Problem with death in family


This is gonna sound really bad, so brace yourself.

My father’s sister, my favorite aunt, has died today. Cancer.

Here’s my problem. Although she was my favorite aunt, and I loved her to death, I’m not all broken up about her dying. It’s not like I didn’t want her around, or like I don’t care. I just don’t get all worked up about people dying. I’m really not that emotional.

Whenever someone dies, the rest of my family get’s all worked up, crying all over the place, drinking like mad, talking for days about how sad life is without them. And they get MAD at me for not being sad. I just don’t feel sad when someone dies. I really don’t like going to funerals either, but I usually go to avoid the fight.

My real question is this. Should I defend myself when they attack me, or is this one of the ways they work through their grief? That’s about the only reason I’ll let them get away with it. I’m not prone to letting people come down on me. I really can’t stand when someone tells me how I should feel. But if they “need” to go through this, then I’ll allow it gracefully.

What do you think? Fire away. I know I sound like a jerk, but I’m really not. Just don’t feel bad when someone dies.


Fear not, you sound just like me. Maybe some people just lack that certain (normal) emotional response . . .


You need to practice putting on a sympathetic and mournful appearance, just like funeral workers do when they are working. Do they really feel sad? Probably not, but they are professionals at their trade and they learn to be good actors.


Put it this way, there are people who, while not being unemotional precisely, don’t express a lot of emotion with their body language. My father is something like that. I can’t imagine him crying at a funeral. Same with myself and one of my sisters.

I wouldn’t suggest you do a lot of acting sad if you don’t feel it, people can sometimes smell fakeness. Do, however, make efforts to be sympathetic and considerate to the rest of your family who are reacting differently to you. Maybe encourage them to share their emotions, share memories and stories of the departed. Do the same yourself.


It’s not that I have to act sad or emotional. I’m wondering if I’m being insensitive to my family if I tell them to back off. They literally yell at me for not acting all emotional. Seriously. If I’m not crying, they’ll call me insensitive, cruel, cold, whatever. They’ll yell, make rude comments, and stuff like that. Usually, I go off on them and defend myself. Not that we have deaths that often, but we’ve had a few in the last several years (we’re all gettin older).

I’m not about to act different than I feel. I wonder if their emotional outbursts are part of their grieving process and should I let them vent and not tell them to stop. After a few days, we all forget all about it until the next one dies. It’s not like we are holding long term grudges.


I find death should be a celebration- a passing on to the next world. I’ve never felt it was true to the faith to be upset-- isn’t that just us being selfish about someone who has gone on and we wont see any more?


In fact, it’s big bucks for them to do so. Doesn’t have to be boo-hoo…just composed, yet adjusted to Life’s finality. The eyes are mournful; the brow composed; the smile almost, but not quite, forced, simply because one is with family and friends.:wink:

Be glad you are not my brother and me. We go to wakes and funerals, and with the nervousness and tension of the day, start to rattle at the mouth, then giggle- at anything. Everything is fair game. Too much of a cosmetic touch on the body of the deceased? Giggle, and rattling comments. Bad flowers? Big giggle. The guy’s boss who hated him spouting the wonders of his now fond employee? Extreme giggles and tittering.

Death just hits people funny, in a variety of ways. “Back off” in a gentle tone might be the very words to deliver.


I think your family is getting defensive because they are emotional and you are not. So, they think that you “don’t care”. I had that happen when my brother in law died. I cried at first when I found out (it was very sudden and he was young), but when we went to my sister’s house, I didnt cry, I just played with my young nephew. Many people thought I was being disrespectful, but thats just how I deal. I think going to the funeral is good on your part, at least they can’t accuse you further. But I don’t think its necessary for you to change your emotions just because others would see it to be more fitting.


I don’t think that “defending yourself” will help at all, and it can make things worse. Just listen respectfully and do what seems right, without acting. But attend any services, wakes, and similar functions with your family, as your absence from such can give unintended offence.


not everyone reacts the same emotionally or displays an “affect” or visible signs of emotion the same way. there is not need to defend yourself. your family should reflect your privacy, but neither should you behave in any way that cricicizes their method of grieving. It is also possible, however, that you feel these things much more deeply than you realized, and that sometimes you bury your feelings. Those feelings, esp. of grief or anger, can come up later in life in unexpected ways, and will have to be dealt with sooner or later.

