Rituals to Help Us Through Grief

Rituals to Help Us Through Grief


By Mary Emma Allen

I once thought attending a funeral was hypocritical and that we should care for the person while alive rather than making a fuss after death. Then I encountered death in my family. When my father died, I realized how much the funeral and other rituals associated with death helped my mother, and me, get through this time. With later deaths in my family, the process of preparing for a funeral, meeting with family and friends, having something specific to do, helped me through those first few days of shock.

A funeral and the accompanying rituals, which may vary from family to family, culture to culture, serve in a number of ways.

Funerals and rituals

*Give us specific things to do rather than allow us to hide away.

*Mean that friends care for us and the deceased as they came to see us at home, the funeral home, and the church service.

*Give us an opportunity to reminisce about the deceased and even laugh.

*Provide a type of closure that we need, even when we donÂ’t always understand why.

When I saw my mother going through the tasks of selecting and inviting bearers for my fatherÂ’s funeral, meeting with friends who stopped by with food, deciding what suit my father would wear, I realized these were tasks initiated by sadness, but also tasks which brought comfort in this time of grief.

When another family member died, and my mother was unable to attend the funeral many miles across the country and be involved in the various rituals associated with a sudden loss, she never fully accepted that death. Even though she saw pictures of the casket and the grave, she apparently lived in a limbo world of hope that this childÂ’s death wasnÂ’t so.

Even though the rituals and traditions may be sad and associated with grief, they bring a measure of comfort which usually keeps one from falling apart at this time.

(c)2001 Mary Emma Allen

About the Author

Mary Emma Allen, book author and columnist, often writes about family matters for magazines and online publications. Her most recent book, "When We Become the Parent to Our Parents," chronicles her mother's journey through Alzheimer's. Visit her web site or email her at mailto:me.allen@juno.com

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