There is an attitude that is being promoted today by some ‘spiritual’ people in the church toward death and funerals that I don’t think is really good. I attended a funeral service (or as many from my neck of the woods, tend to call it; ‘a celebration of life,’ or ‘a homegoing service) not too long ago and one of the speakers got up and said: “This is not a time to cry! This is a time to rejoice, for another soldier has gone home to be with the Lord!” Well, I take issue with his statement and the trending ‘anti-grief’ stance at funerals for several reasons.
First of all, I think suppressing grief is harmful; emotionally, psychologically, and physically. The same Bible people ‘abuse’ to justify rejoicing and not grieving at funerals also says: “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted. . . . A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” (Eccl. 3:1-2, 4 KJV) Well, if a funeral is not a time to weep and mourn, then when is? Now, I’ve heard some say that the Bible says (I’m not saying that it’s not in the Bible, I’m just saying that I haven’t found it yet!) that we should cry when a baby is born and rejoice when someone dies! Well, if that is the case, when was the last time you heard of someone crying or even suggesting people should be crying when a baby was born or at a baby shower? Such a suggestion or action would be deemed unacceptable or strange, to say the least! Therefore, since no one dare suggest crying at the birth of a baby (though some say that’s what the Bible says we should be doing), why only promote one half of the suggestion and insist that people rejoice at a funeral?
Now, I understand the intention (I am a preacher, after all) is to focus on what lies ahead for the (supposedly) righteous deceased, but what many people fail to understand is the fact that funerals are not really for the dead; funerals are for the living! Funerals are for those who have been left behind! There is nothing that will be said or done at any funeral that will, in any way, have a positive or negative effect on the dearly departed! While many suggest the purpose of the funeral is to celebrate the life of the person who has gone on, the actual purpose of the funeral is to be a therapeutic tool for the survivors!
I have often said: “Death can kill you, if you let it!” The meaning of that statement is that if the death of a loved-one or friend or whoever is not processed correctly, it can have an adverse effect on your well-being. Suppressed grief at the funeral service will eventually find expression in other places! It’s like trying to bottle-up steam in a boiling pot, if there is no venting, it will eventually explode! Many times the explosion will be in the form of a stroke, neurotic disorders, anxiety, dysfunctional relationship patterns, heart attacks, or psychological disorders! Whatever the case, you can rest assured that grief cannot and will not be denied expression! So, since that is the case, why not at the funeral, where it can be therapeutic and spiritually guided?
Did not Jesus weep at the grave of his friend; Lazarus? I mentioned that because it seems to be promoted by some that weeping is a sign of weak faith or spiritual deficiency! No! Crying at the death of a loved-one or crying at their funeral doesn’t mean your faith is weak; it means you are human! To do otherwise is to deny your humanity and to inadvertently abort or deny your recovery from the loss!
Grief and grieving is a process and trying to stop or deny that process is just like trying to stop the rain from falling! I understand all about honoring God, but the same God people claim to honor by celebrating instead of grieving is the One who made us with the capacity to grieve! How is God honored in attempts to suppress expressions of grief by making people feel guilty for grieving?
So, with all that being said, If I should happen to go before you; you have my permission to cry at my funeral! And, if any one should happen to get up and even suggest that your crying is out of order, you have my permission to tell them; “It’s a funeral and I can cry if I need to!”
pastor Ernst St. Louis
Thank you Pastor Miller.