What is your family's tradition for mourning the dead?

Going into the dark times of the year, I wonder at the different ways cultures think about their departed. And I thought that because families are streams that flow between cultures, combining and turning off, a particular family’s tradition might be more than I could find from reading about cultural trappings.

So, how is mourning the dead practiced in your family, if at all? :ghost:

Growing up my family didn’t practice religion. They certainly got some ideas about Christianity, but not from a church.

This is one of the few attributes I enjoy about my childhood, because I personally got to go to many churches and services for a variety of religions (mostly monotheistic, given the location in Alabama and Virginia), which continued as I grew older: I was given the option to see religion through a non-religious lens.

For how difficult and painful my childhood was, there were few deaths. When my sibling died I was near the end of my 20s, and my parent asked me what I believed, on matters of dying and afterlives. I said something along the lines of: I don’t think we have access to an “other side” if it exists, so I just try to do alright by folks still with us.

And that’s basically what I still think. I mean, I was talking to someone whose child had just died, and I wanted to be comforting while authentic. The question of an “after life” doesn’t really concern me. I suppose when I was younger, I was afraid, but time has granted me wisdom, or just made me jaded, and it seems like one of those faux-logic traps very smart mammals fall in, where we can imagine a scenario that doesn’t exist, and explore it, learn from it, fear it, but ultimately overcome it. Very clever, us.

The discussion I had with my parent about my sibling would be one of the last I had with them. A day or so later we had a falling out, and I didn’t speak to them again until this year, just before their own passing. My mom died.

When I spoke to em the last time I was so scared, because in my mind I had this balance act: comfort a troubled soul at the cost of myself, or assert myself and potentially hurt someone as a final act.

Maybe this makes sense to some of you. It only kinda does to me. But it was okay for me. We met in the middle, as two people with a shared, hurt past. And my mom apologized to me.

I can’t be sure, but I don’t think my mom was scared. I think my mom was tired, and if you had met Janet, you’d understand that.

We discussed my sibling, Wesley. It was eerily similar to the prior conversation, but Janet didn’t sound unsure, or curious. Janet shared e was going to see Wesley soon. And I believe that.

So, there’s that. Clover sometimes asks me questions about mortality, and we explore what folks believe, and what we know. Clover never seems particularly upset by any of it. I don’t feel compelled to explain it any differently. I guess… that’s what my branch of the family brings to the party.



We set up an altar in our living room with pictures of departed family in frames, with bowls of stacked fruit that keeps for a long time (oranges from costco), and a bowl of rice grains that you stick incense into. We gather our family together, light the incense, and all bow at the same time, three times, to honor our ancestors. The bowls of fruit are our offerings to our ancestors. We don’t want them to be ashamed in the afterlife, so we make sure to put lots of fruit and candies, so they’re not jealous when they see other dead peoples’ families’ offerings lol.

Sometimes, usually at/after twilight, we make a small fire in the backyard, and get fake money from a chinese grocery store, and burn it a bit at a time and watch the smoke go up. This is to give our ancestors lots of money to spend so they’re comfortable in the afterlife. The smoke carries the bills up to them. Once I read the english on the fake bills and it said “HELL MONEY” lol. Lots gets lost in translation.

I wonder if letters could be sent to my grandparents this way, but I haven’t tried. I think even if I wrote them in English, they’d understand (they wouldn’t have in real life since they don’t speak English).

We also are at least partly Catholic, so we also brought the same picture frames to an altar of Mary and said rosaries for our departed ones. My mom wrote the names of all her deceased family on a little scrap of paper and put it in a frame with a picture of her parents. She included the names of three of her own siblings who died in childhood, before she was born. It was in a time of war. Anyway, I’ve said rosaries for these babies before. A long time ago.

We just hold the cognitive dissonance of “altars” to our ancestors vs. thou shalt not worship false idols. Shrug lol.


I thought about this a lot growing up I think. Every night my mom made me say prayers it would be “now I lay me down to sleep…if I die before I wake…” and I was also to pray for those who died. I always felt it a creepy thing to recite atop my normal child like reactions of generally afraid of being alone in my bed, going to sleep and having bad dreams. When I discovered my grandfather (who was living with us at the time) had died in his sleep it freaked me out.

Many family members (I had a large extended family) died and we had funerals and being young I heard a lot about those who had passed before I was born.

As a Catholic school student we attended funerals for those in the community but it was not discussed. I think we were to learn from the ritual but as most things we didn’t talk about it.

When I learned about purgatory from a particularly Catholic friend I felt panic stricken. There were so many rules and beliefs about it and I internalized it the worst possible outcome. I did not believe my relations were in hell but what if I didn’t pray for them enough to be released from purgatory. Whoa guilt, you are heavy.

When my brother passed away I raged. My entire family attended a rosary for him and I stood in the vestibule and cried for an hour. Who is this God who allows a man to have schizophrenia and cancer in one short life? Who is this creul God who did recognize my brother prayed more than human I know and lets him die? We had the funeral the next day and I went through the motions as a person who is clear in the belief that all of this nonsense is for the people left behind and its not all that comforting. Catholic mass and funerals are not comforting to me anyways.

