Tamerlan Tsarnaev

Credit: Barcroft Media /Barcroft Media /Landov

Burial Controversy a Symptom of Grief

May 13, 2013

There’s no rest in peace for Tamerlan Tsarnaev, and for a lot of people that’s just as it should be. Many ask why should someone who did something so evil be granted the dignity of a burial? So all last week the accused bomber’s body was the topic. In limbo at the Worcester funeral home where it has been prepared in accordance with the Muslim religion. Protestors outside clamoring for the body to be thrown to the sharks, while political leaders insisting approval for the internment was not a government decision.

Tamerlan’s dead, but there’s no solace, no relief. Instead, we are holding on, literally and figuratively, to his earthly remains. So much has happened since the marathon bombing, but it’s still less than a month. Is it any wonder that we’ve barely had time to process, much less grieve?

Mayor Menino said that to bury Tamerlan in Boston was an insult to the bombing victims. It’s not the first time communities have had to deal with this potent mix of sadness and rage. In Colorado, when a local carpenter made 35 crosses as a memorial to the Columbine dead, the two he built for the killers were torn down. And nobody wanted Oklahoma bomber Timothy McVeigh to be buried either. He was cremated after his execution, and his lawyer disposed of the ashes in an undisclosed location.

I think the protests, the rejection by many communities to provide burial space, represent our communal grieving process. We’re working through psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler Ross’ five stages of grief denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. We have worked past the first step of denial, but are deeply mired in the second step of anger.

I don’t really care where Tamerlan is buried. Maybe that’s because my faith tells me that he will have to meet a greater fate in the hereafter. The Muslim holy book is equally clear. “The evil doers,” says the Koran, "shall have none to help them.”


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