Ask JT: Religiosity at a loved one’s funeral.

Ask JT: Religiosity at a loved one’s funeral. September 21, 2016

I got the following message from John:

My grandmother died last night. I have to go to a funeral, full of family who are believers. I will have to hear so many things like “God called her home” and “She’s with your Grandpa now”. I know they mean well, but I’d like to be able to tell them how hurtful those kind of platitudes are to nonbelievers. Do you (or your readers) have any advice on what to say? I don’t want to hurt these people. They are honestly trying to help.

Boy, that’s a toughie.

I imagine if, at a loved ones funeral someone stood up and said “Y’know, even though there’s no heaven for him to go to, he lived an exemplary life.” Even though I agree with the statement, I can see how that would affect religious people at such a painful time, and I wouldn’t want it said. I wish funerals could be about our deceased, not about the church.

It’s a pity that religious people, many through no fault of their own, have become accustomed to having things, even occasions like this, be all about them. It really has robbed so many of them of self-awareness that they can’t imagine it the other way around. Hell, I’ve even been to funerals where they did an altar call at the damn funeral, asking people to come down and pledge themselves to Jesus.

As for solutions…the best that comes to my mind is to be patient. Bringing it up to anybody at the funeral will likely only make things worse. The best you can do to help those around you to understand would probably be to give it a month and then sit down with the attendee closest to you and explain how it made you feel. Explain that you’re not trying to take away their form of dealing with the grief, but also don’t want to be made to feel like an outsider at your grandpa’s funeral.

Granted, that won’t help now, but every bit of education we deliver at the right moment, to help ensure willing ears, will help keep this from happening so much in the future.

Good luck, friend. I’m sorry you’re going through this.


 

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