Morbid as that is, let me explain.
The funeral itself acts as a pivot point, a step where mourning moves from an individual layer to a social one. A good funeral is a celebration of the person’s life, where people get together and talk about how that person impacted their lives. They’ll mourn the fact that the person won’t be in their lives in the future. It’s a bittersweet event that reminds us of the fragility of it all.
It’s the social aspect that is the true value here. The ability to share with other people, to know that we’re not alone and to share in the memories.
COVID took all of that away for over a year. Oh, people kept passing, that’s for sure! We’ve lost more than enough people during that time as life never takes a break. But the ability to meet other people and truly share in the process wasn’t possible.
I went to my first funeral post-pandemic (mid?) a couple weeks ago for my uncle. Funeral home, a list of 100 people, the tiny sandwiches and all. They streamed the ceremony, which is both great for people who can’t make it, and also quite odd as the physical emotions can’t be streamed. Progress I suppose. I still have social anxiety in small spaces with a lot of people. The ceremony was fine, but the post-even really was not a comfortable space. Really didn’t give a chance to appreciate the event as much as I should have.
This weekend I had another funeral, a more traditional one, for my great-aunt. 90 minute full mass in a church that’s 10 degrees too hot. We had masks (it was well out of town), there was a lot of spacing, and they streamed that one too. I dislike churches to start, and while the eulogy was super to hear, the rest was just me wishing for it to end. Post-funeral was different, we had family members invited to our family cottage for a post-even BBQ. My anxiety was much better here, I opted to cook all the food outside the garage and made a concerted effort on keeping distance. That allowed for a much more cathartic event. I got to see people I hadn’t in a long while and share stories that I had never heard before. It truly was a a great event.
Tangent – I will note the behavior changes that people are taking now. We’re a family of huggers. It’s like this instinctive thing. Seeing people hesitate to give a hug is a very weird thing. Hearing people pre-face any hug with a “I got both shots” is almost surreal. It helps with the anxiety for one. And interestingly, I didn’t talk to anyone who didn’t have both. May be spurred by the fact that we had a shared family member pass from COVID.
I had forgotten what a funeral was, all caught up on the chaos of trying to get through another day. I had postponed mourning, not truly accepting that a big step is to share that joy/grief with others. I honestly missed them without even realizing it.