Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Sympathy card

I don’t want to sign my name in ownership
beneath processed Hallmark sentiments
or string you sentences of fridge magnet phrases,
but these are the only tool I know
to convey my love in the foreign language of grief.

Please understand, this layer of etiquette
is not a latex glove to insulate me
from the blood that pours from your wound;
it is for you, just padding on my clumsy edges.




The Funeral by Édouard Manet



        There is a lot of etiquette and ritual surrounding death: sympathy cards, funerals, wakes, shiva, etc. To what degree to you think these things aid the grieving process?

3 comments:

Dorkmaster Flek said...

I don't know... Maybe it's because I've only had old people I know die, but I've never been terribly broken up over anybody's death in my life. I guess I'm lucky. I also think I tend to be more emotionally withdrawn than most people, so I just don't get worked up over that stuff. This "grieving process" doesn't really do much for me. Other people, it seems to help to varying degrees, so I guess in general it works pretty well, just not so much on me. :P

Kathy said...

I guess the ettiquette just helps people who don't know what to say or do rely on a ritual, rite, or socially acceptable phrase to express how they feel. It makes people less likely to put their foot in their mouth and say something that would offend the grieving people.

I did go to a live-wake of sorts a few years ago...It was a strange concept but really nice, everyone got to say good-bye.

Claudia said...

A ridiculous amount.

I think it helps people to get over the hardest part of their grief by giving them something else to think about, organize, stay busy with.
When my grandfather died last fall I think we spent a full 3-4 days at temple. Each part of the rite requires something new, and it's almost like it gives people stages or certain times at which they can mourn certain ways they've lost their loved ones.