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Not Visiting The Grave.

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My dad's in a columbarium, where urns are kept. I'm in the same country where it is now. But I don't know if I should go or not. I was there to put it there; there was a ceremony involved. I never saw the body, though.

I don't want to go. Even at the funeral, I had to leave the room when the body was brought out. Later, though, on the way to the columbarium, I held the urn in the car according to ritual. It almost broke me apart, having to look down at this urn, which carried my dad. I couldn't believe it. I have horrible flashbacks of myself holding this...thing. This thing can't be my dad now. I pretended it wasn't him.

I know you're supposed to see the body, you're supposed to make it real for yourself on towards acceptance, but I have to be honest and say that had I seen the body, I think I would have gouged my eyes out (sorry for the graphic image). I hugged my dad every single day. When we walked, I always held his arm (something I did since I was a little kid). I just couldn't see him without life. I could feel my body recoil naturally when it was time to bring it out. I ran out of there like a little kid scared of a monster while my other family did the viewing. I felt like I was going to throw up. I'm operating on a type of denial now, I guess. That's how I sleep at night. I know myself quite well; if I forced myself to "accept" it (God, I hate that word), I would be in a corner like a basket case...yes, even more than I am now! I know what all the grief books say. I know I'm doing things wrong. I haven't touched his room. I still buy him presents and leave them in there. I've always bought him presents, and I couldn't bear not doing it. It made me feel better to do so. I'm breaking all the rules to make myself feel better in the present, even though it might be detrimental to my future, according to the books. I just want to keep him alive for as long as possible. I'm sort of a daydreamer by nature, so I guess it works for me.

So someone in my family asked me if I was going to go up to see my dad in the columbarium, now that I am here. I don't want to, but then I begin thinking: Would my dad be saddened if I didn't? Would he say, "Hey, she doesn't love me enough to visit me?" Because I've done other frivolous things while here. I went to dinner with my relatives, I went to a store to buy some movies and books (I watch movies and read a lot to distract myself). How could I buy books and movies and not see my dad, you know?

I don't know what to do. Am I evil for not wanting to go? It seems mean to travel all this way, having paid that expensive air ticket, and not see him. We went here to take care of estate business. I think about my dad every single day (as you guys can tell with my tortured postings!). I STILL have traumatic flashbacks of the funeral, and I am scared that seeing the urn will freshen the horror. :( Thanks for reading.

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Hey Em

I can't comment on all of your post because I think that you'd need to be qualified as a counsellor?

But as to visiting your Dad's Urn. This is the way I see it. I visit my Dad in my head by thinking about him, by listening to his music, by being the way he'd want me to be. My Dad isn't where his ashes are ... he is somewhere else now. I carry him in my heart, along with my Mom, my husband and my dog. (No wonder it feels so heavy these days)

I didn't view either of my parents' bodies when they died because I couldn't do it either. Again, my attitude was, "That isn't my Mom, she is somewhere else now". I don't think that this delayed my grieving .... I'm pretty sure that lots of people don't. I did see my husband, but that is such a different relationship and that was why. Probably because you are so close to someone physically, anyway it's just different, well at least it was for me.

You need to grieve in your way, in your time. Please don't let anyone pressurize you into doing anything that scares you, pressurizes you, or that you don't feel ready to do. I'm sure your Dad would prefer you not to feel like that. Don't let them push their beliefs of "how it should be" and project them onto you.

It took my sister and I over 18 months before we could walk into our Mom's room to sort through her stuff. It took us all weekend because we kept crying. But we had to do it because our father could not. You can go and do your Dad's room when you want, not before. I still have Santa's up in my house because Cliff put them up and I can't bear to take them down. It took me 6 months till I could throw away his mustard in the fridge. In your time Em.

Someone I know lost their baby, and they buy him birthday presents and take them to the grave ... I think we should be allowed to grieve and remember our loved ones the way we want.

If it were me, I would not go and visit the urn. And yes, when I got home I might feel bad, but only because of the "guilt thing" that we torture ourselves with. I would then torture myself about it for around 2 - 4 weeks then assign it to the unjustified guilt pile :-)

I am guessing, but if you are in a Catholic/Latin country ... everyone is brought up viewing bodies and visiting graves etc from a very young age, so it is normal to them ... it is part of how they grieve ... they have no fear of it. It's different if you haven't been exposed to that culture from a young age, and it's acceptable not to do it if you are not comfortable to do so. Protect your mind. My first boarding school was a convent and there were a lot of nuns there who were elderly, and there would be a death a week (it seemed to my young mind). Anyway, I started having these really bad nightmares and my Dad had to ring the Mother Superior and ask that I was excused from future viewings and funerals because I hadn't been brought up that way and was therefore freaked out at the age of ten! It really does affect you in this situations - they way you are brought up.

Try to enjoy the rest of your trip. You could pop into a church and light a candle for him instead if you feel like it. Or where you are staying? Or even online. That way the family will see that you are remembering him in your own way and may then stop asking you if you are going.

