Mental health and wellbeing matters: funerals

Coffee image for Film Stories' regular mental health column
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In our weekly spot where we chat about mental health and wellbeing, a few words on funerals, and dealing with grief.

Welcome. This is the little bit of the Film Stories site where we take a breather from movies just for a minute, and just natter about things that may be affecting you, or people you know. Or us. Just the stuff in our heads that it occasionally helps to have a chat about.

Such as funerals. An odd topic to find on a site like this, but there’s not one of us who gets through life without attending one. They’re not the most joyous of occasions, inevitably, although I do find them quite paradoxical. And, in the end, usually cathartic.

The upside of a funeral, if that’s the way to phrase things here, is they do at least offer some degree of closure across a difficult period of time. They’re not a magic wand that makes everything better, and grief itself is a very uneven beast that never really leaves your side, I find. But a funeral? I don’t know: I find it a bit of a breathe out moment. That after what can be weeks of mourning, there’s a focal point for it.

I know with my mum’s funeral, I found the first half of it awful, the second half of it delightful. That I was able to stare my grief in the face for a bit, in that makes sense, and let it wash over me. And then the rest of the day was exchanging stories, chatting to people, and realising how far my mum’s life had reached. Wasn’t quite expecting the event to be as paradoxical as it turned out to be.

What I appreciate more over time is how heavy an upcoming funeral can hang over someone’s head, and there’s a burden for those organising it to try and get everything right. That’s an impossible task, without the person it’s for there to sign off on every detail. Like most things in life, we’re left taking best guesses with the information we have. Ultimately, what else can we do?

I’m very conscious that funerals can be very different things for different people, and my experience is far from universal. But I do think they should be talked about. We spend so much time actually dreading funerals, that I just think demystifying them a little can’t do any harm. At heart, they’re crap, and nobody’s there for a good reason (we’ll skip any mention of Fight Club, thank you). But at best, they can be something positive. And anything that gets grief out in the open and talked about, for me at least, has to be a good thing.

You all take care. This column will return next week.

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