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A Matter Of Opinion

Vigil or no vigil? Service or no service?


(S-R file photo by Christopher Anderson)

The Death and Dying Dialogues series prompted me to write my Sunday column on baby boomer death and dying trends, such as Hospice houses, holistic hospital settings and green burials.

One trend I labeled “negative” was this trend:

There are boomers who refuse to hold vigil with their dying parents, because they say they don’t want to remember them “that way.” Some boomers insist that no memorial services be held for them when they die. Both actions deny death and short-circuit the grieving process.

“Ritual serves a very important process,” (Hospice chaplain Ann) Hurst explains. “It makes the death concrete and helps the grieving process. We don’t want people to be sad. We want to gloss it over. But it doesn’t allow survivors to do their grief. And if they don’t do it now, it will come back later as unmourned losses.”

To reach mature adulthood, no matter our ages, we must work through difficult and painful emotions. Those who have been privileged to hold vigil at a dying person’s bedside and honor that person’s life at a daylong memorial celebration understand how joy and sweetness surface through the sorrow.

I’ve heard from readers today who said that not holding vigils and not having services are not necessarily negative. Rather, they see them as preferences to grieve in their own private ways. They make some good points and I hope people will jump in on both sides of this one.


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