All of our grief emotions need to be objectified. By that, I mean feelings need to be directed toward and locked in to the appropriate person, place, or thing. When I am sad, what is the object of my sadness? When I am angry, what has caused my anger? When I am happy, what has made me happy? Identifying the object of a particular feeling is a characteristic of a healthy mind.
Now, the cemetery is a place where a lot of grief feelings can be identified along with the object – most of the time the object will be the buried loved one. When I go to the cemetery and visit my Dad’s gravesite, I am happy as I remember all the good times we had. I am also sad because I miss him. Sometimes I have felt guilty about a few of those insignificant conflicts we had. All of these emotions are directed toward my father and the gravesite. That’s why we say a trip to the cemetery is a ritual. It means we remember the loved one and the relationship we had with the person who is now dead. We take the time to think about the past, perhaps talk to the loved one about what is happening in the present, then move on with our lives again.
I remember reading about a family who went to the cemetery together and read a letter they had composed to their dad. The letter updated him on what had happened in the past year. It also included declarations of how much the family missed him. The ritual concluded with one of the daughters doing a cartwheel on her father’s grave. Her father had always loved watching her do cartwheels, and she did one for him on this day of remembrance. Her ability to do the cartwheel was also a way for her and her family to let their dad know that they were still able to feel joy in their lives. The cemetery is a very valuable place in the life of someone working through grief.
Keep in mind cemetery arrangements should be an item on the funeral contract. Not only is it a funeral expense, but it also has a great impact on the survivors’ future emotional stability. (For instance, if the cemetery is not well maintained, survivors may feel guilty that they did not provide the “best” for their loved one.) The cemetery arrangements should meet state requirements for burial, religious expectations, the individual’s vault and monument requests, the desire for perpetual care, and the need for future burial plots. The funeral firm will have knowledge about all your burial options and the location of the cemetery that will best meet your need.
Updated: November 29, 2011