My mother in law passed away in January.  Her birthday was the middle of last week, and everyone in the family besides me went to her grave site. 

I don't want to sound heartless, but I didn't feel the need to.  I went to her visitation, and funeral.  I helped get everything back in order in my father in law and my husband and kids lives after it was over.  For me, that was enough.  I move on differently, I guess.

I didn't discourage any of them from going.  It seemed to make them feel better.  I almost went with my husband, because he seemed to want me to.  But for me, going and looking at a stone with her name on it, with her body laying in a box in the ground is just unnecessary. 

I spent parts of all but three of the 11 days she was in the hospital and nursing home before she died.  And, I guess the fact that she was not my wife, mom, or grandma might have something to do with why I don't feel the need to go talk to the box, so to speak.  Then again, I haven't been back to my father's grave since he was buried in 1999.

Everyone has to reach closure in his or her own way.  I am not trying to say there is anything wrong with commemorating someone's birthday after he or she has died.  I just want people to realize there is nothing wrong with NOT wanting to go to that, or not feeling the need to do so.  I still have all the memories of the time I spent with the people who were important in helping me shape who I am.  I still feel love for them, and still miss them. 

I don't feel everyone must go through the grieving the same way.  Not everyone is comfortable with going to a memorial or funeral.  If not, it isn't the right or responsibility of another person to make the individual feel he or she must go.  I have had conversations with my husband about what I would ideally like to have happen when I die.  I have explained that I want no clergy.  I want to be cremated.  I want maybe a picture of me, and maybe a few words to be said, and for everyone to be able to stay or go or not even show up if they like.  But, I have also told him my opinion that it really doesn't matter what gets done.  My time will be finished, and I won't really have a clue what happens, and that they should do whatever they feel like they need to do to move on.  I won't care, as I won't be there any more.

So, for me, when the end comes, that is it.  I hope I will have had a good life, and that the people who matter to me will feel like I have been a person who mattered to them.  That is about all I can hope for.  And then, I will just be particles and won't have a care in the world.  I am good with that.

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Comment by Christopher Lowe on July 24, 2013 at 3:21am

I am an atheist. I am a widower. My wife died 1 1/2 years ago due to an accident (fall). She was only 58. We were married for thirty years. I knew her very, very well. She was not a Christian. But she had a "new age" sensibility towards spirituality. She was convinced the soul, or spirit, was separate from the body. The body being only a temporary vehicle. To me a very hindu-like viewpoint.

Our two young adult children were devastated. My daughter sort of shared my wife's views on mortality and reconciled herself that she "moved on" in her cosmic journey. My son, though not usually particularly religious, had that Christian wish-thinking train of thought, that they shall meet again. I would consider it sacrilege to bump up against their beliefs, which I never tried to influence.

My reaction is/was a profound sadness and a profound sense of loss. But I was not sad for her. I was sad for me. Her's was a tragic loss of life, but for me it was a tragic loss of her. I was/am inconsolable. But that is because I do not want to be consoled. It never occurs to me to be soothed  or to hold out out for an outcome other than what happened. And what happened was her existence came to an end.Her story is now in my memory and in photos and momentos. 

The rituals of mourning were heeded. A cremation and a memorial service. I arranged all of it. But that is the least relevant doings I had ever had with her. The same can be said of my long gone parents and a couple of friends.

I miss her terribly and I wish it had never happened, but my love and my memories are all that I have and all that I need.

Like I said I'm a life long atheist. I couldn't do it any other way. Events don't change who I am.

Comment by jay H on July 6, 2013 at 8:22pm

I do not understand the passion for grave sites,but some people feel the need and I respect their preference. But I have felt no desire to visit the graves of any of my relatives. Conveniently, my wife is of a similar mindset.

Slightly off the topic is how we view the death itself. My father had a major stroke, then died a few months later. To me, the stroke was his death, since the man I knew no longer existed past that point. When he finally did die, it hit my brother much harder than me, because my grieving had already started to pass.

