The old saying goes, “Only two things in this world are inevitable, death and taxes.” While we all know death is an inevitable part of life, not many of us are truly equipped to handle the death of loved ones. And this is most likely because Americans tend to see death as the final and ultimate end. We lose connection forever, it seems, with our loved ones.
And this is why the traditional South American holiday Day of the Dead is so wonderful. Because it connect life with death. Our neighbors to the south realize their loved ones are still very much present in their lives, even if they are not physically there.
Death is a far more natural part of life in South American culture. If Americans were to adopt some of these ideas, we would no doubt have a far easier time of grieving.
Here are just some of the things Day of the Dead can teach us about grieving:
Relationships Change – They Don’t End
Death does not mean your relationship with a loved one must come to an end. It simply means your connection changes.
Funerals and Memorials Can be Fun
Death in America is a particularly somber event. Everyone speaks in hushed tones and wears black. Those who give a eulogy may find a few moments to share a story that gets a smile or a laugh from the crowd. And we all know those moments are so helpful.
Mexicans also have sad and respectful funerals, but they tend to incorporate a lot of fun into the Day of the Dead to honor their loved ones. It’s hard to feel like having fun when we’ve lost someone close to us, but they would not want us to be sad or remember them in a very sick way in their final days. It’s okay to have a bit of fun and brevity while grieving.
Grief Has No Schedule
In this country, when a loved one dies, we are expected to grieve for a short period, and then move on with life. But grief has no set schedule. For some, grieving can take months, for others it can take years. The entire grieving process is far too complex to put a clock on it.
Those cultures that celebrate Day of the Dead do not try and force a sense of closure. The holiday is a chance to focus heavily on your loved one and communicate anything you wish them to know.
Face Our own Mortality
A celebration like Day of the Dead makes us confront the fact that we, too, will die someday. And by really facing this fact, we can all live more fully.
If you are struggling with the grieving process and would like a bit of guidance, please reach out to me. I help people from all walks of life navigate the complexities of the loss of loved ones.