How does an atheist deal with death? - page 2

Well, I'm not truly atheist, more agnostic, but I don't really believe in the afterlife. I am a new grad starting oncology nursing, because I loved my oncology clinical very much, and the time I... Read More

  1. by   RedBait
    Quote from angel03
    I am not an oncology nurse or hospice nurse...but I have great respect for both.....I am an OR nurse somewhat detached from the patient and family...I was for many years on a medical unit...we had patients that (before DRG's) stayed for many many months......I learned much from these patients many of which were terminal....I watched may take their last breath...a common factor in many of these patient was faith...it was curious to see outreached hands to the sky....as if prasing some one... ..or a conservation with the pretty lady....no one else in the room but me.....or a peaceful face on a pain riddled body (many many years ago bone Ca pain was treated with tylenol#3 or percodan q6 hr imagine) I am not preaching but please don't feel uncomfortable with faith.....I have great faith which has brought me throu some very difficult times in my life.....I guess I am trying to say let you patients feel your compassion and faith in them no doubt you are awsome nurses....take it one step further...you were give your particular talent for a reason...please don't stone me...I just know their is a reason their is a God..........
    Please reread the previous posts and you will see that this thread is not requesting an affirmation of the existence of God...it is a thread discussing how an atheist/agnostic/non-believer can offer care to the dying. For those who believe that poor spelling and poorer grammar do not diminish the credibility of your written opinions: You are wrong! How are we going to present ourselves as educated professionals if we do not know the difference between "their" and "there?"
  2. by   RedBait
    Quote from aimeee
    Nobody's going to stone you, Angel. But please recognize that it isn't that many of us are not comfortable with faith, it is that we simply do not feel it in the same way that you experience it. Some of us are perpetual seekers, and some of us have found an alternate spirituality. Each of us must find the path that is right for ourselves and respect what others have found is right for them.
    And thank you for that.
  3. by   aimeee
    moderator's note: as stated above, the subject of the thread is how do non-believers deal with death. any further posts dealing with grammar or the lack thereof will be pruned from the thread.
  4. by   angel03
    Quote from RedBait
    Please reread the previous posts and you will see that this thread is not requesting an affirmation of the existence of God...it is a thread discussing how an atheist/agnostic/non-believer can offer care to the dying. For those who believe that poor spelling and poorer grammar do not diminish the credibility of your written opinions: You are wrong! How are we going to present ourselves as educated professionals if we do not know the difference between "their" and "there?"
    please excuse my spelling errors and grammer I should have checked before I posted...that is what happens when one has worked 16 hours..with no sleep....I did ask not to be stoned....I just feel that there is a higher being who guides us.... so if you wish to be so critical and angry so be it....My belief is my own I am not pushing it on you or any one else......I just know how I feel...and my practice reflects this....
  5. by   RedBait
    Quote from angel03
    please excuse my spelling errors and grammer I should have checked before I posted...that is what happens when one has worked 16 hours..with no sleep....I did ask not to be stoned....I just feel that there is a higher being who guides us.... so if you wish to be so critical and angry so be it....My belief is my own I am not pushing it on you or any one else......I just know how I feel...and my practice reflects this....
    I understand that your faith is a comfort to you and guides your practice. But how is this useful in answering the question, "How does an atheist deal with death?" Not at all angry, not critical, just trying to follow your train of thought.
  6. by   leslie :-D
    Quote from jen42
    Well, I'm not truly atheist, more agnostic, but I don't really believe in the afterlife. I am a new grad starting oncology nursing, because I loved my oncology clinical very much, and the time I spent doing a clinical in hospice I loved as well. My unit isn't palliative care, but a lot of the patients will die. My patients in oncology were the most amazing people I ever met, and I loved working with them and their families too much to give the field up. However, dealing with my patients dying is VERY hard for me, because I'm not sure there's anything after they go (not that it's not hard for everyone). I wouldn't give up my new job for the world, but I'm curious if anyone out there is in my position. Anyone have any suggestions for reading material, or just based on personal experience?
    i'm not sure i understand your question jen.

    are you personally afraid of dying, the process of dying?
    are you afraid of the perceived 'nothingness' after dying?

    i can tell you from my experience as a hospice nurse, that if the person dies comfortably, it is not a frightening experience for the patient.
    moreover, it seems like a very natural transition....IF all needs are met.

    if you're afraid of what happens (or doesn't happen) after dying, i can assure you, you won't know about it.

    i can try to help you if i have a clearer understanding of why type of answers you seek.