Comment by Peter Pimentel on July 1, 2013 at 10:56am

I sensed that Mrs. RB. Thank you for your posts and comments. Our western culture and attitude with regard to our dead is a fascinating discussion and I must say that your views are quite similar to mine..

Comment by Mrs.RB on July 1, 2013 at 9:39am

Just to clarify one thing....If my husband had made it clear that he really wanted me to go, I would have been there.  He ended up taking my father in law one day, my son another day, and my daughter another day.  I realize it sounded as though I was selfish and didn't go when he really wanted me there.  I know him well enough to know he would have let me know if I needed to go for his sake.

Comment by Michael Penn on July 1, 2013 at 7:51am

Helping people through things like this is very important. Even so, in Texas when my wife died I couldn't go to the cemetery with the step kids. Bells hanging in the trees of the perpetual care cemetery would ring and the kids would say, "that's momma doing that." Strange. I thought it was the wind. I had to stop going with them then.

We ended up with plots side by side and elaborate stones. Later her grandson was killed and nobody had prepared. They had nothing, so I donated my plot for the boy to be buried. Why not? I was married again by this time and living in Missouri.

As for me when I die, let me be cremated. Let it be simple. Scatter my ashes around. I doubt that any of us will be hurt or any the wiser by this act. It's a simple solution.

Comment by Sentient Biped on June 30, 2013 at 10:24am

I understand your reluctance to go.  I guess it would be OK to ask your husband if he wanted you to go.  Not a criticism, just thinking about it.  I always know the next day what I "should have done. Ted's thoughtful comments make a lot of sense to me. too.

Having lost, not just a few, but almost everyone I've loved in life, I do know grief.  For me too, visiting the grave is not something I want to do.

I am also not interested in having a grave for myself.  It's morbid.  Having put some thought into it, I want it as easy as possible for the one person who loves me, and easy on the earth. 

So I have asked for a natural burial, no toxic chemicals, no coffin, no gravestone, at cemetery that is basically a wildlife preserve in my state.  Not that I will know after that what happened, but it gives me some comfort to think that is what I have planned.  I doubt that anyone will visit my decayed remains, but some might visit the site for what it is.

Comment by Ted Foureagles on June 30, 2013 at 9:32am

I'd have a hard time finding more but a few of the graves of my family & friends, even though I was there when many of them were buried.  I just don't go back to the sites or see them as 'sacred'.  Rituals surrounding death are, of course, for the survivors, and I appreciate that some take pleasure in such remembrances.  If my wife wanted me to go to some ceremony for a dead loved one I would do it for her, even as I understand that there's nothing in that dark box but minerals.  I stop and reflect each October 7th, my long gone mother's birthday and also that of her mother.  I do it not for any mystical reason but because I remember how she celebrated that day, and the memory makes me smile.  Even in times of harshest struggle for survival, Mom would take her birthday as a day to herself, and any of us who cared to come along were welcome.  Remembering that day helps me remember how she loved those Indian Summer days in the Uwharrie Mountains, and how she shaped my love for them.

I've told those who will probably be tasked with disposing of my carcass that what I'd prefer is to have any useful bits salvaged and then the rest snuck off and stashed in the woods where wildlife can get at it.  I figure that the least I owe the world is a meal.  But I've also told them that I don't expect them to defy societal norms to do so, and that I'm all for them doing whatever helps everyone feel better.  Death of a loved one is hard on the survivors, and it's natural for them to try to hang onto feelings for the person by trying to do what they think that the deceased would have wanted.  What I want is for them to feel as good as they possibly can, and the means to that means nothing to me.


Comment by Peter Pimentel on June 28, 2013 at 9:14pm

 "I almost went with my husband, because he seemed to want me to" is where I would have said yes. Sometimes we need to recognize the importance in helping people through things like this.

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