Friday, 13 February 2009

Funeral Thoughts

My dad died 4 weeks ago today - the first close bereavement that I have suffered. The time since has been one of conflicting emotions and experiences, and it seemed good to reflect on them here.

I wrote the tribute, with the help of my brothers and an old CV we found, and read it at his funeral. This is something that I know many clergy encourage - and I don't believe just for selfish reasons. Indeed I was going to follow suit as I thought it seemed a good idea. However, having done it I am less certain. There is a lot to be said for the writing of it, after all who better to get the facts right and to say what they want to say than the family, although we can also be blinkered in how we see those close to us (the vicar encouraged short vignettes from others as well as the tribute and it was amazing what we learnt about dad). It was also helpful in thinking through what we felt and thought about dad. But... when it came to the funeral itself I found it a distraction - knowing that I had the tribute to deliver meant that for a good deal of time I was focussed on that - and hence on suppressing emotions that would otherwise have been released - emotions which then took another 10 days to finally break out. I can't be sure that I wouldn't have suppressed them anyway - but it has given me serious cause for thought.

The other thing which hit me was the power of music. Four days after my dad's funeral I attended the funeral of a member of the congregation. I sat in the pews, having agreed that this was the most sensible thing for me to do. As the service progressed I thought I was OK - no real flashbacks - and then it hit me - we sang "Thine be the Glory", the final hymn at dad's funeral - the repressed emotions broke through - though not completely - that took another week and the help of a good friend. This is a well known occurrence - whilst training we had a weekend on death and dying and various pieces of music were played and someone had to run out when a particular piece - which had been played at a recent funeral - was heard. An explanation of this can be found here - after all what stronger emotion can there be than grief at a death - and music can be evocative at the best of times. This opens up for me a question to which I don't have the answer! Does that make it sensible or not to have treasured music played at a funeral?

  • Pros
  • It works in reverse and the music brings back happy memories
  • The linking of the music to the feelings of grief will facilitate the grieving process after the funeral

  • Con
  • A good piece of music spoilt!

  • Question
  • Will the linkage work for ever, or will the impact be lessened as the process of grieving progresses?

Do let me know your thoughts - after all, I shall be helping others through this for a few years yet, and the more information I have the better I shall be able to do it.

1 comment:

  1. I am sorry for your loss. It is unfortunate that we can only realize the depth of emotion felt and the total assault on our bodies that losing a loved one creates until we actually go through it ourselves. I realized that when I lost my mother. After spending years as a nurse and working with palliative and bereaved clients it was only then that I really knew how it felt. Our culture does not allow us to express those feelings openly (and not even to good friends) for very long after the funeral. This irritated me to the point of writing a book. I was worried about all my Baby Boomer friends that were going to be facing this without the benefit of my experience. I now do many presentations about the subject to community groups etc. The main ingredient in getting used to this new world (you never really get over it!!) is to have your feelings validated - it helps you feel less alone and less crazy. That is the feedback I have received about the book - it does that. There is no easy checkoff list for this process that continues but it DOES get easier to bear!! If you are interested in reading the forward and the introductory chapter of the book (Baby Boomers Face Grief - Survival and Recovery) you can find it at
    My best to you - find someone that will continue to listen to you talk and talk and talk!!
    Take care of yourself.
    Jane Galbraith



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