Brasilmagic\’s Weblog

Venting to the World

Funerals in Brazil vs. the US

There is a difference between the way funerals are held in Brazil and in the United States. In Brazil, funerals are very, very sad events.  Brazilians are a lot more drama filled, and funerals are an example of that. It is common to see the family members of the deceased crying and weeping near the casket. They are usually held in church quarters before the burial. Burials happen no longer than 2 days after someone’s death, most often the very next day (one reason is the hot weather). People come, pay their respects to the dead person, say their condolescences to the widow, widower or children of the deceased, chit chat a little, pray and leave.  Everybody speaks in hushed voices.  Everybody makes a very sad face.  There is no food or drinks. It is a not a social event but an obligation towards the family of someone you knew.

American funerals are different.  There is a sense of sadness and loss in the air, but people socialize and talk normally. There is more of a sense of celebration of the dead person’s life through shared memories rather than a sense of tragedy.  There is food and networking . I wouldn’t call it a party, but it certainly seems like a social event. 

One particular experience was very interesting for me: I once attended the funeral of a man who had lost his 20-something son. This young man had killed himself because of a break up with his girlfriend. Anyone can imagine that losing your child through suicide must be even harder to accept, since it is self inflicted.

I arrived with my partner and we saw lots of people mingling.  Several servers were walking around with plates of good appetizers.  Some people were talking animatedly and even laughing.  The most shocking for me was to see the father of the deceased young man talking calmly and even smiling, as if he were in a cocktail party. I asked myself: is he on Prozac? Xanax?  A lot of it? I am sure this is not usual, and I believe that every family and every funeral experience in America must be different.

Anyway, as my first funeral in America, I was a bit shocked.  I wouldn’t say which behavior is better or worse. I must say that the American funerals may be easier to bear, because we do need to accept death as part of life, and we must let go gracefully.

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May 18, 2010 - Posted by | Difference between cultures, Society

2 Comments »

  1. Though this type of behaviour can frequently be observed, it sure is not normal, but what is normal in those circumstances? Obviously the untimely and unexpected death is a huge emotional trauma. My suspicion is that the family were going through the rituals of the funeral in a the expectation of social context. Apart from that, this man is obviously in shock and that the emotional outpouring of the grief is being held at bay with his masked laughter, it is but a defence mechanism to hiude his true anger, hurt, disapointment and possible shame. There is of course also the possible rejection and abandonment in a religious context….. so what else – out up a show andhopw it goes well … until we get behind closed doors an grieve and mourne in private.

    Comment by Jim | October 30, 2010 | Reply

  2. Well, my experience in NM was at first a bit traumatizing to me. Over here, those gatherings after the funeral are really a party, with a hired space, catering and everything else. In less than 1 year I had to go to 6 or 7 funerals, including my father-in-law while I was pregnant. It all seems too weird for me: the bodies stay for days in funeral homes, lots of masses, a jokes session remembering the dead, my husband family more interested in what they were going to dress and preparing speeches, then we go to the cemetery, there is another long prayer (if the person was on the military there is even a military ceremony), the coffin is placed in the grave, and then all leave. Covering the grave is not seeing, only after all left the site. I don’t like it. It is still too weird for me.

    Comment by Vicky | April 17, 2011 | Reply


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