Many people experience relatively uncomplicated grief in the wake of a loss. That doesn’t mean their grief is easy, to be sure, but it is distinct from what I experienced. It is worthwhile to distinguish between typical grief patterns and complicated grief following a complicated or traumatic death. Our typical mourning patterns and social scripts do not as readily apply. People don’t know how to respond to, or honor, or mourn, a death that was intentional, and unexpected, and violent, and that social difficult (along with the gruesomeness of the death itself) can leave some more profound wounds.

I’m sure you don’t mean to diminish those differences with your words, but I do really want to make that clear to anyone reading. I’m glad that you have found prayer to be deeply helpful and meaningful. My father was an atheist and I have a complicated relationship with religion and spirituality. I sometimes engage in spiritual practices, but I don’t know who to pray to. I try to process and experience spiritual feelings regarding my own life and my dad’s life and death by reflecting on how I am connected to him, and his positive impacts on me, by learning about his family, by honoring the aspects of my identity that come from him, and by writing about the pain his life and death have caused.

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