Dear Annie: My second cousin’s funeral has been arranged for a date when I’m going to be on holiday. We weren’t close, so after quite a lot of thought, I decided not to cancel.
I’d saved up for months to have a break from a low-paid job I find exhausting. But I’ve been feeling guilty and worried. What should I do? – AD
Annie says: This raises a really important issue in grief – the role of the funeral. It is broadly understood that funerals are an important ritual – they exist in various forms in almost every culture all over the world – in fact some hunter gatherer tribes even have a form of funeral for their prey.
But there are varying views on who the funeral is for. Are they for the dead? A way to honour their life, and therefore to be done exactly as they wish? Or are they for the bereaved? For some people, they may be a significant opportunity to remember, share and say goodbye.
In order to make your decision it might be worth thinking about what funerals mean to you. Do you feel you should do what your cousin would want you to do? Or do you feel that the funeral is there for those left behind?
It sounds to me that it is more the pull of obligation and duty that is making you think about changing your mind and going to the funeral. Who is it you’re feeling guilty about? If it is your cousin, then there are lots of other ways you can say goodbye and honour their life without going to the funeral. It can be useful to ask yourself ‘what would he or she want you to do?’
If it is their family you are worried about, then you could write them a letter explaining your thoughts about how you have come to make this choice. Either way, the most important thing to remember is that it is your choice.
If you’ve lost someone close to you, or been affected by a bereavement, psychotherapist Annie Broadbent is here to help. If you have a question for her to answer in this column, write to her at DearAnnie@funeralguide.com
Annie Broadbent is a trained psychosynthesis counsellor, with specialist experience working with the bereaved. As a therapist she explores the mind, body, feelings and spirit, working with individuals in a way that is most appropriate for them.
She is the author of bestselling self-help book We Need to Talk About Grief, inspired by personal experiences of living through bereavement, including her own. Whilst writing her book, Annie volunteered at St Christopher's Hospice and has given a number of talks on issues around grief, bereavement and mental health.