Monday, April 26, 2010

The loss is real, even for Mormons.

 A friend linked me to this article Grief is OK- even for Mormons, and it was so comforting to read.  

"Unlike the Savior, we do not have the ability to raise our deceased friends and family from the grave, but we do have the full range of human emotion -- a gift, I'm certain, God intended for us to experience -- and grief is part of that. ... In the meantime, they will grieve, cry, mourn and confront their testimonies head on. And I think that's OK.""

Sometimes it seems like because we believe in eternal families and life after death, that it gives us a free pass to not grieve, or worse, to expect others not to grieve. Mormons pride themselves on having "happy" funerals. The reason being, we 'know' we will see them again someday, so why mourn? We should celebrate their joyous reunion with their loved ones who have gone on before, and look forward to our own reunions with anticipation. Yes, we will miss them, but having our gospel knowledge is comfort enough.

So at a Mormon funeral you'll notice its not customary for everyone to wear black, its a colorful affair. You'll notice more "happy" tears than sad ones. Its not uncommon for funerals to feel more like family reunions, and you're more likely to hear laughing and reminiscing about the past than silence in respect for the dead.

When I was a younger, I remember feeling a sort of pride that we could treat funerals this way. It was almost like we were more enlightened, we didn't need to debase ourselves with weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. We didn't need to drape ourselves in black and keep our heads lowered. We knew the truth!

When someone dies of natural causes at the end of a very long fulfilling life, this reaction isn't so troublesome. In fact, I think most people would want their loved ones to celebrate their life, than to mourn their loss. But sometimes, I think we take it too far. True, it does make attending funerals much more pleasant. No need to burden oneself with the uncomfortable feelings of grief and loss. But who is the funeral really for? What is the real purpose? I think the desire to comfort has led some people to forget that they are there to mourn with those who mourn, not to make them smile and forget. The funeral is for the ones who were very close to the person who died, and need to express those feelings of loss and grief.

At my father's funeral when I was 18, I remember being "strong" and "brave". I greeted people, I shed "happy" tears, I reminisced. I thought that was what I was "supposed" to do. But the moment that meant the most to me was when a long time friend walked straight up to me and wrapped me in her arms and cried. Finally all the pent up emotion was released. I cried and cried, and felt more comfort in that moment than in a million "brave smiles" and "happy stories".

And then seven years later, I was standing in front of Gavin's casket before they closed the lid. I wanted to throw myself over his body and hold him and weep. But I kept thinking, 'We don't do those kind of things at funerals. Its not proper." So I didn't. I remained "strong" and "brave" and played my part well. But I was wrong. I should have cried. I should have held my baby one last time. I should have showed my true feelings.

I felt so upset the day after Gavin's funeral, and didn't really understand why at first. I felt like I was supposed to be "okay", and that Mormons shouldn't grieve (at least not publicly). That my next part to play should be to get up at Fast & Testimony meeting and testify that everything was okay because I 'knew' the truth. But the truth was...the truth didn't matter. It didn't make me feel any better at all! I wanted to weep and wail and gnash my teeth. I wanted to drape myself in the blackness that I felt all around me. I was feeling the loss, and nothing was going to make that "okay".

I realize now that those feelings are not just okay, they are sacred. There is nothing more sacred than the love a mother has for her child. And the expression of those feelings, of that incredible loss, is pure and real. Those who shut themselves off from those feelings, from expressing them, and also from helping others to bear them, are missing a fundamental part of humanity. Feeling the Loss explains it so well:  

"Even though Jesus knew that Lazarus would rise, He did not arrive at the tomb with smiles and assurances that all would be well. The loss was real. It is because He wept at the grave of His friend that I feel I can reach to Him with my own losses."

Jesus could have simply strolled in and rose Lazarus from the dead immediately. But He didn't. He wept with them. He felt the loss. He bore their grief, and grieved himself. Why? I believe He did it to show us that grief is a sacred and necessary part of life and death.

Its okay to feel sad. Its okay to cry. Its okay to mourn and grieve. The loss is real. Even for Mormons.


Brandon and Melani said...

VERY well said!!!

Mhari said...

Being a Mormon my whole life I remember my first funeral when I was 8 at Aunt Pearl's funeral and then the next year at my Grandma Bertha's and shortly after at Grandma Randall's and I cried at all of them because I knew that although I would see them again someday I am separated from them now. And I cried happy tears from stories we told, and sad tears for the loss of them from my life. I do think that crying is a part of the grieving process and you have to do that to heal and it will come to a point that it will get easier, but it won't ever go away. I cried after I had Andrew knowing that he had just come to me and had shortly before been with his Great Grandma Bertha and his Uncle Kay and his Great Grandpa Roy and all the others and that they took such good care of him and loved him so much before he came to me. But I am a lifelong Mormon and I know darn well it is ok to cry.

The Giffords said...