Take care of yourself


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Boo, your wisdom (along with your kind and caring heart) never cease to amaze me. You truly have a gift. I so appreciate your carefully constructed responses and the gentle way you speak to everyone on this site. Thank you for being here for all of us.

Em, dear, I just want to add that, if all the grief books you're reading say that you're "doing things wrong," then either you're reading the wrong grief books or you're missing one of the most important messages they should be sending to you: There is no right or wrong way to do the work of grief ~ there is only YOUR way, and you must discover that way for yourself.

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Boo, once again you're amazing. Thank you for saying "protect your mind." I will work on doing that. Very good point on the upbringing...I wasn't brought up around death. While people I know have seen bodies from a young age, I never had to do that, so I'm definitely very new to all this. Many, many thanks for your help. I will also get that book you recommended as soon as I return.

Marty, thank you. I've gotten lots of books myself. And people have given me print outs that say things like: 1.) Take care of your loved one's possessions. Do it with a friend or family member to make the process easier. 2.) It is important to view the body. Although it can be hard at first, blah blah blah..." And stuff like "not doing X" or "doing X" can delay the grief process and make it more difficult in the long run. So when I don't do or do certain things, I feel like I'm breaking the rules; the stuff I've read don't stress that grief work is individual, or make it sound like these things are optional and not for every person. Some of the stuff isn't from America, so maybe it's a cultural difference, too.

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Em - I will always be here for you. I know what it is like to lose your Daddy. Perhaps stick to the articles that Marty has written on the Grief Healing Site, and ensure that books you buy are written either by the bereaved, or a bereavement counsellor? I'm quite scornful of any books on the market written by anyone else because they haven't walked in our shoes and they simply can't know. Be mindful of cultural differences when buying books too :-) and Marty has also posted a booklist on the site. The other 2 books that I have read are really relevant for losing a spouse, so I won't recommend them to you.

Marty - thanks so much for your kind words. For some reason it helps me to help people and I find that by sharing, I am vocalizing and making sense of my loss of Cliff, by that I mean making sense of and understanding my own grief work. I think that we gain the gift of empathy when we suffer such a huge loss in our lives. I learn so much from this board and everyone here gives me comfort. Sometimes it just helps to know that I am not walking alone along this road. While we are on the subject, I have provided links to your articles on my blog and obviously gave you credit for authorship - the other widows who follow the blog have contacted me to say how helpful they were to them. I hope that's ok? I should have checked actually shouldn't I - ooops, sorry.

Here are links to where I've mentioned you/your articles:


and here:


You need only say if you want anything changed and I will make it so :-)

Em - you might like to click on the first link as I found all the articles there really really helpful.

Hugs xx

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My dear Boo, to my mind, that is the value (and the power) of the Internet ~ to share information broadly and freely ~ provided that the information is accurate and comes from a reputable and reliable source, of course. (See my article, Finding Grief Support Online)

I am delighted to know that you're doing whatever you can to help "spread the word," and I'm honored too. Please feel free to continue what you're doing with your blog! (I'm only now learning how to use social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook as additional ways to share information about grief with "the world" ~ These tools are simply amazing. You can follow me on Twitter if you like, at http://twitter.com/GriefHealing)

I totally agree with you that "by sharing, I am vocalizing and making sense of my loss of Cliff, by that I mean making sense of and understanding my own grief work." In grief, we write not so much to be understood as to understand. In a book I'm reading now (Writing to Recover: The Journey from Loss & Grief to a New Life) author Harriet Hodgson says,

According to Bob Bittner, President of the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA), non-writers fail to grasp an important fact. "Many of us [writers] don't write to change others' lives," he says. "We write to change ourselves." Bittner makes this observation in his article, You Should Write a Book, published in the December 2007 issue of the ASJA newsletter.

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thanks Marty. I hadn't thought of my blog as much more than an emotion dump initially, but then I realized the power of its healing to me. I loved that quote - it confirms to me the value of doing it.

I will follow you on Twitter, I'll get my girlfriend at work who is much younger than me (who is also on Twitter) to show me what to do :-)

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I just wanted to agree with what Boo said about doing what YOU feel is right for YOU. Inquire within - go inside and ask yourself what you really want to do with regards to everying, and then love yourself enough to do it for yourself. Your father I am sure would absolutely want you to do whatever you could that would bring you the most support and comfort at this time. It is already hard enough, try not to make it worse by making yourself do things which will only upset you more. Remember - its your grief journey, no-one elses.

do try to be gentle with yourself...

blessings and hugs to you at this time


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Looking at pics of my dad in the hospital and am feeling numb. He was alive. Ill but alive. He was laughing, telling stories, reading the newspaper.

I prefer to think of him alive somewhere. He ran off to some desert island.

I decided I can't go to the columbarium. I can't tolerate the idea of him in a different form. Can't look at it. Can't talk to it. Can't see him reduced to something in an urn. Lots of people do it all the time, but I guess it's not for me. Thanks for reassuring me that I can do things my own way.

I'll just keep looking at his pictures, looking at his flesh, his smile, his eyes.

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