grief and death

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Grief & Loss

The Healing Process: Rituals and Ceremonies

Grieving is our own personal process of dealing with and healing our emotions from the loss in our lives of the person who has separated from us left us through death, divorce or abandonment. Rituals like funerals, memorial services, and divorce parties play a significant role in getting past the initial shock and disbelief of the loss with the support of friends, family and others who are significant in our lives.

Your cultural background and beliefs can affect how you understand and approach the grief process. Some cultures anticipate a "time to grieve" and have developed rituals to help people through the grieving process. Support from others can be a reminder that grief is a universal experience and that you are not alone. After a significant loss, some cultures have mourning rituals to mark the passage of time and help individuals reconnect with their ordinary lives.

A mourning ritual can occur during a meaningful time, like an anniversary, wake, or holiday, or at a distinct location, like a church, synagogue, or home. Catholic's may celebrate a anniversary Mass, the Jewish faith recite the Kaddish, and Hispanics honor the dead in El Dia de los Muertos.

Many ceremonies have spontaneously grown up around the Vietnam War Memorial, and a special mourning project, the AIDS quilt, traveled throughout the nation to enable mourners to participate in this expression of grief. Grief rituals and ceremonies acknowledge the pain of loss while also offering social support and a reaffirmation of life.

You may not be conscious of how your own cultural background affects your grief process. Talking with family, friends or clergy is one way to strengthen your awareness of possible cultural influences in your life. Friends and family may be able to help you generate ideas to create your own rituals. Some have found solace in creating their own unconventional ceremonies, such as a funeral or ceremony with personal friends in a private setting.