I agree with you about funerals. It is okay to be more happy at a funeral for someone who has lived a long life. But Gavin's funeral was hard. There weren't any happy tears to cry, at least not for me and I know not for you.

I appreciate you sharing your grieving process with us so that we can learn to mourn with those that mourn. I love You!

Matt and Staci said...

Thank you for sharing. I'm one of those that KNOWS we will see them again...BUT I also know I'm going to miss them terribly & mostly just want to CRY!

nancy said...

thank you for sharing bethany. looking back at that painful day, i know i was not strong or brave...i was just extremely numb. the days before and after, at home, in private ....i experienced complete meltdowns when i felt i would never be able to stop crying.
knowing we would be together again does not take away the pain of separation. knowing does not remove feeling...and it's not meant to, even for mormons. xoxo

Colleen said...

Thank you for your post.

I have so many things that I wish I had done differently after Andrew died, but I was too busy doing all the things that I thought were expected of me. I would have stayed at the grave side after the service. I would have kissed him one more time before they closed the casket. I don't think I would have spoke at the funeral. So many things.

Jodi said...

What a beautiful message! I agree with you completely. You are such an inspiration because you recognize these truths and can express them in a way that others understand, feel and relate to. Don't you get the impression from the scriptures that Christ was a pretty emotional guy? So why do we hold back? The feelings are there because we are human. What good does it do to bury them? Eventually they have to emerge in order for us to heal. Pretending not to feel these things only blocks us from having true connections with each other and the opportunity to "mourn with those that mourn." How can we grow in compassion for each other if we close ourselves off from any real feelings? What good does that do? Bethany, you are such a beautiful person. By allowing yourself to feel and express painful emotions, you are allowing others to do the same, which leads to healing and growth for all. Thank you.

Eldredge Family said...

I loved this article and post. I felt that I had to act that like everything was okay and that I was blessed to have been given a celestial child. I feel that the yes the gospel gives you peace and comfort and answers many questions. It still hurts. A woman made me feel like I was just horrible for having the feelings I was having then, about 9 months later her son she thinks I am handling things like a rock star! I refused to cry for the first 10 months...I cry all everyday now...I have learned its okay and not a sign of weakness.

Barrett, Melinda, & Angel Trinity Adams said...

AMEN!!!!! I could not have said this better myself. If you don't mind, I'm going to copy your post (changing some stuff of course) and post it onto my blog. Sometimes I feel like you and I have the same brain, and at times I feel like you say exactly what I was going to say.


I love you Bethany! I don't love that Trinity and Gavin have both passed away, but I love that their passing brought you into my life. Although I've never met you in person, I feel like you are my sister/best friend in a deeper way than my family and friends around me. You GET ME better than most people! And I love you for that!

larsen family said...

Thank you, Thank you Bethany. I couldn't have said it better myself. I did the same thing at my dad's funeral at a young age and then again at Kamber's. IT IS OKAY TO GRIEVE. I couldn't have said it any better.
Love Ya!

Anonymous said...

My name is Kayli. I found your blog through Liz and Lulu's blog. My daughter Belle, who just turned one, has Alpha 1. I have been reading from Gavin's blog to try and educate myself the best that I can about this disease. She was diagnosed at 2 1/2 months. The docotors thought it was B.A. and almost did a kasai on her but she had a small mircacle happen about and hour before surgery and they called it off. Belle is stable at the time but we are heading for a transplant most likely some time within this next yeat. I just want to tell you that I think you are amazing! You give strenght to all those moms and families out there that are dealing with grief in theri lives. I am so impressed with you and your blogging abilities and how you can write out your emotions so well. I have spent a lot of time in front of the computer crying reading all your posts. I just wanted to introduce myself and tell you that I am an Alpha-1 mom as well. Our blog is p.s. I am LDS as well and I loved your post on "How everyone thinks you should act" you said it perfectly!!

Melody B. said...

Well put.

Sean said...

"When I was a younger, I remember feeling a sort of pride that we could treat funerals this way. It was almost like we were more enlightened, we didn't need to debase ourselves with weeping...We knew the truth!"

I could never figure this one out myself. I get that Mormons are theoretically supposed to know the truth in a special, penetrating way and have confidence that flows from that-- but the if you flip that idea, it suggests that funerals everywhere else, ever, must have only been sad because the wretched attendees didn't have faith of any kind. Of course that's silly and I don't think anyone would go so far as to say it, but it's subtle so it's worth standing up and shooting it down. Furthermore, it doesn't comport with LDS teachings about the spirit and the truth in other churches, let alone common sense: even deluded people are often deeply, if misguidedly, confident in their beliefs.

Almost everything we do and believe and value as humans revolves around death: the fear of death, the brevity of life, the terror of losing the things and people we love. That love is made sweeter, more urgent, by the knowledge that we can and will always lose the things that are dearest to us. Death *should* hurt, because it is the greatest and most horrifying possible event. By its very nature, it eclipses everything else in life.

To hell with anyone who says you shouldn't mourn.