When with your family, simply share your good memories of your aunt, and encourage them to do so. All you need to say is that of course you are sorry for her death, and the family’s loss, but that you also rejoice her pain and suffering in this world is over, and that she is freed from the world for union with God.

my personal opinion and reaction to death is that Christians should have not need to fear it and grieve over it since it is the doorway to heaven, and to true life with God. What Christians should fear and grieve over is an unrepentent death in a state of mortal sin.


Go to the funeral and if anyone asks why you’re not crying or getting emotional, tell them you loved your aunt but you grieve in your own way in your own time. —KCT


People who openly grieve and mourn have a hard time understanding people who don’t, and sometimes vice versa. I wouldn’t “act” and put on a show. But you should be respectful of their reactions and listen sympathetically while they mourn.

If they still attack you, I personally don’t feel it’s appropriate to defend yourself to the point where the “fighting” takes away from the funeral.

Have you ever spoken of this at a time when the family is together, but not grieving? Maybe they would listen to your feelings at a different time?

I would definitely attend all services, funerals, etc. I can only assume that your absence would be a much larger insult to the family than your outward lack of grieving.

On a more personal note, I wish I could be more like you. I cry at all funerals, no matter how well I knew the person. I think it’s just being faced with mortality.

God bless!



I notice in your signature an Irish tagline.

My father’s family is ‘just off the boat,’ so to speak, in the last generation. Many of my extended older family members still have the accent, talk about ‘mother Ireland’ as if the country is a real person, etc. Anyway, when someone dies, it’s just as you describe. Total histrionics, weeping and sobbing, drinking, endless eulogizing the person who has passed, telling stories ad nauseam, etc.

I tend to get sad when someone passes, but certainly not in the same realm of my extended family. When my grandfather passed, I didn’t shed any tears. He suffered plenty and I knew he was an excellent man of faith, busily enjoying his reward with God. IMO, there was nothing to cry about. While no one yelled at me for not crying, one of his sisters did ask me if I loved my grandfather at all, since I wasn’t crying. I tried not to roll my eyes.

Anyway, as much as it isn’t “PC” to buy into stereotypes, in my experience, Irish families are just prone to plenty of expressive emotion. Just try to roll with it and take puzzleannie’s advice–speak lovingly about the deceased and reminisce about their special place in your memories.


I definitely know how you feel. My immediate family is all like you and me… we just don’t show our grief, but my aunts and cousins… well, let me put it this way, Have you ever heard of Italian wailers? And we aren’t even Italian!!! We all deal with things the way we feel is best for us. I am not a lovey dovey wedding type either… so it isn’t just funerals for me, it’s everything. OMGosh, I was freaked out when my first went to kindergarten and all the mommies were crying…ewwww what is that all about.

The way we deal with it is exactly what KCT said:
Go to the funeral and if anyone asks why you’re not crying or getting emotional, tell them you loved your aunt but you grieve in your own way in your own time. —KCT

That usually works just fine for us. Not many people have a rude comment to make when you say that.


first of all I am so sorry for your loss, but I am so glad your beloved aunt is no longer suffering from cancer. I pray that she’s in heaven and for the repose of her soul.

I also need to tell you that you have convinced me that you are a sensitive and caring person without having to get hysterical. Why? Because your primary concern is how best to react to and treat your family. That demonstrates to me that you are living your faith and I think it is wonderful.

You might consider saying, very softly and with a lot of reverence, “I am so grateful Aunt Wonderful is with the Lord now. I know I will miss her but I just cannot be anything but happy because of where I believe she is right now” as you hug the sobbing relative. If they or anyone has the poor manners to say something to you about your grieving you could calmly and sweetly repeat that, and then give them another hug.

