When I retired as a humanist celebrant I thought I'd stop writing this blog, but my fascination with all things death-related prompted more posts. They're just written from a slightly different perspective, that's all. Oh, and I still do the odd one, by special request.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Grief and mourning rituals are two different things

A Telegraph sub-editor has headed an article about grieving by Clover Stroud, "Have the British Forgotten how to grieve?" I've commented:
Generalised statements, like "Have the British forgotten how to grieve?", are meaningless. There is no collectively British way to grieve, and never was, though there have been socially acceptable rituals surrounding death for millennia. The two shouldn't be confused. Clover seems to be going through a list of options, in search of some sort of structured grieving process. There isn't one, though some people may find comfort in sharing rituals because they don't need to think about them; you just follow a prescribed formula, which is an easy option when you're emotionally fragile.

As someone who's been bereaved several times, in different ways, and as a humanist celebrant for over 20 years, my experience has been that grief is personal and everyone grieves according to their own personality and the relationship that they had with the person (or pet) who died. A mother who'd lost her baby once asked me, "How long will I feel like this?", as though there should be a time limit to it, or desperately hoping that the pain would end soon. Some self-styled grief counsellors used to tell clients that there are stages to grieving, to be followed in order. This is nonsense. Months, years after a loss, something may remind you of the one you loved and the feelings may return, perhaps less acutely, but still in a wave of emotion. No one has forgotten how to grieve; we just can't help ourselves.