I have talked with countless people who have felt a relief when their loved one died. Relief their loved one was no longer in pain, relief that they didn’t have to visit that nursing home anymore and all it entailed, relief that their loved one is “in a better place.”
However, the partner to that relief is often guilt. Am I a bad person? I didn’t want my parent to die. Most people don’t have the strength to admit their relief fearing people’s judgment will only add to their guilt. I recently happened upon a brutally honest article on this topic titled, After the Death of a Parent, Some Bloom. I have somewhat conflicting feelings about the article, but ultimately decided that I shouldn’t avoid the topic just because it’s a little uncomfortable to talk about.
There’s not a lot of resources out there for people who have lost a parent, after all if you buried your parents then the life cycle went as planned; you buried them, they didn’t bury you, so what is there to be so upset about? A lot!
Jeanne Safer is author of the book, “Death Benefits: How Losing a Parent Can Change an Adult’s Life—for the Better.” I’ve adapted her processes for transformation after the death of the parent, many of these can be applied to any type of loss:
1. Make a conscience decision to acknowledge the death and learn something from it.
2. Allow yourself private time every day to reflect on their life and your relationship. Look at family photos or possessions and remember the feelings you had around them.
3. Construct a narrative of your parent’s history as objectively as possible.
4. Create an inventory of your parent’s character, and decide to what keep.
5. Reflect on both the positive and negative impact your parent had on your life.
6. Remind yourself that you don’t have to follow your parent’s ideas of how you should look, feel or act ever again; you can question everything now without offending them.
7. Acknowledge your guilt and let it go.
8. Seek new experiences and relationships.
Not all 8 of these are appropriate for everyone in every situation. It’s just a suggestion list, if it helps you get rid of some of your guilt then I’m all for it. Safer says, “Some children get married, some get divorced, some change jobs or become religious or atheists. They feel emotionally liberated when they no longer are dominated by someone else’s values or have to be emotional caretakers….the list goes on and on.” However the CNN article makes the point several times that the child is only freed after grieving the loss of the parent. No matter how you process it, grieving a loss is a lot of work, both physically and emotionally.
The short answer to the question, “Is nothing sacred anymore?” is a sad, “No.” Not even our dead are sacred.
In the 1800’s doctors and anatomists stole bodies from graves to learn more about the human body and diseases. Today, most States have a regulated Anatomical Board to receive bodies which have been donated to science, so thankfully we don’t hear about old fashioned body snatching anymore. But that might in part because the thing of perceived value isn’t buried; it’s above ground, decorating the grave of the deceased.
I’ve seen multiple news stories lately about the number of people stealing bronze markers and flower vases and selling it as scrap metal. I don’t know who is worse, the person who does the stealing, or the scrap recycling centers that are actually paying the thieves! If a bronze vase only brings about $10 then one would have to steal a lot of vases to even buy a tank of gas. This is not worth it on so many levels. There’s no money, it’s disrespecting the dead, it’s disrespecting the living, and it’s a crime!
In March there was a documented theft of 40 bronze vases in a Wisconsin cemetery. And in June the States of Illinois, West Virginia, Florida, Arizona, Maryland, Michigan, and North Carolina all had vases or markers stolen from one or more of their cemeteries.
Illinois and Missouri have recently passed laws to help stop this crime of stealing bronze and brass vases and markers. Scrap metal dealers are now required to keep detailed paperwork and even get a copy of a photo ID for people who aren’t regular customers. You can click here to see an example of modern grave robbing, sent to me by a reader of the End of Life Insights Monthly Newsletter.
We have been on a slippery slope of disrespecting our dead for a long time now. People don’t pull over when a funeral hearse (also known as a Coach) goes by. People don’t respect the police escorts hired to stop the traffic light for the funeral procession. We are increasingly burning our dead with instructions to the funeral director to, “please dispose of the ashes for us.” Now people are stealing from graves to make a quick buck; literally, it’s not much more than that! What’s next? I cringe to think of possibilities. When the mentality of respecting the dead is that of a burden rather than a privilege, anything can happen.