Astrea

Death of parent

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Hello,  This is my first post and my first visit to this forum.  I was raised Pentecostal. My parents were "saved" when I was about 4 and took it all very seriously, it became our entire lives.  It was the full speaking in tongues-holy roller, fire and brimstone church. Women were expected to wear the uniform of dresses, uncut hair and modesty.  When I was 5 I asked to be baptized, much to the joy of my parents and the members of the church. In all honesty I was absolutely terrified of hell (what do five year olds know of sin) and it lead me to years of pursuing the magic key to heaven, speaking in tongues. I never got the "gift" but I faked it, which resulted in terrifying nightmares.  My parents left when I was a teenager and we church shopped. I was elated that we were done with that but I had layers and layers of repression and fear. So as a teenager  I rebelled, and I rebelled as hard as I could. I was quite certain that I was not a christian by the time I was 17 and began to explore nature based religions. That suited me perfectly. My parents in the last 10 or so  years have returned to the church of my childhood.

 

I tried as much as I could to avoid the topic with my parents. As I am sure many of you can relate, it was a wound between us that was deeper and more painful than I could ever really manage. I just wanted to be accepted and my parents just wanted to assure my eternal salvation. Almost thirty years have passed since I have considered myself to be a christian. It has been a a wonderful path, full of self discovery and, for the most part,  the joy of freedom. I am comfortable and confident with my spirituality.  I dont fear hell or the disapproval of God anymore, there has just been one pain that endures and that is the disapproval of my parents and the pain in their eyes when any topic comes close to my/their religious beliefs.  About a year ago I "came out" to my mother about my beliefs, her beliefs, and the gap between the two. It was very painful and I wondered for the last year why I felt so compelled to do it.This long winded ramble of mine really has much to do with what I wanted to ask. How have people handled the death of a parent who remains devout?

 

In October my mother unexpectedly fell into a coma during a simple out patient surgery.  She was brain dead and she did not survive. The absolute devastation of the loss of my mother was further complicated by their religion. Her church (the church of my childhood) really pulled together to support my father and help out. They are very nice people and they love my parents, but that heaviness of the religion I left behind was in the air. Her funeral was at the church. I had not been in that building in a very long time it definitely opened wounds that I thought had long healed. The memory of sadness in my mothers eyes because of her belief that we would be separated forever,  knowing that thousands of prayers were spoken alone and in this church aloud for my soul have added  a complication to my grief that has been very confusing.  To add even more sting, my father gave me a letter that he found, written 6 years ago by my mother to me.  I simply could not read it, I knew what it was. I had my husband read it for me and he confirmed that the letter was exactly what I thought it was, a plea for my return to Jesus. My mother died with the certainty of her beliefs that do not include an eternity with me.

 

I wonder how any of you have managed the death of a parent who remains a born again/evangelical christian?  Does anyone have any advice on navigating these intense emotions?

 

Thank you

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I cannot answer this directly.  I've lost two parents, both of whom were nominal Christians and neither had connections to the fundie church I joined.

Bottom line, however, I went a path with which they did not agree - and they never knew I turned back from it.

All I can say is that the death of a parent is an intense emotion anyway (leaving aside those who are so estranged that the emotions died before the individuals concerned).  Time is the only healer - though that can seem incredible when the pain is fresh.  Whatever distress your mother knew is over, and you cannot turn the clock back.  Nor could you do much about it were you so able, it seems to me.  Somehow, you have to accept the reality that life throws up such circumstances, and, though it is painful and difficult to get one's head around, the only answer is to accept it, get your head around it and move on.

I'm sorry if that sounds cold.  It is, however, the reality.

Allow yourself to grieve for the person.  Not for the twisted outlook that they had concerning your differences, but for the person that, ultimately, loved you.  That is the part that you will miss.  Regrets over the consequences of being yourself are illogical and not to be entertained.

And, please, accept my sympathy for your loss.

