Some funerals are harder to speak at than others. I don’t think this is any huge revelation, but maybe you had a hard time putting your finger on why it was so difficult. The key thing to remember is that no death exactly matches another death. The severity can even change between family members. It’s just important to know that you don’t know “exactly” what someone is going through even if you went through a death that seemed similar. So without trying to be insensitive in any way, I wanted to try to make a ranking system so we can score the difficulty of a funeral. I think many times people see how “well” someone else is handling a death of a loved one, and they wonder why they themselves are such a mess. Are they just not strong? Is their faith just not up-to-par? There could be several answers. First, the other person might just be strong in public or when you see them. Some people can put on a mask for short periods. They could be really broken-up internally. Second, they might just be dealing with it differently. Tears aren’t the only response and they might be equally as hurt as you but their outward emotions just look different. Some people shut down and say nothing and some people look for distractions galore. None of that is right or wrong, it’s just different ways people handle stuff. Finally, maybe the other person’s death was just objectively less jarring than the death of your loved one. So what I tried to do was put a numerical value on the trauma caused by a death of a loved one. All deaths hurt those who are left behind to some degree, but some more than others: I hope you know that I’m not looking to diminish what anyone is feeling. On the contrary, I hope to be able to quantify why you or someone you know is feeling the amount of loss they are:
The age of the person dying is certainly a factor for how a loved-one will react to their death. We all understand that once a person gets into their 80’s or 90’s that they are starting to beat the odds. This in no way means we aren’t sad when we hear of their death, and other factors below can even contribute to a relatively high Trauma Score, but in a vacuum, we are all more understanding when an older person who has lived a rich full life dies versus someone relatively young.
70+ years old = 1pt
50-60 years old = 2pts
18-40 years old = 3pts
17years and below = 4pts
No matter how “expected” a death is, hearing the news brings most people to tears. But there is certainly a difference between the shock of hearing about someone who died after a 6-month fight with cancer versus someone who died in a car accident. There can, at times, even be a little bit of peace knowing someone isn’t suffering from an ailment any more. Also, hearing about someone’s death being particularly gruesome or painful can cause an increase in trauma, especially if it was as a result of a crime. This can result in additional rage, confusion, and seeking of revenge that just compounds the trauma.
Long-term medical illness = 1pt
Medical issues but unknown severity or short-term notice = 2pts
Completely unexpected death = 3pts
A gruesome death or the result of a crime committed against them = 4pts
Losing a friend from high school or an Aunt you met a few times might affect you as much as hearing about a celebrity death (We lost Robin Williams too soon :( ) Such deaths obviously don’t mess with us in the same way as if we were to lose a best friend, sibling, spouse, or child. Every family dynamic is different, we can potentially have a rather distant relative that we were unusually close with due to unusual circumstances. Likewise, a close familial relationship could actually be pretty distant if you haven’t spoken to them in years because of some reason or another. So this will be the vaguest of definitions and is up to a lot of personal interpretation. For instance, an older grandmother might have essentially raised you and thus was more of a mother than grandmother. Another factor can be a string of deaths in close proximity. They can actually begin to compound on top of one another. Losing your dad, followed by your sister, followed by a best friend all in a 3-month period may result in it looking like you were the most broken-up by the close friend. The reality is, you almost added all the Trauma points from the previous death onto the new one. One last factor in this area is the number of close family members someone has left. After losing all your parents and grandparents, the passing of your last sibling or the like can be especially traumatic and lead to even more feelings of loneliness.
Distant relative or past friend = 1pt
Close family member or friend = 2pts
Spouse when children are still in the house = 3pts
Children (of any age) = 4pts
Multiple loses of close family and friends = +2pts
Losing the last of a group you were a part of = +1pt
Additional factors can complicate the grieving process. When a breadwinner in a family is lost there are a myriad of additional fears that come flooding over a person. Similarly the last few moments in a hospital can rack-up six-figure expenses that can be left with an already struggling family.
Loss of the family’s breadwinner = +3pts
A medical bill larger than the savings account = +1pt
The only thing that can alleviate some of the pain is to know that a person who has died has put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ. I always say the same thing at funerals: that the person who has passed away would want all their living family and friends to know the Gospel. Obviously if they are in Heaven they would want their fam with them. But also in the Gospel of Luke we get the story of the Rich Man who begs Lazarus to go back to witness to his unsaved loved ones so they don’t have to endure the same place he is in. Those of us who are alive and remain are comforted by the fact that Believers in Jesus Christ get to see their loved ones again in heaven. Honestly most people think they will; but only Christians have a promise from God’s very Word that whoever has called on the Name of the Lord will be Saved.
You are confident in their salvation = (-4pts)
Pretty sure about their salvation = (-2pts)
Unsure about their salvation = 2pt
Pretty sure they weren’t saved = 4pts
Again, I hope nobody took offense to anything in this post, it certainly wasn’t my intent to trivialize anyone’s pain. It all hurts. But I think we can see that not all funerals are equal when it comes to the heartache. Maybe this will help you see some things differently in the future. The one thing I can guarantee is that you are going to lose the people you love. I know it will hurt. I know God can carry you through it. And I know you will want those people to know the Good News that Jesus offers.
This is actually my funeral blog sequel. Here’s the first post on Christian Funeral Cliches.