Karen Heller writer for The Washington Post served this delicious bit of WTF and a great idea. Of course this trend of "Memorialpalooza" is from our brothers and sisters on the West Coast.
Funerals are becoming events where those who died are remembered specific to their wishes all corridnated by a celebration-of-life planner. It seems, from this piece, a casket, choked up family members, and eulogies of a thousand tissues are changing. End-of-life rituals are becoming personalized send-offs with 'golf-course cocktail send-offs, backyard memorials, with Eric Clapton. The music not him.
This entire EOL event sans the draped casket and wailing mourners began its march to today in the 80's with the AIDS crisis and many funeral homes could not meet the needs of families so these EOL events become became celebrations. More and more loved ones and family members are stepping away from funerals (with the body) replaced with memorials without the body.
Heller ends with what I see as a conditional thought, are we missing the chance to grieve and mourn? Heller quotes Amy Cunningham director of The Inspired Funeral
You can’t pay tribute to someone who has died without acknowledging the death and sadness around it. You still have to dip into reality and not ignore the fact that they’re absent now.
I am a believer that grief, mourning, and breavement have a place and are necessary emotions that, if allowed, embed us with knowledge. As I've said Closure is a myth. Closure is denial said pretty. Closure is indifference.
Book Review and Oh Damn
In the New York Times Book Review Claire Dederer reviewed "Running Home" A Memoir by Katie Arnold. Simply an excellent review of Arnold's book and her preoccupation with running intertwined with loving and losing her father. I want to read this book.
The bigger take away for me in the Dederer's review is her setting up the review of Arnold's memoir with a stirkenly honest assessment of the memoir. Great line "most memoir material is best saved for the shrink's couch." Ouch!" I scream as the guy who just self-published "Donna, A Photo Memoir of Love and Loss". Dederer writes later "It is the job of a literary memoirist simply to write down her experiences with as much art and truth as she can muster."
So here I sit torn between: did I just write 300 pages of shrink blubbering babble or was it art and truth. I guess this is the glass half filled or half empty analogy. Knowing at this point in my life I see the glass half empty and filled with a clear posionous liquid
Marie Hartwell-Walker Ed.D. writing in PsychCentral examines the issue of cumulative grief in the elderly and its treatment. I first thought this was another examination of complicated grief under a different name. Nope. It is an entirely separate entity characterized by the simple fact that as we age those around us, friends, family, and loved ones are dying. It adds up and not well.
Besides the obvious loss of loved ones there is the shrinking to almost non existent a social network. A network for the elderly of support is disappearing but worse in some ways is the connection of memories and times that have passed becomes unknown to younger people. Hartwell-Walker goes on to point out that besides support the elderly are loosing a community to celebrate a persons life.
"Listening to a eulogy by a priest who never knew my friend made things worse,” my grandmother once said bitterly. “It was impersonal and stupid. Why bother?” Therapy sessions may be the only opportunity to personally “wake” the deceased.
In addition to loss through death there are the loss of self, professional identity, physical abilities, and many more that add up over time. The slow erosion of these factors over time may not be understood by family members or caregivers.
Cumulative Grief seems to be an under-recognized problem in the elderly and is not yet well-researched. Unless and until it is, it’s important for those of us who are asked to treat an elder to be mindful of the unique challenges of multiple losses that come with old age.
I learned something I didn’t know.