The tenth season of TLC’s Counting On was filled with many high points thanks to a string of pregnancy announcements — but the season finale was filled with tears as the family said goodbye to Grandma Duggar following her unexpected death this June.
‘Grandma’ Mary Duggar, mother of 19 Kids and Counting patriarch Jim Bob Duggar, died on June 9 at the age of 78.
And on tonight’s episode of the show, Jim Bob, Michelle, their 19 children, and their oldest children’s spouses weep at a family viewing, a funeral, and a burial for their lost loved one.
Mary was found dead in June, having fallen and drowned in a family pool. She had suffered strokes a few months prior, and her family believes that she suffered another one before falling in.
Shortly after, several adult Duggar children shared Instagram posts about their grandma — which some critics found inappropriately upbeat, particularly due to excessive emoji use.
But while their social media activity seemed to indicate they were taking the death lightly, Counting On’s finale shows that wasn’t the case, with nearly every member of the family seen crying — and in some cases, wordlessly sobbing — over the loss.
‘I was really close with grandma, so it’s been really hard since we learned of her passing. We’re gonna miss her a lot,’ Jinger, 25, said while biting her lip as she held back tears.
Shortly after Mary’s death, 54-year-old Jim Bob’s wife Michelle, 53, and daughter Jinger visited the Heritage Funeral Home to drop off an outfit for Mary and plan her ‘celebration of life’ ceremony.
Though Michelle is usually all cheery smiles — and is known for using a sweet, upbeat tone even when discussing things like daughter-in-law Lauren’s miscarriage — she showed a surprising amount of emotion when talking about losing Mary.
‘I have waves of emotions that just hit me when I least expect it. I think I go through days where I’ve really got it pulled together, and then other times I just can’t pull it together,’ she said.
At the funeral home, she broke down in tears, pausing to cry and wipe her eyes while Jinger comforts her.
‘I was very close with Grandma Duggar,’ she explained. ‘I probably talked to her and probably even saw her about every day.
Michelle’s own mother died at age 64 in 1991, before 15 of Michelle’s 19 kids were born — so it was Grandma Mary who became a mother figure from then on, at one point even moving in with Michelle, Jim Bob, and their kids for several years.
‘Mary stepped in and she was there for me,’ she said. ‘I miss her so much. She was such a part of my life every day just being there for us, just hearing her voice walking in the door… there’s a big hole in our life, our family. My heart aches because I miss her.’
At a special family viewing ahead of the funeral, nearly all of the Duggars can be seen at the funeral home in tears.
Sex pest Josh, 31, doesn’t appear on screen — after all, 19 Kids and Counting was cancelled in light of his sex scandals — but his wife Anna, 31, is shown crying along with their kids.
Joy Anna, 22, was there with her husband Austin, 24-year-old Joe sat with his wife 20-year-old Kendra, and next to them sat James Duggar and Kendra’s younger sister Lauren Caldwell.
The seating arrangement is an interesting one, as some Counting On viewers are speculating that Lauren, 19, and James, 18, will soon announce that they are courting.
The camera also pans to Jana, 29, Jessa, 27, Johannah, 14, Jedidiah, 20, Jeremiah, 20, Jason, 19, Justin, 17, 23-year-old Josiah and his wife 20-year-old wife Lauren, and youngest daughter Josie, 10, sitting with mom Michelle.
Several members of the family got up to speak, including Jim Bob, who said flatly that his mom ‘was a very special lady, and she impacted all of our lives.
Joy Anna — who told the room she’s ‘number nine’ — said she has a lot of good memories with her grandma.
‘She would always call daddy’s phone when a storm was coming and say, “Hey, there’s a tornado coming your way, you need to take cover.” Well, since Austin and I live in a camper, she would call me now and say, “Hey, you might want to come over to my house or go to the big house because there’s a storm coming.”
Jackson, 15, cried and held his face as he talked about missing her, and Joe didn’t manage to get any words out before he broke down.
After composing himself with the help of his wife Kendra, he talked about ‘what a woman of faith [Grandma] was. And she always encouraged me to love the Lord.’
In church for the funeral the next day, Jim Bob told a crowd that has gathered: ‘If anybody’s in heaven, it’s grandma. It’s a wonderful place, where there’s no pain and no suffering.’
In a talking head, Jim Bob reiterated this, saying; ‘I think overall our family’s doing pretty well. We truly believe that when a Christian dies that they go to heaven, which is a wonderful place. And we know it’s gonna be a long time before we see her.’
That conviction may explain why Jim Bob looked so composed speaking about his mother’s death, even while Michelle cried while speaking next to him.
After speeches, the Duggars walked up to the casket once last time and brought it to her grave, where Jinger’s husband Jeremy gave a speech before the burial.
