Social Question

Dutchess_III's avatar

When someone dies, why do some people act like they were much closer to them than they really were?

Asked by Dutchess_III (27629 points ) September 11th, 2012

I don’t get it. Also, a person can have been the biggest AH in life, but after he dies some people carry on like he was the greatest guy in the world. So witty, and funny, and smart, and charming…even if he was a slobbering, lazy drunk who beat on his wife and kids.

Why do people do that?

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24 Answers

Nullo's avatar

Death throws life into sharp relief, especially its fragility. Tends to downplay a lot.

Keep_on_running's avatar

Because it’s socially unacceptable to do otherwise. Apparently.

Judi's avatar

The answer to the first question I believe is because people are living out their regrets. In such a busy life, relationships are so neglected. They are living their wishes that they would have taken the time to connect better.
Regarding thensecond question, when someone dies, I think it’s sort of like a birth. They try to re live the high hopes and dreams their mother had as she held that vulnerable baby in her arms. There is a sliver of good in everyone, and if you are ever going to recognize it the memorial of their death is the time to do it.

janbb's avatar

I have always tried to remain honest in my assessment of the dead – including my own parents. I don’t believe in hagiography but I try not to disrespect the feelings of others who are mourning.

wundayatta's avatar

Most people are polite and won’t speak ill of the dead.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@Judi Wouldn’t it be better to find the sliver of good in someone while they’re alive?

@wundayatta I disagree with that. I don’t mean they should trash somebody, but for crying out loud…why act like that person was absolutely perfect when they weren’t? My mom and dad…they weren’t perfect. Mom hurt me a lot. My dad had no idea who I was after I was about 17. That hurt me.

@janbb AT the memorial, of course. But in conversations later, through the years, why not be honest?

janbb's avatar

@Dutchess_III Oh definitely, as I said.

wonderingwhy's avatar

Maybe they’re being genuine in their expression and just liked to complain about the person while alive. Possibly they’re just being polite and don’t want to offend, are afraid to burn bridges, or dredge up the past. Perhaps they’re just playing for sympathy. Over time, people tend to remember better things and pain seems to fade, selective memory maybe that has something to do with it. A combination of all the above. Lots of different motivations I suppose. I’ve never really understood it either, save not wanting to beat a dead horse.

Mama_Cakes's avatar

I’ve never seen that happen.

I’m thinking, with some, it could be pity.

“He was crusty bastard, but, looking back, he had a rough go at life, hence, Mr. Misery”..

Judi's avatar

@Dutchess_III! Yes it would, but then we go back to regrets for wasted moments.

wundayatta's avatar

@Dutchess_III In private conversations after the memorial, I can see talking truthfully about your feelings—to some degree. But at the memorial, no way. You’ll be making just about everyone uncomfortable, and they’ll wish you would stop. Maybe a few will be happy you are speaking the truthy, but many will not. But hey! That’s up to you. If you want to deal with the shit you get for it, go right ahead. Just please don’t come to my funeral. Or, on second thought, why not? I won’t be there. I don’t care. Go ahead and say what you want. Call it the truth, too, for all I care.

But the funeral is not for the deceased. It is for those who are still alive. And not all of them want the truth. So it’s a tricky thing.

I’ve gone through a lot with my parents, too. They hurt me. They don’t really have a clue who I am. But my feeling is that it is my job to deal with it. I would not want to dump it on everyone else at a funeral. I need to come to peace with them and forgive them, and I think I have. They don’t even know, but that doesn’t matter. This is about me, not them.

The funeral is not about me. It is not about them. It is about sharing our grief and dealing with grief and sadness. If you don’t feel any grief and sadness, then don’t go unless you feel a social obligation. If you do feel a social obligation, then don’t make it difficult for others to cope with their grief and sadness. It’s not about you. It’s not about truth.

gailcalled's avatar

I have always liked the fact that my greater family has been able to present a view that shows the complexity of the dead. We have laughed and cried and nodded our heads in agreement. That had never dishonored or disavowed the piercing and aching sadness.

Contrarily, it has made grieving easier and has been much more comforting.

The soupy panegyrics I have found to be unhelpful and disrespectful.

@janbb says; I have always tried to remain honest in my assessment of the dead – including my own parents. I don’t believe in hagiography but I try not to disrespect the feelings of others who are mourning.

That encapsulates my feelings.

Trillian's avatar

Because for some people, I have seen on at least two occasions, the death of a person is nothing more than an episode in their own dramatic movie, in which they had the starring role. One time the young man took his own life with his service revolver, and the other was a car accident involving very high speed.
Both times I found the dramatic carrying-ons to be reprehensible, both times the drama people were nothing more than peripheral females who just capitalized on the chance to have a dramatic episode involving tears, loud voices and and tissues while accepting “comfort” from hush-voiced dupes.
I was nothing but relieved when my father’s father died when I was about 11 or 12. I never said anything negative, but I also didn’t pretend to be sad.

laurenkem's avatar

This has always been a pet peeve of mine – insisting on glorifying the deceased as if they were a wonderful, good, kind, loving person, when in reality they were a mean-spirited, nasty son of a bitch who no one liked.

I refuse to do that – if I didn’t like ‘em when they were alive, I sure am not gonna like ‘em more when they’re dead.

rojo's avatar

I have found it best to follow the advice of Thumpers mother:
“If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”
This advice has served me well and not only at funerals.

lookingglassx3's avatar

In my personal opinion, it may be guilt. My grandad died recently and my uncle lived right opposite him. Despite this, my cousin, who is fifteen years old, thinks she’s God’s gift and lives life like she’s on a catwalk, never once went across to visit my grandma and grandad, except when she needed to use my grandad’s computer to access Facebook. When he died, she took the week off school (which is understandable) and Google’d a poem which she read at his funeral, about how loving and close she was with him. She finished it with, “From your granddaughters,” and wrote her own name and her sister’s, acting almost as if I wasn’t his granddaughter at all.

My mum told me about one man who spoke quite badly about his own father at his funeral. I guess people make them sound amazing because they’ve been cursed with the thing everyone dreads – death, so I think maybe people sympathise with them because of that, and also they’ll want to be careful as it may cause offence to the dead person’s family or friends who are grieving.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Don’t get me wrong…I’m not suggesting that anyone say anything negative at a funeral or memorial! That would just be horrible.

I agree with @Trillian I have seen on at least two occasions, the death of a person is nothing more than an episode in their own dramatic movie, in which they had the starring role. Some people will do anything to be the center of attention.

Shippy's avatar

Either way it is of no benefit they are dead.

Dutchess_III's avatar

For the drama queen, they could care less who it doesn’t benefit!

Paradox25's avatar

They say that you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone, and that likely holds true for this question too. Extreme situations do have a tendency to change the way that we think at the moment.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I guess I’m thinking of someone who barely knew a person, and that person died, and then that someone acts like it was their best friend in the whoooole world.

Cruiser's avatar

Some people may have known him before he became a drunk angry man and choose to embrace that memory is all.

yankeetooter's avatar

I don’t know about the second part to your question…but you never know how much the deceased may have meant to that person, what role they played on their life…

Sunny2's avatar

I don’t know the answer to your questions, but I know I’ve come away from a funeral for someone for whom I had little regard with a feeling of gratitude that not everyone felt as I did. I was glad she was more special for other people and I could give her credit for that.

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