When you miss a funeral,you need to find another way to get closure. Here is what happened to me.
I had found myself standing at 6am somewhere in Outer London, all psyched up for a funeral. Ready to make a difficult journey to a difficult gathering on an overall very sad and grey day.
A relative had died – not unexpectedly, yet too soon.
She was just a few years older than me, in her 50s, and had been diagnosed with terminal nose cancer. Chemo and radiotherapy had been tried. But the progression to her liver could not be stopped.
During that time I had visited her a few times. But it was all so difficult and in the end in the hospital, she did not want to talk.
I had prepared myself for the funeral.
Though, I must confess, there had been a moment when I was considering not to go. I had been angry, about many things, and I had been frightened of what it might feel like, for me, there, at the funeral.
The third time – the same church, grave and a relative dying of cancer.
And you always think, who next? Why not me?
- My relative was going to be buried by her mother, who had outlived her.
- Alongside would be my relative’s mother-in-law, who had outlived and buried her son there.
- And then there would be my mother, who would be wondering what fate might come her way, with me having also been treated for cancer.
Did I really want to face this?
But I managed to let go of the fear. I needed to be there to have closure, and as a testimony to my own hard work to cope well with uncertainty. I could not run away.
But I would need to be at this funeral in a way that was ok for me.
Not too much talk with others, enough time for quiet introspection and a long walk in nature after the funeral.
But it was not meant to be.
On the day of the funeral, at 6am, waiting for the bus to take me to the airport, I get a text message. My flight has been cancelled. No alternative of getting there on time; not even with another carrier.
At 6am I am here, ready to go. But I am not meant to go there. I meant to stay here, after all.
No good bye when she was alive or today at her funeral.
If it was not to be that way, then there would need to be another way.
I pass a neighbour who asks me where I am off to, and I tell her what has happened. She says I should keep my eyes wide open today. And I decide to do just that.
Letting go and moving on
I decide not to go home, but take a walk instead. Without my dog, who is staying elsewhere.
I need to keep busy to cover my restlessness. But I find it hard to keep calm. I try tuning out of the funeral scenario and tune into my surroundings.
I decide to turn this day into “my day”. Without clear plans, I just do what comes to mind. And what an odd mix it turns out to be.
First I have breakfast in a cafe I have never been to before.
Then I get a long overdue hair cut, at a salon I have never been to before.
Then I take a train all the way down to London Waterloo and walk over Waterloo Bridge.
And there, suddenly, I notice a painting on the side of a building.
A warrior princess. Her eyes follow me, calmly. And they penetrate my, purpose-fully.
It feels as if this had been meant to be – our meeting.
Something was said, something encouraging, something uplifting, something serious, with direction.
The time of my relative’s funeral had come and gone.
I had felt a bit sick when it came.
And then, when I looked into those eyes, I knew.
Now is the time of silent togetherness and silent courage.
What else is there?
When you miss a funeral
There may be different reasons why you may not attend a funeral. Indeed, there may be no funeral, like when a friend of mine opted for body donation.
Whatever your circumstances, there are ways in which you can create your own closure. It can be done on your own or with others. It may need a specific action or place. Or it may come to you, as a feeling or a thought.
Try and keep your eyes, your heart and your mind open.
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Karin Sieger is a UK-based psychotherapist and writer. All rights reserved © Copyright Karin Sieger. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the author is strictly prohibited. Article do not substitute medical advice.