Is there a right way or wrong way to mourn? Are the cultural rituals around death for some countries an easier way to grieve? Or is there no right or wrong answer? I have always been scared of death, not my own (which is rather weird, I know) but more about the people around me that I love. So how should you feel when someone you love passes away?
This pandemic makes the process an even harder one. With the constant border restrictions worldwide, I can’t even imagine what that must feel like for them.
My Own Experience
I can only go by my own experience; having the news of my father passing when I was in Taiwan was the biggest heartbreak of my life. As I sit here writing, memories of that day flood back along with my tears. I have never really discussed it or allowed myself to remember to be honest. It is much easier to place it in a compartment all on its own, with the key thrown away just after the experience occurred.
No one gets you ready for this day; no one knows how it feels until their own heart has been ripped out of their chest and given to the world to see. I was the lucky one; I was able to take the very long journey home to be back in time for the funeral, but some people right now don’t have that luxury.
Sure I have been to funerals before, and I left feeling heartbroken, but I had never had to be part of arranging someone final send-off. It was a hard time, a very dark time; dealing with the grieving process is a long journey.
Little memories would pop up unexpectedly, and tears would be streaming down my face before I could catch myself. My heart would hurt, and I thought this feeling was going to last forever. I felt alone most of the time, even though I knew my siblings were feeling it too, and my mum, well, it is a hard thing to notice when you are grieving yourself.
Time does heal those wounds; it took me close to two years to look at a photo of him and even longer to hear his favourite songs. I have not watched one of his movies since; maybe after 15 years, it is my time to enjoy Godfather again!
Every anniversary of his death, fathers day and birthday would come and go with fewer tears each time. I am not saying I don’t miss him; that never really goes away; it just hurts less somehow. And now I can appreciate the funny memories of him.
These days I miss my mum now too (but in a different way); living with dementia is a cruel way of letting your loved one go, a little bit at a time, right in front of your eyes.
Many countries have different traditions and rituals, so how do they compare to the Western world and are we doing it all wrong?
Although we might have a few different ways of saying our goodbyes, it is all very similar when we mourn our loved ones. Most people around us don’t know what to say, and to be honest, I think most people don’t want to know if you are okay or not, almost like if “I don’t ask, they won’t tell” kind of mentality.
Back in the Victorian era, there were two distinct periods of mourning –
The First mourning (or full mourning) and The Second mourning (or half-mourning). Those closest to the deceased would be in full mourning during these time frames (could even last up to three years), symbolizing this period by wearing black.
During the half-mourning period, women were finally allowed to wear jewellery again. The Victorian era was also when the tradition of arranging flowers in and around the coffin began. Hence the reason we send flowers to loved ones during this period.
How Does The West Compare To Other Parts Of The World?
In Nepal, the chief mourner (the deceased son) lights the pyre, and the family participates in the procession by sprinkling holy water on themselves or bathing in the river. They also participate in washing the wrapped body in the river before cremation.
The mourning period: The mourning period length can vary, but it’s typically around 13 days long. It is a time to grieve, remember them, honour them, preserve the memory of them, and support their family and friends. During this time, mourners can’t eat certain vegetables or meat.
You will find the funeral as one big party in Ghana, celebrating the deceased’s life through music and dance. The coffin is usual made to represent what they loved the most; whether it’s a coca-cola bottle or a mobile phone, it doesn’t matter.
Mourning period: When a week has passed, the family will celebrate the deceased’s life. But the one-week celebration is not as elaborate as the funeral, which takes place weeks or even months later.
In India, if the deceased is Hindi, the body is cremated; although the rituals vary from place to place, they include prayers, rice balls, and flowers placed around the body. After the funeral, the family usually has a meal and offers prayers.
The mourning period: The ceremony is the beginning of a 13-day Hindu mourning period during which friends and loved ones will visit to offer condolences.
During the funeral ceremony, which can vary widely depending on faith and local traditions, Taoist or Buddhist offer prayers, and mourners leave food, incense, and Joss paper offerings. Paper clothing for burning as an offering to ancestors
The mourning period: A Chinese funeral usually takes place over seven days, but the period of mourning lasts for 49 days, with weekly prayers every seven days. A final ceremony, at the end of the mourning period, can be held after 100 days.
So What is the final answer to the question, “How should you feel when someone you love passes away?” For the first time in my life, I don’t have an answer. Everyone grieves; differently, everyone suffers the loss their own way, whether you choose tradition, ritual or belief to guide you. It doesn’t really matter; the best way to feel…… is your own way!
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