Where do I go to see or talk to my Mum or Dad if they don’t have a grave?
This blog post was inspired by a friend of mine who mentioned, as the anniversary of her mum’s death approached, that she felt she had nowhere to go to see her mum. This was because, as her mother had been cremated, there was no grave. And also because the ashes had been…well…lost somewhere along the way.
Now she is far from the only person to ever misplace, throw away, never pick up, or accidentally vacuum up (yes, it happens) ashes. For me, having ashes or spreading ashes is more a symbolic thing that anything, rather than still the person you have lost.
We are human. We lose things, throw things away, ignore things, forget things. This is nothing to feel guilty about.
What if you don’t have a grave or place where ashes were spread to visit?
What are ashes anyway? If you’ve ever been to the viewing of the body of someone you have lost you’ll know that while often very traumatic, or sometimes very calming, it can also be a little…odd. I remember going to see my dad’s body after he died. I remember looking at him and thinking I was supposed to talk to him….but wondering where to direct my words. This body looked like my dad….and it was dressed like my dad…..but whatever made my dad my dad wasn’t in there anymore. I wasn’t exactly sure where it had gone…but it sure wasn’t there. I tried talking to this body…but I’ll admit it felt like talking to any other inanimate object. He wasn’t there. So I tried just talking out loud to the room, which still wasn’t quite right for me so I left.
We spread his ashes on a beach that he and my mum liked to walk on, taking care not to have the Wellington wind blow any of it back in our eyes, mouths, and faces. (We have learnt our lessons from previous experiences with other ashes!). But that didn’t really feel like him either.
That beach is not somewhere I would usually go (Makara for those that know it)…and – having lived away all of the time since – I’ve never been back. Even when I was back in NZ over a year ago it didn’t even occur to me to go to the beach. Why?
Because you don’t need a physical place to go to think about someone you love.
Let’s just remove the idea of death from the conversation for a minute. Think about a family member or friend that lives in a different country to you. When you want to think about them, or remember something about them, or love them, do you need to go to a certain place or a particular room, or see a certain thing to be able to do that? Of course you don’t. You just do it – you think about them and remember. You have conversations with them in your head. You think about the things you want to say to them.
Why does it need to be any different with someone you have lost? You don’t need a physical place to think about and remember them. You think and remember in your brain which, luckily, goes everywhere with you. You don’t need a physical place to love them. You love them in your heart which, again fortunately, does the same thing your brain does.
If you want to talk to them do what you do with anyone else you can’t immediately see and have that conversation in your head. Close your eyes, see them in front of you, and think or say out loud what you want to say. If it’s easier to have a photo to look at or speak to then do that. You don’t need to go where a particular piece of them is buried or stored or spread. You are a piece of them. You are more a piece of them than any grave or ashes could offer. You are a living breathing place to think about and remember them. Ashes and graves don’t hold memories and love. But you do.
As always I’m here if you have any questions, anything you’d like to see me blog about, or want to find out about working with me.