Wednesday, 9 February 2011

comparative mourning

i read this article on the guardian website a while back. it talks about a family who lost a three week old daughter, and how hurt they were when the vicar removed fake flowers from her grave. it talks about a couple who lost their 25 year old daughter, and how when they visit their daughter's grave they routinely put fake flowers on other graves nearby that have been neglected.

the vicar says "The metaphor of flowers is the beauty that weathers and decays. That is why we always put real flowers in the churchyard where they are associated with funerals. Plastic ones don't decay, so the metaphor gets lost."

hmmm. i don't buy it. and those who have lost loved ones know all too well that nothing is forever. for some (including me, sometimes) flowers dying brings back the pain all too clearly. don't those who mourn deserve to do it in their own way, metaphor free?

anyway, hasn't he seen how fake flowers fade and crumble over time when left out to the elements? they may take longer about it, but they don't last forever.

but i like the quote from the sociologist at the University of Bath.

"There are competing expectations about grief. For some people it's about moving on. For others it's about an ongoing relationship," she says. "There is a view of stages of grief that ends with 'letting go'. Some people don't do that. They never will let go, and that is OK."

they will never let go, and that is OK.

doesn't that make a change from what the grieving are usually told? the implication that if you don't 'move on', whatever that means, that you are somehow faulty?


then today i read this article on the BBC. which, to be honest, is even more depressing.

apparently there is a cemetery in essex that a national newspaper has seen fit to call the 'poudland cemetery'. (for those not native to the UK, that's quite an insult.) other mourners have taken offence at the fake flowers and wind chimes and the council have said that any wind chimes or ornaments left in the trees by 1 march will be removed. people will only be able to have two wind chimes and two solar lights. i don't want to link the article, but it's here:

i personally think the first two pictures are absolutely beautiful.

the BBC article talks about a 'class war' in mourning, and i think they're right. i think that the displays of teddy bears and wind chimes get dismissed as 'tacky' by the folk who are there to mourn parents and grandparents. by those who haven't lost children. children who should not have died.

but i don't think anyone gets the right to judge anyone else's grief. to call it tacky or to ask them to move it elsewhere.

and i will be honest. before i lost the baby i might have thought it was tacky too. but i see things differently now. i see the love and the pain and the loss that makes people want to bring some comfort to a baby's grave, or a child's grave, or even an adult's. and i ache for the grieving.


when we were in barcelona last summer we went to visit a cemetery, the Cementiri del Poblenou. it was completely different to anything i've ever seen in the UK. we spent a long time wandering round and looking at the graves.

all the flowers in that cemetery were fake. real ones would never survive in the spanish sun, not in summer at least. i'll never forget the sound they made as the breeze blew and they rustled. it wasn't quite like anything i'd ever heard before. the sound of spanish mourning, maybe.

i want to post some pictures i took. i hope no one finds this disturbing, that i took pictures of graves. i loved them and i wanted to remember them. i'm sorry to anyone who finds it distasteful.

these people were loved. i'm sure that by some standards these graves are tacky, too. but i think they're beautiful and amazing.


Merry said...

Funny how different we all are. Freddie doesn't have a grave yet, I feel like I want him near me. But when he does, it will be simple and discreet and I won't dress it in spangle and ornaments. It feels odd to me and although I like that it comforts other people, it would make me feel... showy. i think that is the best way of describing it.

That isn't what I think of other people who do it, it would just not feel right for me.

I'd like to plant a tree over Freddie, so he would grow through the branches but we can't do that where we would like to put him. Actually, I suspect he may stay safely in our possession till I die and he will come with me.

B said...

i want a small plaque in the snowdrop garden, and i have a small stained glass angel type figure (even though i don't like angels) that i want to take there, and i want to take a pot of snowdrops and other bulbs and plants there. it makes me so sad that the teddy bears and the like get mouldy and faded over time, but i love that someone cared enough to put them there.

i do like wind chimes but i don't think i'd put any there - as much as anything else because they're harder for others to ignore if they don't like them as anything else.

to be honest i don't even mind other babyloss mums saying 'this isn't right for me, it makes me feel uncomfortable'. it's when those who haven't lost a child (at any age) judge that upsets me.

trousers said...

I can see the vicar's point of view, certainly, regarding the plastic flowers. But it's not for him to impose that point of view on others - for me, that's where the problem lies.

I really don't think there's any arguing with what you say - "don't those who mourn deserve to do it in their own way, metaphor free?"

Amen, as it were, to that.

giver said...

Love that quote, kind of how I’ve felt about grieving the loss of my Mom and our first baby. There really shouldn’t be ‘expectations’ about grief, we each grieve in our own way and on our own timeline and you don’t necessarily progress through the ‘stages’ chronologically or stay in one ‘stage’. Thanks for sharing that with us.

Hope's Mama said...

I will never let go and I'm glad to know that someone thinks that is ok.

I only ever leave fresh flowers on Hope's grave, but there is another stillborn boy buried just a few plots away, and his grave is always adorned with toys, fake flowers and anything else you can think of. And while it is not for me, I never judge. In fact on some days, when they have been blown over or strewn around by the weather, I go and tidy up his space for his parents, as it always feels like the right thing to do. I say hello to that little boy every time I go and visit Hope, as he's the only other baby near her. I couldn't get a spot in children's section. It was full. How depressing is that?

clare said...

Interesting articles and varying views.

I have such conflicting emotions about the issue.
On one level when Alfie 1st died I felt it futile leaving anything.....for me hes was gone and all that was left was his decaying body, of which I needed no reminder. I don't believe in an afterlife so for me he was over and gone and that was it.

After quite a while, I started to visit his grave and look after it, I have planted flowers in 2 tubs and a wee stone from every holiday my mum and dad have been on since his death. I also have a few 'beautiful' things, some metal hearts and stars that aren't baby themed. That's my issue - the grave is a place for me not him, obviously it honors his memory and as i can't look after him I look after it instead. But here is my conflict - I don't leave baby things - or birthday balloons etc - he can't see them and he's not growing up, so as a new born he wouldn't be getting thomas balloons or trains etc.

I also maintain the local snowdrop garden at our cemetery, when I started doing this is was because it was filled with in my opinion neglected and tacky baby things - I know this may cause offence, but I feel leaving fake flowers and toys is fine - IF they are cared for, however leaving something at xmas and never returning till the next means the items are so neglected it emphasises for me the loss. Moreover as it is common ground the graves are not allowed to be marked, we have 2 beautiful stones with planters in front that folk can leave flowers in. The sad thing is that we left a sign saying in 3 months we will be removing all personal mementos if you wan them please remove them or we will keep them and you can collect them for up to 6 months. NO_ONE claimed anything.
I've since planted tons of flowers and we keep it looking cared for.

sorry if anyone is offended, it is such an emotive issue, as is everything regarding babyloss......