Journaling Reflections on Grief, Rituals, and Self-Discovery

Welcome back to the Death Dhamma podcast. Today’s episode is a reflective one, and we hope you will find it useful on your own personal journey.

In our previous episode, titled “The Kosala Sutta AN 5.49,” we explored the various methods and approaches to funerals for Buddhists. We questioned the purpose of these rituals for someone who has already departed, realizing that they often serve as a means to support the grieving process of the living. While these rituals may not directly benefit the deceased, they can provide solace and aid the grief journey of those left behind.

This contemplation led me to reflect on the contrasting ways in which we handled the deaths of my mother and my husband. My mother had left behind detailed instructions for every aspect of her funeral, sparing me from any uncertainties or doubts. This approach felt right and was met with no complaints. On the other hand, my husband had instructed a simple cremation and scattering of his ashes at sea, without any formal service. He believed that it was not his responsibility as a lifeless body to comfort others and understood the strain it would put on me. I respected his wishes and followed through with them.

Of course, not everyone was content with this decision. Some individuals expressed their disapproval, hoping for a more traditional funeral. However, I stood firm in honoring my husband’s wishes, which led me to ponder our tendency to make grief about ourselves. Grief, in essence, serves as a wake-up call, awakening our consciousness to the reality of transition and change. It is through grief that we not only acknowledge the departure of our loved ones but also recognize the transformation within ourselves.

Returning to the topic of funerals, we must acknowledge that these rituals serve as milestones in our grief journey and aid the departed in their transition to a more positive rebirth. Whether it be acknowledging a 49-day bardo or conducting chanting ceremonies at specific intervals, these rituals hold significance. However, the question arises when conflicts in wishes occur. Who makes the call? Did my decision to forgo a funeral for my husband deny someone the opportunity to move forward? In hindsight, I discovered that a close friend who couldn’t accept the absence of a service for my husband held his own private ceremony. Initially, I felt annoyed, but now I view it differently.

He did what he needed to do to address his own grief, and I respect that. Ultimately, each individual is responsible for their own journey and progress. It may seem selfish at first glance, but it isn’t. By making choices that strengthen ourselves, we become better equipped to help others. After all, you cannot give what you do not have.



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