Apr 28, 2014
Join John, Jenny and Lindsay as they explore the Kubler-Ross model (better known as the 5 stages of grief) and how it relates to leaving Mormonism.
Podcast: Play in new window
Hey, I’m a newer listener. I left the church and became an atheist over a decade ago. A friend of mine piqued my curiosity about your podcast and I’ve been enjoying the episodes I’ve heard, but I must say — about 25 minutes into this episode I found it a little annoying that the whole panel assumed and agreed that the “happiness claim” is fake. That we’re just trying hard to be happy. I was a happy Mormon and I’ve been an even happier atheist. Your own personal experience is not everyone else’s personal experience. Perhaps the therapist could say she can speak for the people she has counseled in addition to herself, but don’t forget, those of us who are happy are likely not getting counseling.
The first year while I was trying to cope with my new “enlightenment” was hard. It was hard to come out to my family and friends at the end of that year once I knew for sure that I was done with the church. Thankfully I was up front with everyone, so I never had to hide my choice — which I imagine would be very difficult.
Yes, the first year was scary with a new worldview that includes believing my existence will suddenly end forever. But it was also a very exciting time full of new discoveries and a sense of empowerment to learn that I do not need a god to feel secure or happy. Everything good inside me that I thought was from god is actually just me. I love that.
Maybe it’s because my husband and I both made this journey together, but our marriage improved and we have both been happier these ten years.
I think we were just speaking to the initial transition, not afterwards. For myself specifically, I was talking about people who immediately following a disruption in their faith, feel pressure to claim happiness because of the culture surrounding it. My purpose was to give people permission that it’s okay to feel sad, angry and upset when this happens to you.
It has also been pointed out to me that there are some who the transition was really easy for- no real crisis or anything, and I think that is valid too. Rare, but valid.
Thanks for explaining, Lindsay! That makes much more sense. I’ve had to pause the episode and I’m just getting to the end of it right now. It’s a really good one!
To say something more positive about the episode now that I’ve listened a bit further Your explanation of the stages of grief that family members and friends go through helped me to better understand what my own people were going through and why some of them said what they said.
Another long entry by me, sorry – really liked this podcast a lot.
Basically, a member can not 100% accept your choice to leave and still 100% accept the church’s teachings. They will always have to think of your salvation as somewhat lost – at least not the celestial kingdom. If they think that everything will be ok for you in the afterlife it has to be based on you “repenting”.
Even if the rhetoric has softened and people don’t say stuff like “All apostates go to hell” as much anymore – they can’t hear repeatedly that you must be married in the temple etc to have an eternal family without drawing some conclusion about where you (an apostate) will end up. So they now have to choose – to lose you for eternity, or to lose their faith in something they have based their whole life around (like you did – and you know how hard that was).
I, personally, don’t want to destroy or diminish someone’s faith – as long as it is a good thing in their life. It’s kind of like the movie Shallow Hal – if people are happy thinking they are going out with hot chicks then why would I interfere.
This makes it very very difficult. I think this is often why people usually “dwindle in unbelief” or just go anyway even though they don’t really believe. It is easier for a parent to deal with a child that is inactive and struggling rather than to come to terms with a child who says “I’ve studied this stuff and prayed and investigated and put great effort into this – and I’m walking away because it is plain and simple not true and I believe it does more harm than good”
I think some people have trouble letting go because they like the church. I actually don’t – don’t really feel connected with most people there – not a fan of funeral potatoes – goes on and on. So, for me in isolation, it being not true would be enough to walk away – except for the way other people (my family) would react – that’s the tough one for me.
This is where we question the organization though – what kind of organization constructs a world view in the mind of a child that if their dad is struggling to believe in angelic visitation he is a bad man and is going to hell? – dealing with that part seems like it would not be fun.
