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Imagine no religion….

So the great thing about being a more or less public person and having a public forum for talking about grief is that I don’t have to dig around for examples of what might work and what might not work for people in grief. For example,  this morning someone I don’t know posted the following on facebook. Not on their own facebook page. On mine.

Yesterday when I posted the When Someone You Love Loses Someone They Love piece, I included the tip “Keep your religion to yourself.”

I actually thought I should maybe go into more detail with that tip, but this Carolyn Dye character was kind enough to perfectly illustrate one way religion creeps into conversations. Creepily.

Carolyn tells me that “everything happens for a reason.” but what she really means is “I believe everything happens for a reason.” The concept of attaching meaning to suffering is pretty much a core religious tenet. So here’s a tip if you’re wondering if you’re “keeping your religion to yourself” or not: if you are giving advice about what meaning a person should or shouldn’t assign to their loved one’s death, you are NOT keeping your religion to yourself.

I should add that Carolyn’s response doesn’t work on a number of levels…obviously I am not merely “uncomfortable” with Cheryl and Heather’s deaths. Their deaths are not the equivalent of having my underwear stuck in my crack.

And then there’s the “that only prepares us for what we know we can handle” which is both illogical and almost a little cruel. I think this is supposed to be a reference to the oft quoted Christian adage that “god will never give us more than we can handle.” To which I have two responses 1. Really? The Holocaust. and 2. That is actually a misquoting of Christian New Testament scripture, the verse is as follows:

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. (1 Cor. 10:13 NKJV)

The promise is not that “God won’t give you more suffering than you can handle” but that “God won’t give you more temptation than you can handle.”  Two different things Carolyn!

I could have let this go and used the fifteen minutes it took me to write this post to work my way down my “to do” list. After all, I’ve been pretty public about my situation and there is always going to be some character talking some bullshit, especially within the context of social media. But the thing is, the more I keep talking and writing about the way our culture deals with grief, the more comments, emails etc I get from people who aren’t as public but have had horrible grief experience AND have still had really stupid things said to them. See the first comment in response to yesterday’s post for a perfect example.

These are important conversations. I have no plans to shut up.

About Kelli Dunham

Everyone's favorite ex-nun genderqueer nerd comic.


5 thoughts on “Imagine no religion….

  1. That HAHAHAH (Peace) is one of the creepiest, meanest things I’ve seen posted.

    Posted by Kathleen Warnock | October 18, 2011, 9:56 am
  2. Note to self: keep my opinions on grief, loss and bacon balls to myself. I wish people had done the same for me when I lost someone this year. Sadly they didn’t. Stay strong Kelli.

    Posted by iz connell | October 18, 2011, 11:05 am
  3. I am taking a Critical Issues class and the topic is currently grief. My prof. wisely told us that “I’m sorry” is the usually the only thing you need to say to someone who just lost a loved one. She explained that it is impossible to fully understand what a grieving person is feeling and that person usually doesn’t want to hear about your methods of dealing with grief. Just be there for them as someone who will listen whenever they need it. I think that’s good advice.

    And also, I really am very sorry for your loss. I met Cheryl briefly on a couple of occasions and she was wonderful.

    Posted by green-eyed girl | October 19, 2011, 2:09 pm
  4. I lost my Father last summer, who was my favorite person in the entire world, and the stupid/horrible things well-meaning religious people have said to me could fill a book. I finally had to completely shut them out and just ignore their idiocy.

    Posted by Michelle | April 28, 2012, 11:53 am


  1. Pingback: Imagine no religion…. | GRIEF SUCKS | Loss, Grief, Transitions and Relationship Support - July 4, 2014

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Kelli Dunham: registered nurse, author, stand-up comic

I am also--despite being under 45 years old- a two time widow, having lost two partners in a row to cancer. GRIEF SUCKS is a reaction to the kitsch that passes as death /dying/ bereavement discussion in the popular/ dominant culture and makes me want to poke out my eye with a spoon. I'm also including nuts and bolts info about caregiving and building support systems that I've picked up on these journeys.


If you stumbled here looking to book me comedy shows or presentations, you'll find all the information you need at

my main comedy site


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