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  • Writer's pictureDawn Ford

We can do both - cry tears and smile because they lived.

I heard this poem read out as part of a funeral service; the first Covid funeral I have seen (webcast) and it was so unbelievably sad to see everyone having to sit 2metres apart - awful and surreal. Its human to want to touch, to want to comfort, to want to console and for the duration of that service these mourners weren't allowed to do that 'human' thing. Heartbreaking.

Whilst I listened to the poem it struck me that the words were portraying a choice - of one or the other; either crying and 'closing your mind' and being empty - what a terrible way to refer to crying and being sad (making sadness out to be such an awful emotion ) or you could smile and love. Grief just doesn't work like that.

And it occurred to me that -

If you change Or for AND at the beginning of each 2nd line and also on the 9th line change only for AND you realise that it doesn't have to be one or the other -it can be, and naturally will be, both. We shouldn't feel pressurised to feel happy and grateful all of the time. We shouldn't be (or feel) judged for being sad, for our grief. If we do then we deny our true emotions and this can have devastating effects later on.


He is gone – a poem by David Harkins

He is gone

You can shed tears that he is gone or AND you can smile because he has lived

You can close your eyes and pray that he will come back or AND you can open your eyes and see all that he has left

Your heart can be empty because you can’t see him or AND you can be full of the love that you shared

You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday or AND you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday

You can remember him and only AND that he is gone or AND you can cherish his memory and let it live on

You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back or AND you can do what he would want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on.


When a loved one dies we naturally feel devastated and sad; so we do cry tears, we do have an empty or heavy heart, we do wish we could turn the clock back. But there will be moments when we also smile, reflect upon cherished memories, and still feel the love we have for them and they had for us. We can do both.

Funerals bring family and friends of a loved one together. A place to mourn and to celebrate the person who is gone. We are also reminded of our own mortality.

Funerals are emotionally challenging events where sadness and gratitude, tears and smiles can often exist side by side. Human beings naturally possess a breadth of emotions; positive and negative ones - and a death of a loved one brings that fact 'home' more than any other life event.

Photo credit - Jeremy Wong

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