Funeral etiquette
January 9, 2005 9:15 PM   Subscribe

BereavementFilter: Etiquettement dilemma about opening/agitating mourning versus sharing in a small life-afirming-recollection-of-the-deceased, er, something (the [+] might make more sense, sorry)

My Uncle died about five years ago and my Aunt was pretty distraught. He was briefly mentioned when I last visited two and a half years ago, but it was in a nostalgic way about when he was pretty far gone from a neurological degeneracy. I have only met my Uncle once, when I was before the age of reason, maybe 7 yo. or so. He contacted me by mail when I was heading to the 'States for college telling me to consider fraternities, &c. They have had no children together, and he was not close to his ex-wife (& potential family).

I've been thoroughly enjoying Turdledove's (very excellent) American War series, and realized that my fondness of the era and my appreciation of militaria arose from my Uncle sending me card/posters of Sam Clemens' era watercraft, oversized book/posters of WWII aircraft, naval vessels, and armoured cavalry, paint&cut&fold&glue paper models from various conflicts, &c&c for birthdays and Christmases when I was little. Otherwise, I've never known my Uncle.

My dilemma is; I want to share my realization that my Uncle was a positive intellectual influence on my life and that I now belatedly wish that I had known him better alas, email mainstreamed a decade&1/2 too late, but I'm unsure if this is something that will bring my Aunt ... happiness (?) as opposed to ?? (something bad). I don't get the sense that she shares the fondness for 1850-1950 American militaria as my Uncle, or heck if my Uncle was a fan as opposed to "Oh, lets send my wife's kid nephew something manly...". I'm leaning towards that he was into it, and much more (masons, other-"secret"-societies, sailing, treasure-hunting are a few that I pieced together) - which is why I wished that I had/made-the-effort-to know(n) him better.

So, should I email my Aunt and share my thoughts that her husband had a positive influence on my life, or is the risk of twisting old wounds too great (she's kind of hurt, still really misses him)?
posted by PurplePorpoise to Human Relations (11 answers total)
Go for it- I think it sounds really lovely.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:25 PM on January 9, 2005 [1 favorite]

There's no reason not to. Unless she hates you, she'd probably be really touched by hearing from you.
posted by interrobang at 9:37 PM on January 9, 2005

I think many people refrain from speaking of the dead to those who loved them for the reasons you're citing, but it's a mistake. Your aunt's suffering, regardless, but hearing from other people that her husband's life had importance and meaning to them can only help to ease that suffering. So do tell her, and stick around to listen to her response. One of the worst things about a loss like that is that the rest of the world quickly moves on, so many grieving people learn to stay quiet so as not to burden or bore others. You'll be giving her a tremendous outlet if you tell her your story and give her a chance to talk to an attentive listener.
posted by melissa may at 9:46 PM on January 9, 2005

Well said, melissa may.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 9:58 PM on January 9, 2005

Echoing the others. Telling someone that their deceased loved one touched your life in a positive way truly does help, from my experience anyway.
posted by forforf at 4:31 AM on January 10, 2005

I want to share my realization that my Uncle was a positive intellectual influence...

Letting your Aunt know this would be a wonderful thing for her. The realization that he touched your life and that you were enriched by it could only serve to help in her healing process.

Bereavement is a tricky thing and the only way to know how well your Aunt is dealing with it is to open a line of communication about your Uncle.

You have positive things to tell her about his influence on you, even though you'd only met him the one time. Letting her know this will open up that line for further discourse with her and may well be just what she needs to begin her own moving on process.

This May marks the 10 year anniversary of my own father's death, some of my family are still in mental mourning for him and some are in the beratement stage.

Mom no longer bursts into tears over Dad's 'leaving her' yet she still won't talk about my older brother who died 40 years ago.

Testing the waters is the only way to know if it's 'safe' to talk about him with her. Having something positive to say is a good start.
posted by kamylyon at 4:53 AM on January 10, 2005

As an older MeFite, I recommend you hand-write a note about your feelings and mail it to your aunt. E-mail lacks the personal, respectful touch that such a message should carry.
posted by Carol Anne at 5:08 AM on January 10, 2005 [2 favorites]

I had a similar moment about two years ago, actually. It was three years after one of my uncles had passed away. I hadn't seen him since I was a child, but I had one particularly lovely memory of him, and realized that his influence was part of what made music so important to me. I sent a little handwritten note to my aunt, and she was so touched. A lot of other little stories came out of the woodwork after that, and I felt like I knew him better.

So, yeah. Go for it.
posted by kittyb at 6:04 AM on January 10, 2005

This May marks the 10 year anniversary of my own father's death

That got me to thinking... My dad will be gone 10 years this coming October. :- (

From what was a large extended family (my grandfather was one of 10; grandmother was one of 12), our branch has become somewhat isolated, since my grandparents had only my dad.

A couple years ago, I received an email out of the blue from my dad's cousin. He had been doing some genealogy and shared the results with all the family members he could find. I've really enjoyed getting to know the extended family, and it kind of keeps the memory of my dad alive, as I occasionally hear anecdotes about my dad and my grandfather (who died before my birth) that I hadn't heard before.

Which brings me back to topic, I guess- when I hear one of those stories, I love it because it brings my dad (or my grandfather) back to me and helps me get to know an aspect of him that I hadn't heard. My dad was kind of a big guy in terms of being prominent on the local business scene and local politics, so to hear a story about what a snot he was when he was 8 from a cousin is kind of cool.

I think your aunt would enjoy such a story from you, especially since he was an influence on you.
posted by Doohickie at 6:50 AM on January 10, 2005

Definitely share your thoughts with your auntie. It's really important to hear those positive memories even years after the loss of a loved one.

My mother died eight years ago. Even today I'll run into people who knew her and they share their memories with me. A couple of years ago I was in a dime store. The cashier looked at my ID when I wrote a check and asked if I knew Frances. I told her that she was my mother. The lady talked for several minutes about how important my mother was in her life. My mother was a welfare worker and this lady was one of her clients. My mother helped this lady get a job and learn to believe in herself. I cry even now from the memory, but it's a good cry, an affirmation of my mother's life.

Call your auntie.
posted by Juicylicious at 11:58 AM on January 10, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks guys! I'll craft up a letter tonight...
posted by PurplePorpoise at 4:47 PM on January 10, 2005

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