But again personally speaking – once I decided it was not true – life was instantly easier for me – mentally. I had a short anger phase and I am still a little bit depressed. But, that depression is not about the loss of the gospel – it is about the possible loss of relationships in my family. But, just on a personal level, I wasn’t really too mad about the time and manipulation etc. I was just like “phew – glad that crap is not true – what a relief.”
Really enjoyed the podcast discussion, especially the last half of how the left-behind TBM family processes the grief of losing a family member. I think you touched on this, but we should all remember that the institutional church benefits from having TBMs in a perpetual state of grief over family members who leave. So you see rhetoric that encourages denial (they’ll come back eventually), anger (crawl over, under, or around the BoM), bargaining (always keep testifying, etc.), but you don’t hear teachings to accept apostates for who they are because that could lead to more disaffection. Despite that institutional pressure, quite a few TBMs, to their credit, reach the stage of acceptance with their family members anyways and maintain positive relationships.
I appreciated the call for empathy for the believing family members. They are hurting too.
After I used the Kubler-Ross template to look at recovery dynamics on PostMo, in parallel with my own recovery, I came to the conclusion that the DABDA model can be directly applied to any significant stage of ego ‘death’ and rebirth.
This concept brings meaning to the spiritual ‘valley of darkness’ concept.
Prior to any significant new stage of development, the ego attachment to our former persona will be experienced at a death threat and even a death experience. Mind you, I believe a strong case can be mounted that even physical death is an ‘ego-death’.
This model would suggest that the valley of darkness cannot be escaped, as the new self, cannot emerge until the former self is either ‘dead’ or seriously diminished.
I really enjoyed this program, AND would loved to have been in the audience to try to widen some of the exploration. That is slightly problematic given I live on the east coast of Australia.
I see the bargaining stage as including the ‘bargaining with God’ that many people go through in their unstable stage as their belief collapses. The panic as belief collapses, seems, from my observation to involves oscillations of disbelief and then waves of reapplication (to fast, pray, and serve) to try to make a breakout of the depressive collapse/death.
One of the realisations that spilt out of the work I did, revealed that many people experience a ‘significant destabilising experience’ prior to departure, but also prior to joining.
We all hold packages of ‘belief’ about how the world functions, and while life is OK, we interpret that as proof of the viability of our model (albeit it very unconsciously). Only when that assumption gets a real shake-up, are some of us challenged to review our model. Death of a child, serious disease or injury, business failure-type events typically are big enough to destabilise us, rendering us open to a new model that appears to offer a better fit to our life experience and relief.
Wow! Thank you. There has never been a time when I needed to hear this more. I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts recently and I enjoy them very much. I thought perhaps this one may be a little boring:)) I couldn’t have been more wrong. My story is too long but it suffices to say that I have experienced an incredible amount of loss in just a short time. I was super mormon and married for 23 years with 5 kids before I recognized (or admitted) the gay in me and now have lost my identity, my faith (that’s been a long, slow process over time even though I didn’t recognize it–I’m good at denial), my family as it was and how I hoped it would be, my marriage, my community, my extended family , mine and his, and the catalyst or lover that helped me to see myself truthfully and felt like the love of my life (a little cheesy I realize but feelings are feelings). What I appreciate most is the reminder that while I am going through all of these stages, my loved-ones are also processing this in their own way as well. It is good to have the reminder of empathy and I appreciate it. Nothing means more to me than my family, friends and loved ones. Thank you again. Thanks for your time and effort. I am sure you have been told by others that this has helped them. I think that perhaps this is an understatement. It is life-saving. It is a life-line. It is something and someone to hold on to while you work through the pain. One more thank you. Keep going.
Mormon Expression is recorded live on Tuesday nights at 6:30pm in Salt Lake City. The address is:
423 W 800 South A110
Salt Lake City, UT 84101
Recordings are free and open to the public.
Tuesday 12/16/2014 6:30 pm
"What I learned being a Mormon and why it wasn't all Bad"
Tuesday 12/23/20146:30 pm"So Long and Thanks for all the Fish"
Subscribe to the Newsletter for the inside track