Funerals in the UK are strange affairs especially now when that painful time of grief isn’t so acute. Five weeks is a long time to hang on to that whereas when someone was buried or cremated within a week or 10 days then it was different.
Most services are great and we know roughly what to do with them whether religious service or not. There are time boundaries, a containment, a space to fill. It works on the whole, but the do after I find the challenge. There are generally a selection of characters for the writer to observe – the one who is holding court and expecting all to come to them, the one who did not really know the person but wept loudly through the service and now stands shyly at the do, the group who stay together because they don’t know anyone else, the locals who have popped in for a party, the family members of the one who is left who have come to support them, the eclectic group of friends who don’t really know each other but know about each other through the deceased. [Note – these are caricatures not real people who were there 🙂 ] There are probably more if I had time to think about it. Feel free to add your own in the comment box. But the truth is we don’t know what to do after the service.
In the UK there is no clear way to mourn; no “period of mourn”, and so much is now “wear bright colours” rather than a nice dark suit. We do the stiff upper lip and move on. Move on to what I don’t yet know. The “let’s celebrate rather than admit there is a space now in our lives”. But even at the do after the service there are a lot of people who open a conversation with “how to you know the deceased?” and the lead into talking about themselves and what they’ve done. But then in a lot of conversations we all open the door to talking about ourselves by asking someone a leading question and following it up with “that is so similar to what happened to me”.
I wonder was there ever an official period of mourning in Western culture? Not just Queen Victoria’s wearing of widow’s weeds for the rest of her life but a place where friends could just say for a week or two, or even at the after service do, confine themselves to talking about the whole this person has left in their lives., maybe where mourning clothes too.
We need a learn how to mourn not just how to deal with grief I think!
Anyway I’ll tell you all about the hole my friend we cremated yesterday leaves in my life – it is these other friends of hers that I know all sorts of details about via her emails. I realised I will never know how they are dealing with their marriages, their children, their illnesses, their futures. Oh yes I could have gathered emails and the like and kept in touch with them, but to be honest it is not the deep details of their lives I want, not their friendships I want, but those snippets that my friend thought I would be interested in what was going on with them. Snapshot snippets!
And I’ve realised too that the only one I could have process the events of both yesterday’s service and after party do with was my friend who knew all the characters that attended.
Holes are strange shaped things