As I write this, I am processing the recent death of a family member. I called her Aunt Molly.
As I mourn the fact that she is no longer with us, my heart aches not only for my own loss, but for the people around me who were closer to her and thus are even more deeply affected by her passing. People like my cousins, who were Aunt Molly’s children and grandchildren. Perhaps the most heartbreaking part about the timing of her death, at least for me, was that one of my cousins had gotten on a plane from Portland (where he lives) to Houston (where his mom was living), but his flight did not make it in on time for him to say goodbye in-person. On top of that, her death was much more sudden than expected. I lost count of how many times I heard comments like “she seemed fine when I saw her just two weeks ago” from fellow funeral attendees. A heavy sense of loss felt even heavier as that reality sunk in.
Yet, despite those heavy emotions, there was a lot of desire to celebrate Aunt Molly’s life as well. For me, it was a reminder that mourning and celebrating naturally coexist. The inside of the funeral program quotes a Bible passage that reads:
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-4)
That last line stands out to me, because Aunt Molly understood what it meant to mourn. She had lived life for over thirty years following the death of her husband. Aunt Molly also loved to dance. As a young girl, she allegedly declared something along the lines of “I might be Baptist, but I’m a dancing Baptist.” She also loved going out for experiences with the people she cared about. In fact, she and her daughter (my cousin) went straight from my wife’s baby shower to a Rolling Stones concert. Aunt Molly had the moves like Jagger. Or at least she was having as much fun as him, which is all that mattered.
I think the last line of that passage also reinforces the idea that mourning and celebrating do not have to be mutually exclusive. It is easy to see them as binary, but there is time for both. We can allow ourselves to grieve, mourn, and lament. At the same time, we can honor, remember, and celebrate the people we loved after the final act of their life on this earth is complete.
Another silver lining about the aftermath of death is that despite the somber occasion, it brings people together. Thankfully, I got to spend a lot of time with my cousin who was in town from Portland. We shared meals together, went to the rodeo, exchanged stories, and of course, attended the funeral service together. Yet while there was time for those fun activities, there was also a time to mourn. As my cousin’s wife sang a hymn during the funeral, I saw him cry for the first time. He was allowing himself to mourn his mom. As his tears streamed down, I could feel my own tears escaping as well. I was honored to be there with my cousin and the rest of our family as we grieved the loss of Aunt Molly together. Simply being present for each other in our grief does something powerful. There is often more comfort that stems from mere presence than from words spoken.
As the day wore on, the mourning continued, as did the celebrating. They happened together naturally, almost in tandem.
Like dance partners.
Ryan Woods, LPC Associate
My goal as a counselor is to help adults, adolescents, and children by providing a space to be heard, process life’s challenges, and develop the necessary skills to thrive mentally, physically, and spiritually. My overall approach to therapy involves cognitive behavioral methods (exploring one’s thoughts and beliefs relative to emotions and behaviors), as well as narrative therapy (engaging personal stories that view people as separate from their problems). I view counseling as a collaborative effort in helping clients to recognize strengths, identify needs, understand conflicts, discover new options, set personal development goals, and make informed choices.