The other alternative would be to just say, 'Yup, you’re right. I’m a cold-hearted woman. Wanna nother drink?" and then hand 'em a beer.

ok, so I just threw that part in…now I have to go to confession for being a smarty pants…my priest is going to get SO tired of hearing that one…:wink:


Honestly I think it’s kind of ridiculous that adults would not realize that not everyone greives in the same way. But it happens -a lot. I am a very private person when it comes to my emotions I have been this way as far back as I can remember. When I was 13 my sister died. I did not cry at the funeral. I cried in my room at night out of sight of everyone.

My mother kept telling people I really didn’t understand. I was 13 and knew perfectly well what death was but I think she was embarressed because I could sit and talk with my school friends that came to visit and not cry. And she resented me for it, I think she still does more than 20 years later.

She also resents my father for the same reason. He did cry when he came out in the hallway of the hospital to tell me she had died and it scared me because I’d never seen my dad cry. By the time we went back into the room he had stopped so my mom never saw him cry over my sister’s death. And she equates that with meaning we loved her less than she did.

As outrageous as their accusations are about your lack of emotion I doubt it would do much good to defend yourself especially while they are raw with emotion. If anything I would try to discuss it at a time when the family was not greiving. With my mom it’s never made a difference so I stopped trying to explain myself.


There is never a single reason except a selfish one to grieve - the person is dead. They were going to die anyway. That said, human beings are all - to a degree - selfish, and so practically everyone grieves. It doesn’t really hurt anyone, although it is a waste of time.

But if they attack you because you are detached and sensible about the whole thing? Damn straight tell them to back off! They do not have the right to act like idiots simply because they are upset. That is not how it works.

Grief is not carte blanche to act however you like. Grief is an emotional reaction - not an excuse. Tell them you understand they are overwrought, but that rudeness and attacks are simply never acceptable.

And if they think you should grieve as they do, tell them that they are wrong to grieve as they do in your opinion, and they should stop :slight_smile: I find that works wonders.

I hate funerals - they are just such self-indulgent affairs for the most part. People weeping and wailing because the person is dead. Everyone knew he was going to die sometime . . . so why is everyone so upset? If they are a Christian, you’ll most likely see them again and they are far happier than you. If they are not, then - well, I suppose there might be a case made for being upset then :slight_smile:

If you don’t grieve obviously or with sobs and tears and can get on with your life, I admire you. Few of us can.


Thank you everyone.

I’m proud of myself now. I had to listen to my Mom berate me for over an hour over the phone because of all this. I just “took it like a man” and didn’t argue at all. I’ll get the rest of it tomorrow when I see the whole family. Tomorrow starts the week long wake. She doesn’t even get buried until Thursday, but it’ll be a week of “mourning.” Almost unbearable for someone like me who can’t stand a single funeral, let alone several wakes and “receptions” one after another.

Anyway, I guess I’ll just try to keep taking it all and not say much. It’s kinda hard for me cuz I tend to get real angry when I perceive that I’m being attacked (if you couldn’t tell from some of my posts!). Wish me luck. :cool:

Oh, and PS, Mother Ireland is like a real person!!! :irish2:


Please don’t accept the notion that you have to take abuse from your family - the very ones who are called to love each other the most. You as an adult can and should politely, gently, say “Mom (or whoever else) I love you, I respect you. I am not going to argue with you any more about this.” Then smoothly, serenely, walk away or hang up the phone.

As the youngest child of a large Irish/Scottish/SpanishFrench family, I had to learn to do this and it has made all the difference.

Will they like it? No. Will they kick it up a notch in an attempt to make you back down? Definitely, especially at first. But it’s impossible to argue with someone who refuses to either argue back or stand and take it. At best, they’ll realize their error and apologize. At worst, they’ll talk about you behind your back (and maybe hear from someone else what they refused or weren’t capable of hearing from you).

Pray for the Holy Spirit to guide you on what to say and how to say it. Pray for the Holy Spirit to be with them as well.


Could you not just “offer it up”? Just smile,agree and offer it up for the sins of the world.
Prayers for the soul of your aunt.
:slight_smile: Jennifer

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