Afterwards people get together and have a reception and in my family we drink. We express our feelings and we share their memory. It is awkward at first but we move forward.

When one of my parents passes away I am afraid it will feel like a brand new pain I have not experienced but they are old and it is expected. They lived long lives. Now I do not worry about heaven and hell and purgatory and rosaries. I worry instead that there is nothing.

With Jason I had to do something so I made a photo book. It was not enough. I still miss him every day. I talk about him to Emma like he is part of our family. I talk to maiki and we say he would have liked this show or I wish he knew Emma now. There is just a hole. Maybe I will learn from Talk group how to deal with death in a better way. Thank you if you read this far.


I was raised at half-power baptist. Sermons had a good amount of emotion, but also fair amount of analysis. The church I grew up in was, looking back, a huge outlier of goodness. All the families there helped each other out a fair amount, tried to help the community, etc. They were all genuine, there was no surface level goodness. People there were trying to be better people, to practice living like Christ in the bible lived. I realized around my mid 20s how very rare that was.

That information is important, because it strongly shaped my beliefs. I started questioning those beliefs in my early 20s, then oscillated back towards agnosticism at a minimum after getting into lower level Physics and Chemistry classes. (I should write about that sometime).

My family was a young family, and I wasn’t exposed to too much loss for much of my life. I did lose my great grandfather and great grandmother, both very kind loving people when I was younger. I missed them, but also understood they were both older, had lived full lives. And of course, I would see them in heaven when I died. (my beliefs at the time.)

My Grandmom passing away in 2014 was my first rougher loss. She was at most times a little difficult to love, but in her way I knew that she did love me. She fell, and her health rapidly took a turn for the worse. I called her at the hospital and had a slightly similar conundrum that you mention, @maiki. We ended up just talking about some times we had spent together. There had been a couple random times in the past that I took her out to lunch, and I didn’t realize until that call, how important that was to her. If I had understood that more at the time I would have made more of an effort.

Jason’s passing was the first loss I experienced that absolutely gutted me. I counted him a good friend, though after he moved away we didn’t talk very much. The month previous, I had picked up a book on the stoic philosophy, and was reading it through, writing questions I wanted to talk to Jason about. I had this plan of setting up a call where we could catch up and talk philosophy like we used to, on our walks to Monterey Market. I also had what I can only describe as a premonition on the night before his passing, though I was unaware of the significance of it. (I have since always acted on those feelings, the sudden, out of the blue, strong desire to check on a friend.)

Last year I lost my father-in-law, my last grandmother and last grandfather all in the space of 1.5 months. It was really hard. I was with my grandmother moments before she passed. I was able to talk to her for hours about all the positive times and impact she had on me. We listened to Christmas music, and let me tell you, “Silent Night” has such an entirely different meaning to me now. What an incredible song.

With the losses I’ve experienced, and some of my experiences around death have shaped my beliefs. Around all the deaths that have affected me, there have been dreams and thoughts I can’t explain. Dreams I’ve had, premonitions, etc.

These are my beliefs around afterlife:

  • There is definitely something after death
  • I think the soul, the spirit lives on. Maybe some sort of Universe level Gaia?
  • The person isn’t absorbed into something fully, losing themselves. Identity is still there.
  • Our conscious mind can’t tap into that, but unconsciously or in dream state the veil is thinner.

In terms of how our family mourns… There is definitely crying, sadness that we won’t see that person again in our lives. Thinking about it, it’s the only time I cry now. We try to remember what they would want; they wouldn’t want us to be crippled with sadness but live our lives. We remember them with stories we share, seeing things we think they would have liked, etc. We know that we don’t know what happens after death, but it feels like we may see our loved ones after death.

@susan I would love to talk with you about Jason if you ever want to.


I was raised nominally Free Methodist, which means I didn’t have an identity around religion anything stronger than “bein’ Christian”. Since my dad was my pastor, a lot of what I grew up thinking about the process of death is based on what he thought about it.

The most I can say about tradition is that my parents always emphasized the wake more than the funeral. To celebrate a person’s life more than mourn their death.

I went through a summer where that part of your brain that recognizes that life is a ticking clock really turns on for the first time. Fueled by Altered Carbon, Blindsight, Permutation City and Enemy of the Sun I spent a lot of long bus rides struggling with the fact that the lights just go out, and the story is done. That the only answer to “What happens after you die?” is “Lot’s, it just doesn’t involve you”. That even day-to-day, conciousness isn’t something continuous or vital to life.

I kind of entertain some sci-fi ideas about death I guess. I’d like to believe in a weak version of so-called “quantum immortality”, where my conciousness stays on whatever branch of reality that keeps me alive the longest. That’s sometimes a comfort that at least I’ll only experience near misses until The Big One, but not really any kind of answer.

When you build a house out of lego, you have a house. When you put the legos back in the box you know where the legos went, but where did the house go?