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I can't directly answer this because neither of my parents are dead, but I can say that I have found that it is possible to mourn someone even before they are dead - because I realize that they will never really chance and the isolation and disconnect from their delusions will probably stick with them until they die. I am left with memories of what once felt like genuine affection that I experienced while my dad still thought I would grow up to meet his expectations and validate his beliefs. Once I didn't validate him it didn't serve a purpose for him to express that kind of support of affection anymore, I think - at least not to that intensity or in that way.

 

This is a very delicate and personal decision but I do still reach out to them occasionally - not because I expect them to change and not because I expect them to really ever accept me for who I am. I do it for myself - to make it easier to mourn when the time comes. I read somewhere that mourning is an expression of all the love you weren't able to express for a person - so I try to express that love in some ways so that I can at least say that I've done my part - that way I can be at peace with myself. You can't change other people but you can change your orientation to them. They themselves will pay a price, I suspect, to the extent of holding out on showing me love due to some miscomprehension of a higher cause. 

 

I'm really sorry to hear about the church and the difficult experience. I really like what @Ellinas above said: "Allow yourself to grieve for the person.  Not for the twisted outlook that they had concerning your differences, but for the person that, ultimately, loved you. "

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11 hours ago, Astrea said:

Hello,  This is my first post and my first visit to this forum.  I was raised Pentecostal. My parents were "saved" when I was about 4 and took it all very seriously, it became our entire lives.  It was the full speaking in tongues-holy roller, fire and brimstone church. Women were expected to wear the uniform of dresses, uncut hair and modesty.  When I was 5 I asked to be baptized, much to the joy of my parents and the members of the church. In all honesty I was absolutely terrified of hell (what do five year olds know of sin) and it lead me to years of pursuing the magic key to heaven, speaking in tongues. I never got the "gift" but I faked it, which resulted in terrifying nightmares.  My parents left when I was a teenager and we church shopped. I was elated that we were done with that but I had layers and layers of repression and fear. So as a teenager  I rebelled, and I rebelled as hard as I could. I was quite certain that I was not a christian by the time I was 17 and began to explore nature based religions. That suited me perfectly. My parents in the last 10 or so  years have returned to the church of my childhood.

 

I tried as much as I could to avoid the topic with my parents. As I am sure many of you can relate, it was a wound between us that was deeper and more painful than I could ever really manage. I just wanted to be accepted and my parents just wanted to assure my eternal salvation. Almost thirty years have passed since I have considered myself to be a christian. It has been a a wonderful path, full of self discovery and, for the most part,  the joy of freedom. I am comfortable and confident with my spirituality.  I dont fear hell or the disapproval of God anymore, there has just been one pain that endures and that is the disapproval of my parents and the pain in their eyes when any topic comes close to my/their religious beliefs.  About a year ago I "came out" to my mother about my beliefs, her beliefs, and the gap between the two. It was very painful and I wondered for the last year why I felt so compelled to do it.This long winded ramble of mine really has much to do with what I wanted to ask. How have people handled the death of a parent who remains devout?

 

In October my mother unexpectedly fell into a coma during a simple out patient surgery.  She was brain dead and she did not survive. The absolute devastation of the loss of my mother was further complicated by their religion. Her church (the church of my childhood) really pulled together to support my father and help out. They are very nice people and they love my parents, but that heaviness of the religion I left behind was in the air. Her funeral was at the church. I had not been in that building in a very long time it definitely opened wounds that I thought had long healed. The memory of sadness in my mothers eyes because of her belief that we would be separated forever,  knowing that thousands of prayers were spoken alone and in this church aloud for my soul have added  a complication to my grief that has been very confusing.  To add even more sting, my father gave me a letter that he found, written 6 years ago by my mother to me.  I simply could not read it, I knew what it was. I had my husband read it for me and he confirmed that the letter was exactly what I thought it was, a plea for my return to Jesus. My mother died with the certainty of her beliefs that do not include an eternity with me.

 

I wonder how any of you have managed the death of a parent who remains a born again/evangelical christian?  Does anyone have any advice on navigating these intense emotions?

