Do men and women grieve differently? Do different cultures grieve in different ways? Do different families observe different grieving practices? The answer to these questions is yes and no. Funeral practices throughout the world, and edicts about how the dead should be treated vary from place to place. Grief itself is something that in many ways is universal and has to be experienced and not sublimated.
Death of loved ones is painful. The older they are the more we justify their death by saying, well he or she had a good and long life. If that person left small children behind we tend to elicit more sympathy and pity. It death was sudden or death was long and slow in coming we also react differently. Sudden death is shocking, a long and protracted battle with illness such as cancer means that often death is met with relied; the pain and suffering is over.
I believe fully that grief of any kind, whether it is the death of a loved one, the end of a relationship or the death of a pet, has to be walked through. What I mean by that is however overwhelming, we must allow ourselves to FEEL the sadness, grief and loss. We must allow ourselves to remember the good times the bad times. The way we do this culturally, at least in the West, and in most of the World is to gather together and remember that person’s life, however brief or long. It is called a funeral, a memorial and it allows us to express our grief and eventually move along.
I have lost many people as have my children, we eventually move away from loss and back into life again by allowing ourselves to grieve. Since my children were small I always insisted they attend funerals and to be part of that cultural process we call grief, loss and remembrance. I have heard others say they don’t attend funerals they don’t like them. That is funny. No one likes a funeral, except perhaps for the ghoulish and professional grievers. To hide away and never express grief and to try and prevent others from experience their own sense of loss is not only selfish but unhealthy.
At the relationship level I know that many women have been able to move on unscathed because a lot of us do our grieving for the end of relationships while in them. The angry partner, the abusive partner, women tend to stay in relationships trying to fix them, once they realize they are unfixable they often come to terms with that inside the relationship. Thus, often able to move on seemingly unscathed. In reality they have already done the grief work necessary prior to the split.
How we accept loss, how we remember the dead, how we reflect on the end of relationships is an ongoing process. The most important thing is that it has to be accepted openly, we have to confront our fears of death our own mortality and say goodbye. On another level we need to be less selfish and support each other, that is what funerals are meant to do. Closure. Remembrance. Goodbye.
The 20th century was one that began in grief and death, and one would think we would all know how to say good bye to the dead. Walk through the city centre of any large Western city and observe the statues, the obelisks, the memorials to the dead. They are not there to be ignored but to remember. Remembering the dead is not in any way ghoulish it is human and how we become better people.
My family lost a young friend this week and now it is time to say goodbye. Remember the saying, that how a culture treats its animals is a reflection on that culture? What about our attitude towards death? If we cannot or will not allow ourselves to grieve, to FEEL then I believe we have nothing but static, selfish and stunted characters.