The Month’s Mind

A Month’s Mind is a tradition held after a period of about four weeks when someone has died. It consists of a mass,  a visit to the graveside of the deceased and afterwards family and close friends go for a meal.  It is usually another milestone for the bereaved and can often be as heartbreaking as the funeral itself.   In the past when I heard of someone’s Months Mind I used think how fast the time has gone. Now,  however,  it feels like a year has passed since Mam died and yet strangely in an instant I may still forget that she is gone.   This weekend our family will gather once more to celebrate and remember our dear mother.

This past week was busy, therefore, helping my Father get the house ready for visitors and the usual chores that needed to be done.   I did find some time for myself and had a reflexology treatment in my local Cancer Support Centre.  I can’t remember when I last had one or when I attended the Centre as I feel that they are so busy with new cases all the time.  My reflexologist is lovely, she is trained in counselling and after having a chat for awhile, she works on the areas where I need it most.   The nurse in the centre also sat with me afterwards and I came away feeling peaceful and relaxed…  This feeling lasted a day or two and I haven’t had any huge teary sessions yet.    I am not looking forward to Sunday but it is another rite of passage for our family and we will do it together.

I have visited Mam’s grave a good few times, just to keep it tidy and clear  away any dead flowers but I feel nothing there.  Just emptiness and a sense of loneliness..  Death awaits all of us.

Everywhere I look Christmas is all around us.   Decorations are being put up in various houses and the kids are eager for us to put up ours.   You have probably guessed how I am feeling about it all but I can’t be all doom and gloom, my mother would not expect that, especially for her adored grandchildren.  So today we baked our cake finally and glorious smells of Christmas emanating through the house offered us some small reprieve.

3 thoughts on “The Month’s Mind”

  1. Catherine, my condolences to you on the death of your mother. I’m not Irish (I’m Canadian) but I come from a big family descended from Ukrainian immigrants who also share a similar tradition in bereavement. We call it “The 40 Days”. When I was little, I used to think this was a really bizarre thing to do: gather once again with family and friends for a meal about 40 days after a death (often in the Ukrainian church hall, with food prepared by the women of the parish). There would be toasts and speeches and stories about the person who had died 40 days earlier. We believed that until that 40 Day “farewell party”, the soul and spirit of the deceased was still right alongside us – in the house, in the car, in the garden, everywhere.

    But after my Dad’s sudden death (at age 62), I saw how truly helpful this tradition actually could be. For a brief and intense time immediately after most family deaths, there are typically visits and cards and flowers and casseroles arriving as word spreads about the death to friends and neighbours, but very soon after the funeral, those cards and flowers and visits slow down as other people’s lives go back to “normal”, and the bereaved are gradually left alone to grieve.

    In our family’s case, my mum was grief stricken by my Dad’s death – except for one thing: she felt comforted knowing that her friends and family were all busily organizing this Forty Day dinner. She didn’t have to lift a finger to participate – she knew that the event would be meticulously planned and everything would be lovely. And it was. The dinner felt much different than my Dad’s funeral had been five weeks earlier, when we were all so shocked and stunned by his unexpected death. But forty days later, being together again with those who loved him, crying and laughing at wonderful stories about him was a healing experience for my Mum and all of their children. It was also a supportive practice for the friends and family to remain connected to the bereaved person long after that dinner.

    I wish all cultures had some version of useful traditions like your “Month’s Mind”.


    1. Thank you so much for sharing your tradition “The Forty Days”, Carolyn. You describe it so beautifully! It seems very similar to ours here in Ireland. All of us have commented on how we feel our mother’s presence by our sides constantly which is very comforting. Hopefully that will remain. Mam’s Month’s Mind was yesterday and we too laughed and cried at various stories told some remembered, some forgotten.
      It would certainly be interesting to hear of any other traditions other cultures honour when bereaved if anyone else would like to share their story…


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