020 The Mormon Funeral: Grieving the Things We Miss
Because there are some good things about Mormonism
Leaving Mormonism can be both highly liberating and extremely difficult at the same time. Mormonism is so woven into the fabric of everyday life that walking away can cause significant upheaval and trauma. Grief is a natural reaction to this loss, and it’s important to understand how this grief may manifest in your newly post-Mormon life.
We recorded the “Mormon Paraphernalia” and “Things we Miss” topics in one recording session, but found that each topic deserved its own episode. So if you haven’t listened to it yet, go back and check out episode 017 where our panelists talk about how they dealt with the physical mementos of Mormonism. Then join us for this episode where our panelists share the things they miss most from their Mormon experience, and Aimee and Donna delve more deeply into the grieving process and how to grieve when leaving Mormonism.
No two people will miss precisely the same things when leaving Mormonism, but there are some common themes to many people’s stories: feeling the loss of belonging to a community or being part of a tribe; missing a connection to and communing with the divine; losing a means of contributing to something larger than yourself; missing the opportunity to participate in deeply familiar rituals. These needs are not exclusive to Mormonism; it is part of the human experience to desire deeper meaning and connection.
Considering the things you value can help you decide whether or not to seek out replacements for the aspects of Mormonism that you miss. For instance, if community, ritual, or contributions to a group are things you value, explore opportunities outside of the Mormon framework to engage in them. Not everything you miss about Mormonism necessarily needs to be replaced by something new; focus on those things that you value most highly.
Grieving an institution is certainly different than grieving a person, but that does not make it less real. Losing that sense of belonging within a community or even within your family can feel like a deep loss. For some, the change in worldview that often accompanies a change in faith can feel like a death of your former self.
Grief can manifest as emotions other than sadness; fear and anger are also common feelings. It’s absolutely normal to feel these emotions; hold onto the hope that feelings evolve and you won’t feel anger forever. Recognize that reactions to grief might not be as obvious as outright sadness or anger; anxiety, irritability, and even physical manifestations like fatigue can be common.
Remember that feelings aren’t permanent; it won’t feel this way forever, time changes things, and people can evolve. If you find yourself staying in sad too long, find a therapist and/or talk to your doctor about medication options. It can be very helpful to work through your experiences and emotions in a safe space with a professional to guide you through the process. The Mormon Mental Health Association’s website is a great place to start if you need a recommendation for a therapist; most of the therapists listed have some prior or current relationship with Mormonism. Facebook groups can also be a good source for recommendations for therapists.
Find ways to process your thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Write it all out in a journal, talk it out by recording voice memos for yourself, or tap into your artistic side and create something. These can all help you to make connections and dig deeper into your experiences with Mormonism as you work through your grief.
Find a tribe of post-Mormons. It’s so helpful to be a part of a community of people who have gone through this process and can understand and share in your experiences. The Mormon Spectrum website is a good jumping-off point; they have a sizeable collection of resources for wherever you fall on the spectrum of Mormon belief.
Some people might feel the need for a physical ritual, like a bonfire or ceremonial disposal of their Mormon past. An act of catharsis may bring a sense of closure for some.
Stay grounded in hope. Grief brings so much sadness, but remember there is hope: hope that you can have growth, resiliency, movement, and evolution as you move through the grief. Have hope that all is not lost.
Learn more about the role religion has played in the greater human experience and how religion has changed to fit different human needs. Understanding the sociological perspective can help us understand why we feel so strongly about our experiences with religious faith and belonging.
Hidden Brain podcast episode: https://www.npr.org/series/423302056/hidden-brain
Strangerville podcast on Mormon films “The Mailbox” and “Cipher in the Snow”: http://www.itjustgetsstranger.com/p/strangerville-podcast.html
Mormon Mental Health Association website: https://www.mormonmentalhealthassoc.org/mmha-clinical-providers
Mormon Spectrum website: https://www.mormonspectrum.org
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