Mourning-Avoidance: Why Everyone Deserves a Funeral Sendoffby M-Gillies
In our ever growing quest to shunt inevitable death away, we’ve somehow shielded ourselves from the inescapable phenomenon, but at a cost that has left many of us in a state of nihilism. Gone are the rituals of celebrating our legacy; no longer do many of us care how we’re remembered, in our endless uphill battle that the over-the-hill slope pits against us, we’ve grown partly cynical in a paradoxical belief that in not having a funeral service we are being selfless, when in fact, we might be becoming more selfish.
It’s only natural that as a society we have a “fear of death” and humanize it with a humorous jab and a sardonic tongue-in-cheek nudge. This is our human reaction to rationalizing and justifying death, much in the same vain that people who are asked what they want for a funeral service answer with the even more clichéd phrase, “What do I care. I’ll be dead.”
And for all that those people care, whether their body be cremated and scattered in the ocean, buried in the backyard next to the family pets or dumped next to the recycling on garbage day, death to them comes off as sounding simply like, “It’s no longer my problem, someone else can deal with it.” And deal with it someone else must.
What these people don’t realize though is that funerals are not just for the person who died. Funerals are also for those who are left behind.
While some people may scoff at the notion, it’s important to note that civilized humans have used ceremonies and rituals for centuries to recognize milestones in a person’s lifetime. From christenings, bar mitzvahs, graduations, weddings, and retirements, these are moments in a person’s life which are considered turning points, and what do we do when those moments occur? We want to recognize that change, celebrate it, and prepare ourselves for what it means and how it will influence our future.
As a culture, we tend to place a great deal of importance on the rituals of milestone occasions, however, we have somehow been led to believe that funerals don’t hold as much value and relevance in one person’s life, particularly when we’ve become so clandestine about the topic, especially when we say “I’ll be dead, do what you want with my body.”
While we think that telling our loved ones to just cremate the body or not to hold any kind of service for our death might be a selfless act, little do we realize, we have in fact dismissed the feelings, sentimentalism and closure for our loved ones in an act of self-seeking.
Despite the misplaced belief that a funeral service isn’t needed after death, it should be pointed out that it does matter to the family members and friends who are still living and mourning the death of a loved one.
Time, as the saying goes, heals all wounds, but that really isn’t the case, grief and mourning are an active, working process, not a passive one. Time does NOT heal all wounds, rather it is what you do with the time that heals. For some, it could be visiting a gravesite of a loved one, for others, it could be finding that closure of a loss by attending a funeral. And while everyone reacts differently, funerals have always been a symbolic event that brings families and friends closer together which gives them the opportunity to express their deepest thoughts and feelings.
As we’ve grown to become a mourning-avoidance culture, we’ve distanced ourselves from the crucial importance a funeral ceremony has to offer. In our efforts to block the thoughts of our own mortality, we’ve somehow forgotten that a funeral ceremony helps us acknowledge the reality of death; encourages us to express our grief; provides us with the support of our loved ones; and gives us the ability to truly celebrate the life of the deceased.