This is a guest post from Rebecca Hensler.
The problem is that the places in which secular support is most needed are the very places where it is hardest for grieving nonbelievers to find each other. In cities, on the coasts, and outside the US, a grieving freethinker is likely to already have a support network made up at least partially of other nonbelievers; in the southern and midwestern US, a grieving freethinker is likely to be surrounded by believers who — however caring and well-intentioned — cannot understand the way a nonbeliever grieves. And while members in urban areas may be made uncomfortable by periodic references to heaven or psychics at mainstream grief-support groups, members in the bible belt and rural areas are way more likely to find that the in-person grief support group in their area is faith-based, provided by a church, or held at a church, and thus cannot be a place of comfort.
Online grief support for nonbelievers solves the problem of a low concentration of secularity in certain geographic areas by taking physical proximity out of the equation. But that is only one of its advantages; the other is that it is easy to provide for free.
Grief Beyond Belief is a labor of love, and one that is remarkably inexpensive, as long as our compassionate, rational, and devoted volunteers are willing to contribute substantial time and effort to maintaining the safety and secularity of the online spaces. I have so far been able to pay the minimal web-hosting costs out of pocket with help from a few donors. The Facebook-based Grief Beyond Belief public page and GBBGroup (the confidential group where most community members seek support), cost nothing but time.
But when it comes to emotional support, there is really nothing like meeting face-to-face. So bringing Grief Beyond Belief from the internet into the real world — particularly in places where it is difficult for grieving atheists and other nonbelievers to find grief support — is one of my long-term goals.
I took the first step last year at Skepticon, a free secular conference in Springfield Missouri, by running a grief support workshop for conference attendees and others who traveled to the conference site for the workshop itself. So many participated in the workshop that we could barely seat everyone in a circle. It was a moving experience to be able to talk about our grief with other freethinkers and share comfort face-to-face for the first time with the Grief Beyond Belief community. I would like to hold this kind of grief support workshop at more conferences and events, especially in the midwest and southern states where the need seems particularly great. Eventually I would like to train others to facilitate similar meetings, creating even more opportunity for grieving nonbelievers to share support in person.
I will be facilitating another grief support workshop at Skepticon on November 21 and I am very happy to have the opportunity. But the travel costs verge on prohibitive, even without factoring in the missed days of work. I have never expected to make a living from providing secular grief support, but it is currently costing me more than I can afford to expand Grief Beyond Belief offline. I need to suck it up and ask for help.
So I am requesting donations to Grief Beyond Belief. Absolutely anything will help bring secular support to more grieving atheists and other freethinkers. So if you can afford to give a little – or even a lot – please click here to donate.
I’m also looking for additional opportunities to lead grief support circles wherever they are needed. If your secular organization, Humanist society, Sunday Assembly, or other group of freethinkers would like to host a Grief Beyond Belief Workshop, and are either in the SF Bay Area or can provide for travel, please contact me at [email protected]