 

Thank you

 

 

Do you feel responsible for your mother's belief that you will not be seeing her in eternity? You are who you are. Be proud that you have followed the path that 'you' decided to follow. Both of my parents got somewhat religious in their last years of life but I didnt have to deal with the heavy indoctrination of them fearing for my soul. As far as navigating intense emotions, it's difficult when your parents pass. Allow yourself to feel what you feel. Talk to a non-Christian about it. Get professional counseling if need be. Don't accept guilt, fear or shame. That was what your Mom's religion produces.

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21 hours ago, Astrea said:

To add even more sting, my father gave me a letter that he found, written 6 years ago by my mother to me.  I simply could not read it, I knew what it was. I had my husband read it for me and he confirmed that the letter was exactly what I thought it was, a plea for my return to Jesus. My mother died with the certainty of her beliefs that do not include an eternity with me.

 

I wonder how any of you have managed the death of a parent who remains a born again/evangelical christian?  Does anyone have any advice on navigating these intense emotions?

 

My ex wife's grandmother did something similar. But she had her pastor grandson read it aloud at her service. A calling to everyone that left the church to come back, that she might see everyone at the second coming (SDA's believe that we remain dead and unconscious until the second coming and final judgement). He felt uncomfortable reading it, but said that he wanted to follow her wishes. Guess what? No one was moved to return back to the church who had already left it. She's gone. She's dead. No one was ever going to be reunited in a mythological heaven anyways, regardless of whether or not they do or do not rejoin the church. 

 

It's not different for you. She's gone. She doesn't know anything now. If she was suffering before and dwelling on it, at least she's not suffering or dwelling on it any longer. Letting the feelings pass through seems much healthier than holding on to them. 

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I loved both my parents but ... didnt want to live that close to them in this life. Cant imagine enjoying spending eternity with them. (lol) I love my children but I dont want to spend eternity with them. And I doubt they want to spend eternity with me either. Being with your family in heaven is a nice sentiment...but when you really think about it... no thanks. :)

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11 hours ago, Ellinas said:

Allow yourself to grieve for the person.  Not for the twisted outlook that they had concerning your differences

 

I think this is the best approach. The cult gathering was bound to smack your old wounds, and they are real wounds. None of what they fear is real, despite making a building and gathering there to babble in gibberish. You can still love your mom for being your mom, regardless of the poisonous beliefs she held.

 

My parents were not religious at all, I was the fundamentalist nut. But they each had some attributes that were harmful, particularly when I was young. I still love them and see the sour traits as part of their own flawed humanity. They were products of their generation, and had some values and upbringing that made them treat me oddly at times. I get that, so I'm able to look past that to the rest of their life with me cleaning my poopy diapers and all the standard parenting things they did that were kind and good.

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Thank you all so much. There are so many gems of wisdom here. I deeply loved my mom, in spite of her rigid beliefs and I know that she deeply loved me as well. This has given me immense comfort, because, truly, love is more powerful than belief I think, I hope.  I am doing much better about her death, the first two months were pretty rough.  I have strongly felt that moving on with love is the only way to really heal from loosing someone so dear. As for tragic dogma and funerals....oh my goodness, Joshpantera!! What a traumatic experience!! Oh, to have a letter read publicly, just heart wrenching to hear. My mother was a gifted singer/songwriter of religious music. The night before her surgery (her last night of life) at church she sang a song that she had written for Jesus. Her church had recorded it.  It was played at her funeral. It was so hard to hear, for so many reasons.  Thank you all so much for your helpful words.  I think as far as grief, the part of it- the natural part, I am working through. It feels horrible, but it is progressing in natural ways. The aspect of the religion has been all together a different feeling not natural. I am beginning to believe that religion is one of the most divisive things that we humans practice. I am the only non christian in the family and the only one who has forged a path of my own. Nothing feels more exclusive than not being part of the belief of a family when someone dies. I have spoken with many people who share philosophies with me, that has been healing, but I think that no one really knows, unless they have been part of the evangelical faith, quite what it means. Thank you all so much. ❤️

