It’s A Funeral; Cry If You Need To!

crying at a funeral

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!”

A Time to Cry

crying at casketRecently, I attended a funeral service where a speaker got up and said: “This is not a time to be sad or a time to cry, but rather a time to rejoice! This is a time to celebrate!” Now, I know their intention was to uplift the mourners and to encourage us to praise and worship God.  And just like everybody else, after he said it, I said “Amen!” But later on, I started to do some thinking. We were at a funeral, but the speaker said it was not the time or the place to cry! Well, why not? Someone had died and we all were suffering from the loss of their company; why not cry? We were at a funeral! What better time and place is there to cry and be sad than at a funeral?

One of the trends in much of the preaching and teaching of today is the tendency to say or to imply that one should be happy ALL of the time! From what I am hearing, it seems as if there is no legitimate place for pain and sorrow in life and if a person does experience pain and sorrow it is an indication that something is amiss with their faith. I would like to suggest that such preaching and teaching is not only unrealistic, it is also unbiblical! It is unrealistic because it is a denial of reality to expect people not to cry when they have suffered a loss! Crying is part of the human emotional make-up! As Betty Everett used to sing back in the day: “The rich have to cry! The poor have to cry! You’ll have to cry and I’ll have to cry!” The funny thing about it is that many times the very people who are always telling others not to cry will often try to jump in the casket when one of their loved-one dies! I think we should quit trying to get people to suppress their expressions of bereavement, but rather “allow” them to mourn, allow them to grieve and grant them the freedom to cry! After all, it was their momma, their daddy, their son, or their daughter who died, not ours!  And if grief is not expressed at the funeral, it will be expressed at some other time and in some other form that is usually not productive or healthy.

Not only is it unrealistic, it is also unbiblical to deny them or us the freedom to express grief, bereavement and sorrow because the Bible says: “There is . . . a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” (Ecc 3:4 KJV) So if the funeral is not the time or place to cry then when and where is it? One of the first Bible verses I ever learned as a child was John 11:35. It is the shortest verse in the Bible. It says: “Jesus wept.” Ironically, I learned this verse as a saying for grace over meals. I still haven’t figured out what Jesus crying had to do with me eating! But when we look at this verse in context, we discover that Jesus cried at the grave of Lazarus, his friend. Now, I’m not going into the theological discussion as to why he cried, I just want to point out the fact that Jesus was at a funeral and he cried! Now, if Jesus cried at a funeral, what’s wrong with us crying at a funeral? Paul wrote, in I Thessalonians 4:13, that we are not to grieve as others who have no hope. He didn’t say that we are not to grieve; he said we are not to grieve as others who have no hope!

So the next time you are grieving over the loss of a loved-one and someone tells you at the funeral not to cry or that you shouldn’t cry; don’t listen to them! Crying is a normal and natural expression of grief and loss! If it doesn’t come out that way, which is normal, it will come out another way that is abnormal and unhealthy! And if you feel like you must give them a reply, just tell them in the words of an old song I heard some time ago: “It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to!”