I have found that in my life there are four possible types of tears that occur at a funeral. They can each happen individually or maybe just two of them but in some case you get hit with all four.
Type one, is your own personal grief that is measureable to how well you knew the deceased. A one on the scale is, I was acquainted with them and grieve over the loss of good person from the world. A ten on the scale is the people you consider family, this can be blood relatives or simply someone that is has made a large impact on your life.
Type two is empathy for the grief of others. I personally consider myself to be a pretty empathic person and so I feel this one pretty acutely. Whenever I see someone crying I am bound to cry right alongside them.
Type three is a rekindling of grief that you have felt for the past losses in your life. This is one of the most difficult for me as I have felt some pretty immeasurable grief. Grief in my life is like an ocean that like a tide that rises and falls. When at a funeral I always experienced at least one of the aforementioned tears, but when there is a combination of these tears present, personal pain has a way of resurfacing.
Type four is fear of future grief. Funerals make us look our mortality and the mortality of those close to us.
This past Tuesday I went to a funeral of a wonderful woman of God, someone with whom several of my friends had lived and she was a very close friend to my great aunt with whom I am very close. I knew her enough to be saddened by the loss of a sincere and truly kind woman. I had tears welling up in my eyes several times during the service, but it was the committal service at the grave side that really broke me down.
I’ve been to a lot of funerals in my life and something that especially stands out in Mennonite services is that, they always bury the deceased. The funeral directors will lower the casket into the ground and they will begin to cover the grave with shovels and anyone that wishes to participate can take a turn.
I grew up with this, but only after I had seen people leave their loved one there for someone else to bury, could I really appreciate this act. This is the last thing you can do for someone, to really lay them to rest. It is also good for my soul to release that person and it provides a sense of closure.
So here we were laying this woman to rest, the family and close friends taking turns to cover the grave, while the rest of those at the grave were singing songs about how beautiful Heaven must be, and I see some people letting go of the grief that they had try to keep inside, then like the swell of the tide I am overcome by all four of the tear triggers.
There was sadness for the loss of this woman, sorrow for the family who all too recently had a much more sudden and seemingly senseless death, that I know they all must have been have been feeling as well, I was overwhelmed by the reality that three graves in this cemetery were occupied by people that I loved greatly, my father, his brother, and another great aunt who also helped raise me, and lastly the fear that I would lose someone else in my family.
I wanted desperately not to lose control of my emotions, this wasn’t really my loss, and this was not the place to revisit the grief I constantly try to shove into a safe all the way in the back of my mind.
As this service ends my friend hugs me and says “we can go over to your dad’s grave I’ll sit in the grass with you”, I was reluctant at first I did not want to let go, because sometimes when I start crying it feels like it will never stop, but I decided to go. I get there and I can’t hold it in any longer I sob so much it gave me a headache but my friend was there holding on to me and it was then I realized that I always feel much better when I let myself feel. Yes, even the pain. I don’t do myself or anyone else any good by ignoring my feelings, masquerading around like I have everything together.
Death sucks, losing my dad has been one of the hardest things I have ever gone through, that I still go though. Sometimes I have wished him back so much, but that grief and loss have enabled me in ministering to people and so I will not be ashamed to feel it when it bubbles up inside me. I miss him, I miss what he won’t be here for, that I don’t really know who he was, and that I don’t get to go to him when I wish I could.