I wore a brightly-flowered skirt and matching blouse to my father’s funeral. Immediately upon entering the church I knew I was inappropriately dressed. I’d forgotten funeral etiquette. After giving birth two months earlier, I had nothing to wear that fit, and I’d gone shopping in a haze.
When I tell this story, most friends usually try to comfort me and say I chose something that would make my dad smile. Actually, if he was looking down, Dad would have thought my skirt terribly unbefitting. Yet there I was, in front of the whole congregation competing with the alter gladiolas.
I made no apologies, and to this day chuckle at the misstep. I was young, consumed by grief, drunken with hormones, and a mother of three. If anyone was allowed the mistake, surely I was.
There may be five common stages, but we all move through grief at our own pace and in our own way. There’s no right way to grieve. It’s a personal thing. Even when faith, culture and etiquette dictate one right way to mourn, it’s crucial we show self-compassion and honor whatever it is that helps us to heal.
By accommodating our own process, it affords us the ability to do the same for others. It may be easier for us to feel empathy for the one who cries than for the one who didn’t attend the funeral. Yet, it’s entirely possible that the one who didn’t show feels such pain they can’t leave the house. It’s possible the one who is angry has hurtful regrets. It’s possible the one who makes jokes is afraid.
We can’t know what stories are deeply buried in another’s heart. Sometimes we scarcely know what’s in our own.
May we feel deeply for all affected by death and open our hearts to love and compassion for their healing.