“A butterfly lights beside us like a sunbeam, and for a brief moment its glory and beauty belong to our world. But then it flies again, and though we wish it could have stayed…..we feel lucky to have seen it…..”
I am often asked if I cry at funerals; as a Funeral Celebrant it is my role to hold the space for each family in whatever way is right for them, to facilitate, to be their voice, to share stories and hold it together for their sake, so my answer is ‘No, I don’t cry at funerals.’ It’s not my place to cry at funerals. It’s not my grief to be shared. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have the emotion, it just means that I let it out afterwards, in private and away from the family.
Until this week when I cried at a funeral.
I held it together through 75 minutes of heart-wrenching personal tributes, visual presentations and family videos, and then I cracked in the final 3 sentences when I told people to head down the pub. Can you believe it? All of that and then to falter at that point. I could feel my voice going, the lip started to quiver and at that point I pretty much knew it was all over. I took a deep breath and a moment to pull myself together but a tear fell out of my eye, and then another. Don’t get me wrong – I wasn’t wailing on the floor, but I was clearly and visibly upset for the hurt of this particular family, the circumstances, and that the most beautiful 18 year old girl had decided to end her own life.
I’ve officiated almost 600 funerals and that was a first for me. I felt like I’d failed the family, failed myself and failed my profession.
And then I realised that I’m only human after all, and when you’ve had a particular run of really, really sad funerals that include young lives so cruelly cut short when in their prime through violence, illness and no fault of their own; and teenagers who feel like there is no way out other than to take their own lives when they have so much ahead of them….it can get to you. I’ve just seen it too many times and this one me tipped me over the edge.
I’m not looking for sympathy by the way, it’s not me that needs the sympathy – I guess this article is one of the ways to ‘let it out’. I usually do that by walking the dog, patting the horses, belting out a song at the top of my voice or watching a feel-good Disney movie. I could say that I go for a run, but I hate running. I do all other stuff though.
Perhaps this blog is meant to be therapeutic (I’m not even sure I’ll publish it yet), perhaps it is an attempt to raise awareness of what is happening in today’s modern society through social media and the pressures of everyday life to be beautiful, to be somebody, to wear the right clothes, to have the latest piece of kit, to feel good enough, to fit in and be liked.
Let me tell you – when you are standing in front of 300/400/500 people who are raw with emotion at your funeral and breaking their hearts – it is then that you would realise that you do fit it, that you are liked and that you are so sadly missed. Please don’t let that be the case.
Mental health is a splurge in today’s society. It is easy to see physical injury and pain; it is so much harder to see when someone’s mind is in torment. There are no obvious wounds that can be dressed, and untreated it goes under the radar and silently takes the very best people.
What can I do about it? Probably not much, but quite possibly the most important thing of all: to listen, to share, to be kind, to promote mental health awareness and where to go for help.
Above all else, to be kind.
To those people that came out of the service and gave me a hug – thank you for being kind and for understanding that I am human too…