Don’t Keep Me In Your Prayers

I’ve been seeing a lot of discussion lately on religious people wondering how to console a non-religious person when they’re grieving.  Obviously, things like “you’re in my prayers” and “they’re looking down on you from heaven” aren’t going to work.  By the way, kudos to all religious folk out there who actually care enough to put forth the effort of figuring out what to say instead of using a vulnerable and trying time to try to force your beliefs on other people.

But now I’d like to look at the other side of that.  As in, when somebody does say these things to me, how am I supposed to respond?  I don’t want to be taking away from the sad, serious moment to call them out on it, but I also feel very uncomfortable saying thank you for something that doesn’t mean anything to me and doesn’t do anything at all.  Most of the time, these comments are coming from family members.  Recently, my mother was hospitalized, and many of my aunts, uncles, etc. were coming to me saying things like that, and for the most part I just glossed over it, not really saying anything, just moving the conversation along.

So here’s my question, is it rude of me to say “I wish you wouldn’t say things like that, considering I don’t believe any of it,” when I know they’re just trying to help and comfort me?  Even in a less stressful and serious situation, I’m not the type to start yelling and bitching about somebody saying something like that, but is there a way to address this in an amicable way where everybody walks away with a smile and their dignity in tact?


9 thoughts on “Don’t Keep Me In Your Prayers

  1. I don’t think it’s obvious that offering prayers, etc. won’t be comforting. It isn’t to you, fair enough, but others might appreciate the sentiment even if they don’t agree with the metaphysics. But I don’t think the question is whether or not it is rude to tell people not to pray for your and yours; I think it’s more important to assess what you will accomplish by doing so. For me, those just aren’t moments where I want the issue on the table, so I wouldn’t say anything. Better to connect with other people at moments of stress and save the battles for a day when all parties are stronger. But that’s not a prescription; just a preference.

    • wordofwoz says:

      That was kind of part of my question. I don’t feel that during the time of grieving is an appropriate time to bring it up, but it also feels weird to talk about it at some other time, because it’s not exactly something that just comes up in conversation, but when it does come up during a difficult time, it honestly just irritates me, and that’s far from what I want to hear. It’s just a tough situation, tough call, and something I might just have to deal with.

  2. morningv says:

    I think this one might just be something you deal with. I try to take it in the sense that they care enough to do what their faith tells them should be done in a time like that. Even though I don’t believe in god or prayer, faith is a very powerful force in the lives of many people and serves a valuable social service, honestly. So, I try to remember how important it is to them and try to feel honored that they are extending that to me. I actually have more difficulty with the opposite side. When I’m trying to console someone, what do I say? “I’ll keep them in my thoughts?” Well, what the hell are my thoughts supposed to do? Yes, me thinking about them has about the same power as them praying for me, but they really believe in prayer, so I’m the only one who actually feels like a liar.

  3. (e)m says:

    Well, the easiest way to bring it up in conversation is just to initiate one about how different people deal with loss at a time when you aren’t emotional about it. It’s as easy as saying, Oh I read this today, and then shifting the conversation in the direction you want to go in.

  4. (e)m says:

    @wordofwoz above, no problem. I haven’t been following Greta Christina lately, but that is definitely a great post for sharing with people.

  5. kopfkrabbe says:

    My mother tells me from time to time that she prays for me when I’m having a hard time with something. It irritates me too, because I don’t believe the prayer itself will achieve anything. But I try not to make this the point. Instead, I paraphrase what she’s literally saying into what she’s implying: “I’m worried about you, I care for you and I wish things will get better soon”. That definitely achieves something, it makes me feel better. And that’s in the end what she was praying for. For me personally, a confrontation about basically just wishing me well is not worth it. She’s not doing any harm, so I let her phrase it the way she wants.

  6. Midori Skies says:

    I usually mentally replace the word ‘prayer’ with ‘hope’ in situations like these.

    I think it’s good to point out that people saying these things is not helpful, but the timing is definitely tricky to figure out. And yes, it might hurt their feelings to be told “what you said isn’t helpful” but your feelings matter, too, and if it makes you sufficiently uncomfortable, it is worth pointing out (whenever the timing seems good).

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