You Could Use a Mourning Routine
Modern capitalist culture has trained us to expedite or even skip grief and mourning, but it's essential for our collective mental health.
We've erased death, and now it's killing us.
There's thousands of articles out there on morning routines. They'll tell you when to wake up and what yoga poses to do. How many articles out there talk about mourning?
Not that many.
We used to know how to mourn. It was normal. We had mourning routines. They weren't just for people. You could mourn anything. You could mourn an idea or a way of life.
There was a process.
When someone died, they did it at home surrounded by their families. The dying put their last energy into final words. Their loved ones took care of them. After someone died, you stopped all the clocks in the house. You covered all the mirrors. You told elaborate death narratives. You often embellished them with supernatural details. You took a photo with them.
For months, you wore black.
Themes of death dominated art and literature. Leaders mourned their dead for years, even decades. They remembered them. They might even carry around a memento mori, like a dead relative's watch or their jewelry. Spiritual photography became popular. So did ghost stories.
We don't do that anymore.
Nobody watches death anymore. It happens in hospitals and nursing homes. We don't take care of our dying.
Overworked nurses do.
It's not an event.
Your boss and their boss don't like it when you take time off for funerals. It hurts profits and productivity. They need you back at work smiling, pronto. Everything in our culture treats grief like a burden. They portray it as something you have to work through as fast as possible.
Then you can be happy again. That's what they say. Here's what they really mean: You can get back to chasing happiness. You can get back to consuming it. That's what they want.
Sad people aren't profitable.
Medicating them is.
Prior generations knew better. You couldn't rush grief. It wasn't linear. It didn't follow neat, tidy stages. You had good days. You had bad days. Nobody expected you to slap on a grin and rush off to work.
You were allowed to feel sad.
You could brood.
People understood that you could feel happy and sad at the same time. They didn't try to quarantine their sadness.
They showed it.
Now almost everyone we know tries to quarantine sadness. They push negative emotions out of their minds and out of their culture. They go around telling each other to smile. They make up words to pathologize and shame sad people. They prescribe them pills and aphorisms.
If you go to a therapist now, there's a 50 percent chance they'll tell you to stop reading and thinking about sad things.
They promote ignorance as bliss.
Your friends don't want to talk about death. It doesn't matter if you're talking about a friend or the climate or your hopes and dreams. It's not entirely their fault. They don't know how to handle it.
They don't have the tools.
Nobody shows us how to mourn anymore. Nobody teaches us what it's supposed to look and feel like. Psychologists describe grief as a learning process. You're supposed to feel your sadness. Your brain is trying to figure out how to navigate a world where you don't have that person or thing in your life anymore. It's in distress.
It's rewiring itself.
We all have things to mourn now. Maybe you're morning a friend. Maybe you're morning a relative. Maybe you're morning a career. Maybe you're mourning something you used to enjoy doing. Maybe you're morning a place that's gone. Maybe you're mourning an old version of yourself.
Nobody's letting you.
Do it anyway.
Some of us figure out how to mourn despite the wider cultural insistence on gilded joy. It's okay to sit in a dark room for a little while, even in the middle of the day. It's okay to not be productive.
It's okay to sit still and feel sad.
It's okay to listen to sad music. It's okay to visit a graveyard or a cemetery, just because it's quiet and peaceful.
It's okay to cry.
Your tears release hormones and chemicals that help regulate your emotions. They contain antimicrobial compounds.
They literally fight germs.
You're supposed to feel sad. That's how your brain works through loss. It's how you solve problems. It's how your brain learns to adapt to new realities. If you don't feel sad, you don't learn.
You don't adjust.
You get stuck.
These days, we're surrounded by death and dying. We're surrounded by chaos. Everything is changing. We're losing more than we can even comprehend on a daily basis.
You can't slap a smile over that.
It's driving everyone crazy.
There's so much pressure now to act a certain way. It's coming from one direction, those in power. They want to steal our sadness. They don't find it profitable. They're denying us our basic rights. They're forcing us to truncate our grief or bypass it altogether, at the worst time. The end result: As a culture, we're not moving forward.
As a society, we're stuck.
Don't let them do it.
Make time in your day to mourn.
Give yourself the physical space to do it. Go to a place where you feel safe. If you don't have one, make it. Craft reminders of what you miss. Let yourself think about what you've lost and what you're losing.
Write it down.
Read about grief and mourning. Read about how other cultures do it and did it. Read about mourning and your brain. It's not that hard. There's articles out there, waiting to be read.
They're just not goopy ones.
You're not supposed to feel happy all the time. You're not supposed to forget what you've lost. You're supposed to remember it. Talk to an archaeologist or an anthropologist. They'll tell you, grief and mourning are the telltale signs you have a civilization. It's what makes us human.
Look around. People aren't happy. They're pretending. You can see the sadness behind their eyes, trying to get out.
Let it out.