November 15, 2013

“When someone you know dies and has made it clear to you how they want their funeral etc. to be, do you follow their wishes or do you do what you want because it isn’t about them, it’s about how you grieve?

“Curious cause when my mom died, I did everything she asked and my family was telling me that it didn’t matter what Mom wanted. ‘She is gone and has no control over what we do now.’ I just don’t feel that is right. Curious to hear what you think as well as your readers.”

Grief does funny things to good people, and we all go through the stages of grief at different paces. It sounds to me like some of your family members were in denial or anger. Denial is where we are most selfish. Not only are we denying ourselves the opportunity to experience our pain, we also deny other’s the right to feel theirs. Anyone who makes us confront our pain is automatically the “bad guy,” and doing everything wrong, even if it’s what the decedent wanted. During anger, we lash out at the easiest target, also the decedent. It is, after all, their passing that made us feel this way. Not only do we lash out at them and try to deny them the things they might have wanted; we also lash out at their advocates. “She is gone and has no control over what we do now,” could easily be replaced by, “She left me here alone, so why should I do anything for her?” and mean the same thing, at least at the time.

In every one of these situations that I have witnessed, there is one level-headed person who is trying to do what the decedent wanted, and that person usually gets shit on by the rest of the mourners. Often times, the other mourners realize that they treated the advocate poorly but are too embarrassed by their actions to actually ever tell that person. Afterward, they tend to be grateful that the advocate respected the decedent and the decedent’s wishes. Mourners who come to this point, often pay it forward by being the advocate the next time they are confronted by grief.

All that said, I believe that we should respect the wishes of the person who has passed. We owe it to ourselves to live our own lives so that we have no regrets, and I personally never want to regret denying a loved one their final wish. There is plenty of time for us, as survivors, to mourn our loved one any way we wish. We can do it individually, or with a group of like-minded family members and other loved ones, and we can do it as many different times and different ways as we need. We only have one chance, however, to do it the way our loved one wanted us to do it, so we should at least try.

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