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First of all @Astrea, I'm sorry for the loss of your mother. I haven't experienced the death of a parent and cannot speak to that, but it is likely devastating. However, I can talk a bit about my own perspective on life and death and how that has changed. When I was a fundamentalist, before I came out as atheist to my parents, we were very close. One thing I feared in particular, at that time, was the death of my parents and how that would affect me. With perspective and distance, I've come to see that a lot of the closeness that I experienced while I was religious also involved unhealthy boundary violations and little respect for personal opinions and choices. In healthy relationships, people are able to be who they are freely, and have their choices and opinions respected. I did not have that. I wasn't free to voice anything that troubled me, or contentious topics, because everything I believed, my entire existence and worldview was controlled by the church I was in. As fundamentalists, my parents of course were and remain concerned about my soul and where I would end up, and due to this, there was always an excessive amount of interest and attempts to 'keep me on the right path'. Due to the isolation that fundamentalism produced, my entire social life was bound up in the church, a few friends and mostly my family, and this is naturally why I had such a deep rooted fear about what would happen when some of my main supports were no longer here. Because I am free of this, I'm free to develop my own sort of "family", and I hope you have access to such as well, because those are the people who will really help you when difficult things occur. I think I have a much more holistic approach now - I see death as just part of life, and although a difficult one, a natural progression.

Leaving religion has been a very positive experience for me in this way. I've grown a lot as a person, I have a more healthy relationship with my parents, and because I was very detailed in my come out letter, they know I will not tolerate any boundary violations or abusive behaviour, such as pleading with me to return or telling me that i'll end up in hell. That's what that is - abuse, a control mechanism using fear, and nothing else. And it's no different if it's read in a letter at a funeral service either, even if the intention is to do it in a loving manner. That's one thing that religious people just fail to understand, that they do not have the right to this type of abuse.

What I want to say is, you may not realize it, but you are much stronger for having left the church, leading a life of your own. I feel like when the time comes, and my parents pass away, I will be able to tolerate the grief in a more healthy way, due to the growth I've done as a person. That is very likely the case with you. Grief is a process you just have to live through, but when religion isn't part of your worldview anymore, you're not controlled by the extreme emotions that religion and fundamentalism in particular produce. Also, you are not at fault for the fact that your mom remained part of this, was controlled by it, and that you made your own choices. We aren't responsible for other people's emotions and the way they react to our decisions and choices that we are free to make. Of course, I cannot know how I would react if such a personal letter of appeal was written to me, but I think I would feel a great deal of pity, and I do indeed feel that, for my parents who are trapped by their beliefs.

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I am deeply sorry for the loss of your mother, Astrea. Like you, I left the pentecostal cult about 30 years ago. And like you, I lost a deeply religious parent--my father died about 10 years after I left the church. I loved him, but not his beliefs, and I mourned his loss deeply.

At his funeral, the pastor "opened the altar" to me, as per my father's instructions. I was, of course, deeply hurt by this. In life, he never approved of my choice to leave the church and he told me that I would never amount to anything because I had "fallen away". 

He's been gone almost 20 years now, and time has done a decent job of healing those wounds, but there are days that I still feel it. I just have to remember to take it a day at a time. I can not and will not walk the same path my father walked. I had to find my own way...pity he never saw that. 

My advice...give it time. It does get easier. Best wishes.

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14 hours ago, Astrea said:

 I deeply loved my mom, in spite of her rigid beliefs and I know that she deeply loved me as well. This has given me immense comfort, because, truly, love is more powerful than belief I think, I hope.  

 

 

Hi Astrea. Welcome to Ex-c. I am so glad you found us. And I am so very sorry to hear about the sudden death of your mom. What you said above is the greatest point for you to remember.....that you really did love each other in spite of the differences of opinion on religion. Think of all those happier times with your mom. Don't be burdened with guilt or shame. It can make you sick. If any negative thoughts enter, switch over to thinking of the good times.

 

Maybe a workbook (below ''Surviving Loss without Religion'') might help you to sort out your feelings and help to give you more peace during this transition. Keep posting and reading. Someone is always here for you. A big (hug) because I know what it feels like to lose our loved ones. Do something nice for yourself every day.

Another ((hug))

 

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0989700429/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0989700429&linkCode=as2&tag=wwwfriendlyat-20&linkId=A6GHGY464ENF3YUN

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