I was listening to George Hrab's Geologic Podcast episode where he replies to a new atheist about the loss of a loved one. George made a point I had known but never knew how to put into words.
Everything has a cost or a price. That car you want. The career you strive for. The power or status you crave. Also other things less materialistic like ethics and morals. Learning and research. But maybe the heaviest price is paid for friendships and relationships.
This isn't saying it is bad to pay a price for these things, only that it is there in many forms. And it may be that the emotional price of a relationship is the biggest for most of us.
When do we pay the price? Sometimes the relationship is costly as it progresses no matter how it ends. A relationship may be costly at the beginning for many reasons. But it seems that at the end of a relationship is where the highest costs are, especially with death, because this is when the realization that you'll never be seeing that person (or pet) again sets in and the sorrow for the loss is the final emotional cost of that relationship.
I think the price is worth paying for a good relationship and most of us do. Some of us avoid the price by avoiding or limiting relationships which I think limits life too much. But other people avoid the cost by pretending there is a place where we all go when we die, where the relationship will continue for eternity as if that is a desirable thing. Besides the fact that this is totally made up with no evidence, it is also cheating, diminishing the price of the relationship lost. "Oh, I'll just see mom in Heaven when it is my time" is a dismissal of the relationship. To diminish the cost of the loss with wishful thinking about an afterlife is denial of the cost of the relationship. It's like shoplifting a candy bar, a short quick satisfaction and doesn't really satisfy the hunger and has it's own cost.
I don't think most people really feel all that much better thinking that there is an afterlife. The loss is huge, the pain is real, the sorrow is deep for most of us anyway. Why cheapen the meaning of the relationship with this fantasy/wish for a later reunion?
There might be more thoughts on this...