”: the suffering of Jesus on the cross facing the cruelty of the Roman soldiers is an example to follow in our hour of grief, etc, etc. I always end up thinking about the Hollywood films on Romans I used to see in the late 1950′s and early 1960’s; automatically I stop thinking about the dead one and start thinking about the actors who performed in those movies

    And I cannot help thinking of “The Life of Brian”, the “Sunny Side of Life” in particular!

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