    wishing you peace,

    leslie
  7. by   angel03
    Quote from RedBait
    I understand that your faith is a comfort to you and guides your practice. But how is this useful in answering the question, "How does an atheist deal with death?" Not at all angry, not critical, just trying to follow your train of thought.
    How does an atheist deal with death?... I don't know....As I stated I feel there is a higher being.... God.... who guides us who gives us our talent even the atheist.....Again that is my belief....Something inside guides..... what ever you want to call it...I call "It" God......A dying person looks to you for compassion ...and you are able to give that compassion.....they look for answers and acceptance.....sometimes absolution......what do you think guides your practice.......(You must admit if you have been a nurse for awhile you have seen many strange occurances).......It is more than respecting the person and not using "pet names"....Not trying to convert you just telling you how I feel......I can't quote authors .....just my own feelings......how is this useful in answering the question??...I can't answer that....Only you can.....
  8. by   RedBait
    [QUOTE=angel03]How does an atheist deal with death?... I don't know..../QUOTE]
    You might have stopped there.
    I have been a nurse since 1974, 22 years of it in the ICU, and no, I have not seen strange occurrances. Each of us sees through our own eyes and our own experiences...I see cellular biology, not higher power. Just my experience. I provide pain relief, anxiolysis, dignity, room for grief, privacy, and when I can, quiet. If it seems even remotely appropriate, I call the chaplain. I am an atheist and this is how I deal with death. I hope this is useful to the OP, who solicited the opinions of non-believers.
  9. by   talaxandra
    Quote from earle58
    i'm not sure i understand your question jen.
    are you personally afraid of dying, the process of dying?
    are you afraid of the perceived 'nothingness' after dying?
    I agree - I wasn't sure precisely what aspect you were asking about. As I read your original post I thought it could be interpreted in at least four ways:
    1) your being concerned about how what you believe impacts on your patients, or
    2) being unable to meet your patients needs when they have different beliefs from yours, or
    3) your uncertainty negatively affecting your patients, or
    4) being asked by patients/relatives about your own beliefs and having your response impacting negatively.
    I think your post (and this thread) raises some interesting questions
    Although I do not work in a hospice setting, palliative care is a vital component of what I do. I work in a strongly multicultural area, and so have no expectations about the belief systems of my patients. Like other posters, I am happy to call chaplaincy as requested by patients/relatives. I have only rarely been asked what I believe and, as it's not something I really want to talk about with my patients, I say that what I think is not as important as what they think (which I believe is true). On the rare occasion when I've been asked to pray for someone, I say that I will think of them, that I will send good wishes, and (if this is the case, which it is not always) that I'll hold them in my heart.
    Good luck
    Last edit by talaxandra on Nov 7, '04
  10. by   TDub
    I think an atheist would have a lot to offer a dying patient. The patient has already formed his own opinion of the afterlife (or not). You are there to provide comfort and reassurance. It doesn't matter if you believe in God. You believe in the here and now, right? That's what you give them, the here-and-now.


    And don't worry about baptizing a baby. It comforts the parents; that's what's important. I can't believe an all-merciful, ever-loving God would kick an infant out of Heaven if it wasn't baptized. Some Christian denominations won't baptize an dead baby because it's "too late" and others don't believe in infant baptism. It's all good.
  11. by   jen42
    After being on the unit and having a few patients die, I feel much better. They have all died free of pain as far as I could tell, peacefully, with their families around them. I really felt positive about my experiences, and while I'm sure I'll always struggle with the bigger issues of what life means and what death means, I also am seeing a good death as a very desirable thing for my patients if they are going to die. And now I can see my role in their care as trying to ensure that that good death happens, and that their families feel taken care of. I'm sure a more violent death would be very troubling for me, but hopefully that is something I can help prevent for my patients...?

    Thanks for all the insight and information, guys!
  12. by   Cubby
    I do not believe in an afterlife. If my patients do, I shut my mouth and accept what ever helps them or their family deal with the inevitable. My belief system has caused me much introspection over the years--there is only so much one person can see with out some doubt--but I have never caused a patient or their family any uncomfortableness due to what I believe.
    I enjoy helping someone die-people do not seem to understand that death is as much of life as being born, and it takes a professional to help them exit, just as it does to help them enter.
  13. by   lovingtheunloved
    I'm a Christian, but if I were an atheist, I would probably think of the dying person as not being in pain anymore. Even if there is no afterlife, at least they wouldn't be suffering.

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