What happens after the funeral?

The day after the funeral can bring unexpected emotions

The day after the day before

The day after my father’s funeral I collapsed on the lounge and watched three series of Scrubs. I ate when my husband brought me a sandwich and again when my little boy brought me an apple. I drank when my husband brought me a glass of mineral water and when my little boy brought me a glass of milk (I don’t like milk, I’ve had maybe two glasses of milk in my life, but I drank that one). The day after the funeral I was exhausted. Sadder than I had ever been, I wasn’t ready to face the world without my father around. It wasn’t worse than the day of the funeral, but it certainly wasn’t better.

Strangely, I don’t remember what I did the day after my mother’s funeral. I do remember that I didn’t want the day of my mother’s funeral to end. Long after the funeral had finished, we were in the loungeroom and I kept pouring drinks for people, bringing them food, starting new conversations before the last could even end. I didn’t want anyone to leave, and I did everything I could do to stop them. Not that I stood in the doorway and banged my staff declaring, ‘You shall not pass.’ But I wasn’t far off it. When they left I would have to go to bed. When I went to bed I would be closing my eyes on this part of my life. And when I opened my eyes everything would be changed.

This might not be your experience, but chances are you will different the day after the funeral than you did the day before.

A changed relationship

I write each funeral service from scratch, but there is one line that I think holds true for every service I’ve conducted. ‘Today does mark a change in your relationship…but that relationship is with you still.’ In fact, I see it as one of the underpinnings of a funeral. Acknowledging this shift, allowing ourselves to mourn the relationship we have lost and to treasure the one we still have. In the best of circumstances we can even draw strength from this relationship, but I know this isn’t always the case.

My mother died over 25 years ago, but that relationship is definitely still with me. It changed just as I knew it would the day after the funeral. It’s no use pretending that it’s the same relationship we would have had if she hadn’t died so young. But the relationship still exists.

Of course, some relationships were difficult or complex in life, and this can make your feelings even more complex. The day after the funeral, you might be feeling nothing more than relief. And then maybe guilt for that relief. Perhaps you are feeling abandoned. Or maybe you are angry because now you are left to resolve things on your own. All of these feelings are valid.

Whatever your relationship, the day after the funeral is the first day of an enormous change. Don’t be surprised if it’s a more difficult day than you expected.