On Funerals, Grief, and Sobriety

My youngest son and I had a great conversation over the weekend. We had just left a funeral and one of the songs played was “When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder.” That song was sung at my brother’s funeral. I still cannot hear it without breaking down.

My son asked, “Dad, is it bad that I don’t cry at stuff like that?”

You see, my daughter and I are the cry-ers of the family. The two of us are emotional and break down at things like sorrow and grief and Hallmark commercials. My wife and two sons are very compassionate, caring people; they just don’t cry a lot.

So we talked for several minutes about the gift of tears. When people are crying, it is good for others to come and cry with them. It lets them know people care and that crying is okay. It lets them know that they are not suffering alone.

Yet, even when the tears are coming, there are still questions to be answered. There are still things to be done. So when a compassionate person comes along who still has use of their voice, they can speak on behalf of the person who is unable to speak. And it does the same thing: It lets them know people care and that crying is okay. It lets them know that they are not suffering alone.

So the ability to cry and the ability to not cry are both gifts that are needed in times of grief.


One of the hardest lessons for me to learn in recovery was that it is okay to feel. I have always been a somewhat emotional person. But when I began drinking, I learned that I could hide most of the intense feelings if I just drank enough. And if I covered up enough of my feelings, I would appear even stronger to those around me.

My faulty thinking led me to believe that emotion was weak; stoicism was strong. But little in this life is that cut-and-dried.

When I began sobering up, emotions started rising up within me. They started coming to the surface and bubbling over and there was nothing I could do to stop them.

And although it took a while, I came to realize that all of that was okay! There was no need to stop the emotions from coming out. In fact, my sobriety in many ways relied on me allowing my emotion to no longer be bottled up. The more honest I was with how I was feeling (to myself and others), the more I healed.

Also, I learned that not everyone responds to every stimulus the same way I do. Some people process emotion privately and quickly and that is healthy. Others wear their hearts on their sleeves. Some talk through them, some spend time in silence. Some cry, others feel compassion in other ways.

In other words, there was no single solution to the question of dealing with emotion. The important thing was to learn to actually deal with it.

I cry. You may or may not. I like to think and process events mentally before talking through them with people. You may or may not.

But today, when I am healthy, I am acknowledging and dealing with all those things that come my way.


After our conversation ended, my son and I drove past the church building at the time a funeral for an 11 year old boy was taking place. This community had been praying for this young child as he bravely faced leukemia. Unfortunately, the battle was too much and he passed away a little over a week ago.

The parking lot at the church building was packed. Some funeral goers were parked in the shopping plaza across the street. Others parked on the grass surrounding the building. It was a large crowd.

I said, “Wow. Just seeing that makes me want to cry.”

My son’s response? “Actually, it makes me happy. I am glad that so many people showed up for him and his family.”

I might have cried a little bit more.

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