Go Ahead: Speak Ill of the Dead

I’ve often thought that it can be very wrong when people are made into saints after they die. I’ve sat at a few funerals and actually wondered if I was in the right place because I sure didn’t recognize whomever they were eulogizing….must have been someone else because the person I knew wasn’t like that at all, not on their best day…not on any day.

They ran roughshod over everyone, did lots of damage, and often inflicted more pain on their families than anyone should ever deal with, and one day, they up and die and depart for destinations unknown…..the presence of heaven or hell is the topic of another blog but I’ve been of the opinion that conscious infliction of pain on others does not result in a Fast Pass to the gates of paradise.

But then, after the fact, it seems that no one will call them on it.

I sit with folks who look like a lightning bolt will come down and smote them for saying anything bad about someone who has died, like somehow the perpetrator is perched next to God (I kind of doubt it, actually) and creating some kind of record of what mean things are said about them when they are no longer here to defend themselves.  “Speaking ill of the dead” seems to be some kind of taboo, and I hear all manner of people, particularly those who have the most to say about the crap they endured, looking hesitant to say anything direct about it at all.

(I do point out, dear readers, that the bereaved has spent many hours in many sessions talking about the abuse in the past, but suddenly, after it’s all over, they don’t want to say anything bad at all.  Kind of interesting.)

I’m here to say, out loud, a few simple things.

It’s okay to be glad or relieved that someone is gone.

Sometimes, they really needed to leave and take their bad selves somewhere else.

But most of us have a hard time actually saying that.

Often those who did the most damage didn’t care too much about what they were doing or saying when they were alive so it seems even more important to clear the decks and speak the truth after the fact. (See previous blog “The Language of Wrong”).  The main reason for this is that we often keep bad trends going and inflict them on if we don’t deal with them and pledge to stop the madness from being passed on to other defenseless generations.

I know. ….

It sucks having to clean up after someone else’s bad behavior but it’s really important to give it the time and space to recognize the wrongs and not just let it go. The problem with this tactic is that, very often, their words come back and are re-uttered, doing even more damage the second time around because YOU KNOW BETTER!  You  KNOW how it feels.  You’ve been there, done that, and suffered.

Please…….give yourself the gift of honesty and talk about it.  Say what needs to be said, to someone who can hear it, understand it, and help you with it.   You deserve to grieve and speak the truths, no matter how ugly or painful they may be.  Maybe it’s for the dad or mother you didn’t get but that you needed.  Perhaps it’s for the molester who stole your innocence, or the spouse who never saw you for who you really are and betrayed you.  Grieve for the loss of what should have been and for what can never be.

Speak ill of the dead so you can leave them there and not take them with you into your own incredible life.


The Language of Wrong

I’ve been hearing a lot of what my mother would call “crass language” around lately.  I find myself using it as well and I’m not happy with it overall.  It feels like I’m becoming more unprofessional or somehow less than myself when I use words like “crappy”.  I am not really happy with this deterioration of my vocabulary.

But I am reminded of a dear client from many years ago who was dealing with the reality of her philandering husband running off with a much younger woman and abandoning the marriage, children and grandchildren, all so his 70 year old self could feel young again. The disgrace of it all was profound.  She had honored the marriage, forgiven the indiscretions (of which there were many) and continued to pray for grace, tolerance and transcendence.

Finally it was too much indignity and disrespect and she suddenly called him a fucking asshole in the middle of a sentence, punctuated by hurt and rage and the injustice of 40 years of dedication being discarded for vanity and ego.

She slapped her hand over her mouth and said “I am so sorry, I can’t believe I said that.”

I was shocked but not as shocked as she was!

But what was abundantly clear to me at that moment in time was that she expressed herself in words she didn’t use….ever!

It was, quite simply,  the language of wrong.

There were no other words powerful enough to describe the depth and breadth of disappointment, betrayal and broken heartedness.

But she uttered them and she felt some relief, some cathartic release of all she had kept inside for all the years when he danced around their vows and flaunted them, telling her she was crazy for her suspicions, wrong in her accusations and ridiculous in her refusal to let him off the hook when he denied it all and yet, she knew better. She had kept up appearances, raised the children, kept the home, and done her duty….for what?  To be discarded for a younger, sexier version.

She called him what he was, perhaps for the first time in such  blunt and decisive way.

She was briefly mortified but I just leaned forward and said “It’s the language of wrong.  Use the words that fit the situation.”

She thought about it and then said, “It is.  It is so wrong.  I cannot describe him any differently.”

Amen, sister.

And in the words of the biblical psalmists, when they finished writing their psalms for the Glory of God, I say “Selah” which means to “pause and think about it.”