Irreverent Mama

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A pretty twenty-year-old woman suddenly loses her composure. Sobs shake her slender body. An uncle spots her, hastens to her side and drops his arm around her shoulders. He gives her a squeeze of comfort and encouragement.

"Now, now. It's all right. Dry those tears. He wouldn't want that."

"He" being the dearly departed.

You know, at every funeral I've ever been to, someone has said that. It's a truism. The mother, the uncle, the brother, the friend who has just been lost wouldn't want to see his/her loved ones so full of sorrow.

Well, true enough, if he were alive. But, since we are all gathered at his funeral, this is clearly not the case.

A friend of mine recently admitted to having avoided a co-worker's funeral. "They're just so sad," he said. "Someone always cries, and I just hate that. I see someone crying, then I cry."

To which I responded, "Well, of course. You're supposed to be sad. That's what funerals are for: to mourn the person together, to gain support from the presence of others who care."

Grief can be a very isolating experience. It's nice - well, it's comforting, at any rate - and healthy, to be able to grieve together.

I don't object to the idea of a wake, I don't object to the notion of celebrating someone's life with a rollicking party. I don't think it's wrong to laugh at a visitation, or at the reception following the funeral (though it's probably best not to break into hysterical laughter during the ceremony). After all, if you cared for the deceased, you will have happy memories. So, yes, you can celebrate their life, remember the good times, laugh with others who share those happy memories. I would hope that, when my time comes, people can laugh with each other in fond remembrance of my more loveable eccentricities.

But there will also - should also - be sorrow. Which may just be expressed through tears.

I just want to say, for the record, so my expectations are clear and unequivocal: I will be seriously pissed off if at least a few tears aren't shed at some point during or after my departure commemorations.


I would like to think that my death will leave a sizeable hole in one or two peoples' lives. I would like to think that someone will genuinely grieve my passing. I would NOT like to think that, after mixing it up at the visitation, after listening to a few solemn proclamations at a funeral, each and every one of them would then proceed blithely onto the rest of their lives without a single backward glance, the occasional tear, a wistful glance, a sense of loss.

Come on, now.

I'm not demanding that every single person who ever knew me, no matter how slightly, be devastated. I'm not demanding a full two years' formal mourning from my family. I don't expect, or even desire, that people never recover from their grief.

But, for a few people, the people I care most about?

Yes, I would like some tears at my funeral.


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  • I went to the funeral of my elderly cousin recently and her daughter, who's my age, cried on several shoulders. We hugged and comforted her, but no one tried to stop her. Showing emotion, mourning openly with your friends, is part of the process of both honouring the dead and coming to terms with your loss.

    By Blogger Z, at 12:51 p.m.  

  • Good post, but when it's your turn in the will you know?

    By Blogger john.g., at 2:41 p.m.  

  • Z - I've never seen any shame in the tears, and this "no tears in honour of the dead" has always seemed wrong-headed to me. As you say, showing your sorrow honours the dead and what they meant to you.

    John - Good point. Which is why I am making my expectations known now. If I were surer of the hereafter, I could haunt them, I suppose...

    By Blogger irreverentmama, at 4:06 p.m.  

  • No shame in tears,darlin' girl.

    This evening we were walking through a hardware store, and in the wood aisle, I started feeling so was weird..then realised that the smell of wood and all the tools and things were taking me back to my Dad. He was a brilliant carpenter and I spent hours watching him make things....and I wished I'd been able to go to his funeral and weep for him. I missed him intensely at that moment.

    People who are loved....they are wept for. You will be too...and hopefully they'll all get utterly pissed after the tears are shed and have a fecking blast remembering all the fun times with you.

    By Blogger Wendz, at 4:26 p.m.  

  • I get very irritated by people who tell others not to cry. When my mother died, I don't think I could count the times I was told not to cry. If you can't cry at your mother's funeral, when in the world are you going to cry, for pity's sake?

    I could not agree more. At my own funeral, let's have some waterworks. I'm always good for tears whenever I go to a funeral, even if I didn't know the deceased very well. I just hope a few people reciprocate someday when it's my turn.

    By Blogger Mary Witzl, at 5:57 p.m.  

  • Wendz - I once stumbled across a letter my grandfather had written to me, years after his death. Seeing that oh-so-familiar handwriting, I broke down before I could make out a single word.

    Because I loved him.

    Mary - You were told this at your mother's funeral? Aren't people strange? It has far more to do with their discomfort, being exposed to such strong feeling, such raw grief, than it has to do with any feelings for the deceased, that much is obvious to me. And as such, they are the ones who should muffle their feelings, not the grieving one!

    By Blogger irreverentmama, at 9:20 p.m.  

  • I think people are uncomfortable around grief, and the "There, there -- no tears now!" response is one of the ways they try to cope with their discomfort. But I always make a point of telling anyone who is grieving to make sure and cry as much as they like. I never tell them that the deceased wouldn't have wanted tears, or to have a stiff upper lip, because I think that's nonsense.

    By Blogger Mary Witzl, at 3:09 p.m.  

  • I'm more inclined to say, "There, there, let it all out."
    Grieving loss is easier in a group. It's the way it should be done.

    By Blogger Denguy, at 2:29 p.m.  

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