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Losing the “God Talk” in Grief Groups

“To say you need the afterlife to have meaning is the bleakest form of insanity.”

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Life by Cornelia Li

Rebecca Hensler started an online group called Grief Beyond Belief after her three-month-old baby boy died in her arms of a rare genetic disease. Her son’s life was so brief that she did not see the need for a full-blown memorial service. Instead, she, family, and friends met at home and talked about the baby, read from books they had read to him, and comforted each other. She also sought comfort through an online parental bereavement forum called The Compassionate Friends, which provided resources and connections to grieving parents. It was a great help during a terrible time.“Grieving parents feel like an alien species; the only people who get you are other grieving parents,” she said. Even in The Compassionate Friends, however, it was hard for Hensler to find people who could support her without resorting to spiritual language and religious philosophizing. Some people expressed their religious beliefs, saying that “everything happens for a reason” and “your baby is with God now.” The in-person parental grief support groups she found in the San Francisco area, where she lives, were often laced with Ne …

Grace without God: The Search for Meaning, Purpose, and Belonging in a Secular Age, by Katherine Ozment, published this month by Harper Wave, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers.


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