Though sex pest Josh isn’t seen in any of the footage, Radar Online reported at the time that he played a ‘large role in the somber ceremony,’ speaking during the service as well as serving as a pallbearer.
Duggar-watchers have seen peeks of the funeral before: Several members of the family shared tributes to her on social media, while Jessa and Jill both wrote blog posts about it.
In fact, Jill was slammed for a post that was deemed ‘insensitive,’ ‘awkward,’ and ‘wildly inappropriate’ by followers, who decried her excessive use of emojis.
‘Yesterday was a very hard, yet beautiful day,’ she wrote. ‘The service was lovely and very honoring to my Grandma and the one she loved more than anyone or anything else, Jesus Christ! [flower emoji]
‘So many family members and friends came together and organized, supported and remembered the amazing woman she was! [flower emoji] And thanks to all y’all for the kind words and prayers too! [two flower emojis].
‘It started raining right before the graveside service and then there was a beautiful rainbow…”a sign of God’s faithfulness”, as Grandma would always say! [rainbow and umbrella emojis],’ she went on.
After thanking Laura and Lauren for taking some of the photos she shared, she concluded with heart and sun emojis: ‘We’ll see you in heaven, Grandma! I know you’re enjoying your time with Jesus before the rest of us arrive!’
Within hours of the images going up, well wishes from commenters mixed with criticism from those who found Jill’s post ‘tacky.’
‘Why would you put such an emotional and private moment online? Are there no boundaries in your family to what you share worldwide?’ asked one.
‘Tacky photo Jill!’ wrote another. ‘Bad taste to take photos at a funeral or burial.’
‘Sad you have posted such a private moment in your family’s lives,’ wrote a third.
A fourth added: ‘I’ll never understand why people post pictures of the gravesite and the casket. It should be a personal thing, not blasted on Facebook.’
Jill gor quite a lot of flack for her posts about her grandmother. While nearly all of her adult siblings shared tributes in the days after her death, many found Jill’s to be particularly tone-deaf and stunted.
‘My heart breaks [broken heart emoji],’ her first post began. ‘My grandma died suddenly today! She was an amazing woman of God and such a great example to so many! [flower emoji].
”I know she was ready to check outta here and get her new body in heaven before the old one started giving her too much trouble! [winking face emoji] We miss you so much!!’ she added, finishing off the post with a crying emoji and a broken heart emoji.
She also added the hashtags #maryduggar, #rip, #grandmaduggar, and #safeinthearmsofjesus.
‘The message strikes me as odd. It’s so sad to lose a grandparent, and I feel for her, but with the upbeat way it’s written + the emojis + exclamation points everywhere… it doesn’t come off as being super sad,’ wrote one Redditor.
‘Holy emoji! Is Jill seriously 28?! I feel like my 13 year old niece wrote this. And this feels so fake and like she’s trying to prove her love of her grandma,’ wrote another.
‘Emojis are the opposite of sincere,’ said a third, while a fourth added: ‘The winking face is especially disturbing given the context.’
Others called it an ‘extremely juvenile post,’ ‘awkward and stunted,’ ‘extremely insensitive,’ and ‘really gross,’ while calling out her ‘wildly inappropriate emoji use.’
In fact, even Jill’s cousin Amy had something to say about it, tweeting: ‘Sometimes it’s ok to use emojis and then there are other times when. You. Just. Don’t.’
But later that day, Jill posted yet again — this time a screenshot of her most recent blog post about her grandmother, encouraging followers to ‘click [the] link in my bio.’ She also shared the screengrab in her stories with a crying emoji.
For some, the post was just too much — including for a few fans who didn’t mind the emoji post.
‘You know, I wished your family the best on your last post but Jill, using your dead grandmother for money is just disgusting,’ one commenter said.
‘You are stopping to a new low with this “link in bio!” business. You should be spending time with your father and the rest of your family, I’m sure your grandmother wouldn’t appreciate you monetizing her death. You should be ashamed.’
‘Your grandmother hasn’t been dead 24 hours yet and all you can think about is getting people to swipe up to read your dumb blog?’ wrote one.
‘For f**** sake,’ added another. ‘Take some time to grieve your family’s loss, not try to boost traffic.
‘She’s had less than 24 hours to “process” her Grandma’s death and in that time she’s written a IG post and a blog post. Gotta get the blog engagement up, grieving and being with family should be her priority at the moment! I’m not even going to read it, I can guess what it’ll say,’ added a third.
‘The fact she posted this and promoted it was already tacky as hell but the “swipe up” and emojis are just downright disrespectful. Like she’s sharing a blog about a bad experience at a restaurant or something,’ added yet another.
‘And how could she get this blog post up so quickly? Did she start feverishly writing the horrible thing the moment her grandma took her last breath? Gotta get those views, I guess.’
SOURCE: Daily Mail, Carly Stern