The positive thinking movement has sold funeral directors a faulty mindset. In turn, funerals are sold to the bereaved as an occasion to celebrate the loss of their loved one. The movement needs to question their motives about this emotionally debilitating perspective. The idea of celebrating life upon the death of a loved one is ludicrous.
There was a valid reason why, for centuries across every culture, those who lost loved ones would allow themselves a period of time to mourn. Mourning was not seen as a selfish act. It was considered a natural part of the life-death-life cycle of human nature. Time, energy and space were devoted to mourning. A woman might mourn the loss of her husband, child or parent for a year or more. She would wear black or sombre clothing during this time and dress herself with modest jewellery and adornments. She would spend a lot of this time alone in prayer or reflection. There would be no dancing, excitement or frivolity until the mourning process was complete and her grieving was utterly spent. Only then would life be lived fully once again. This is not meant to suggest a return to the past, but to take what worked and learn from it instead.
Many consider it selfish to mourn, so a period of mourning is no longer permitted. After all, you still have your life and the dead do not, so get over yourself. It is assumed that you will take anywhere from a day to a week off work for the funeral, and then “viola!” your life is supposed to return to normal. Well, from experience, I can tell you it does not. When my parents died more than ten years ago, it took more than seven years to heal from it, and only then, with the support of three years of counselling, and AFTER I realised my constant positive perspective was doing some serious emotional damage.
The positive thinking movement has a lot to account for in terms of the influence it has had on the grieving process. It is human instinct to grieve any loss, great or small, but in fact, the positive thinking movement peddles the opposite. In this way, the industry stays in business. They remain relevant and influential in a society that is growing more and more depressed than ever before.
In your vulnerable state of loss, your determination to maintain a positive thinking mindset will have you thinking and feeling that the deep sadness you feel is terribly wrong. During the grieving or mourning process, battling to maintaining a positive mindset ensures that you remain unhappy for long enough that it makes you depressed and keeps you that way for longer than necessary. To be sure, a part of the grieving and healing process involves a period of depression, but positive thinking introduced at the point of death as a celebration of life is detrimental to the emotional and mental health of the bereaved. Only the insane, bitter or twisted, or those who are starving for their inheritance money will dance with enough glee to celebrate the life of a person upon their death.
Moreover, the grieving process may have already begun prior to death, especially if your loved one has been suffering from a terminal illness and death is inevitable, so interrupting this process by insisting that you celebrate your loss is counter-productive to healing your sadness. To tell yourself – and to let others tell you – that you should celebrate when your mother dies is more than confusing. It opposes your human instinct to heal. Healing from loss does not happen while you take one week off work to do it. It may take years to move through the entire mourning process. You can read more about the ten stages of healing here.
Celebrating death and dying does nothing but prolong your grieving when it occurs at the wrong end of the process. When an important person in your life has died you are supposed to mourn their absence. When something upsets you and you don’t give yourself permission to be mad or sad about it, then you are giving yourself permission to go mad or get depressed and stay that way because of it. You will remain angry or depressed or both.
A proper and thorough grieving process is healthy, not selfish. It is not possible to celebrate any form of loss until the grieving or mourning is over.