I never attended a funeral, until I was 14-years-old. You could say that my family genetics are blessed with living to a ripe old age.
I didn’t consider how fortunate I was to enjoy a long and meaningful relationship with several of my great-grandparents, and all of my grandparents. It wasn’t until I was married with my own children, that I realized how blessed we all were. But, as the time ticked away, I had a startling conversation with my husband after taking notice of the losses our peers were experiencing.
We both knew what was waiting for us. We would experience a lot of loss. And probably in a short period of time. We had another child, and time evaporated as it always does. And then, the winter of 2015 was upon us. We were thrown headlong into being grieving adult grandchildren.
We lost my husband’s grandma. Then we lost his other grandma. Then my grandpa, then my other grandpa, and then just two weeks ago, his last remaining grandfather. That’s right, we lost a collective five grandparents in less than two years. Our little girls have put on funeral clothes on average of every four months. Ouch.
For the most part, we have rolled with it. Our grandparents enjoyed happy healthy, and fulfilling lives. But this fall, after losing two, and facing the loss of the final two, I began to struggle with some feelings of resentment.
As our parents lined up to greet those who came to offer condolences and support, I didn’t get to stand in line with them. Nope—I was relegated to chasing toddlers. At the funeral homes I have frequented, I am on pins and needles because they are the least kid-friendly places I have ever been. At the cemetery, the cold winds made it difficult or impossible to bring the children graveside. As the funeral dinners wrapped up, I had to frantically gather kids and belongings because skipping naps after several long days was a no-no.
And in the blink of an eye, the ceremonial way we “do” death in rural America was all over.
And I didn’t get to grieve. And neither did my husband.
Sure, we were there. We went through the motions. We offered comfort to our children. We offered comfort and support to our parents. We wore nice clothes, and had programs stuffed in our pockets. But as we made the treks home after each, we felt a lonely emptiness. The same emptiness other adult grandchildren have shared, as they whisper, “What about my grief?” Spoken as friends who have loved their grandparents as deeply and fiercely as we have.
It would be interesting to talk to others to see how death and grieving are handled in other cultures. In my little corner of the world, it seems to be handled quickly, with similar traditions. And while I have great respect for traditions and ceremony, I also have reason to believe that we can do it all a little better. I don’t yet know what doing it better looks like, but I would like to start with kid-friendly funeral homes, and a gentle reminder that just because one has the responsibilities and distractions of children, doesn’t mean she doesn’t also need time and space to grieve.