What do we do when someone we know or love dies? How are we supposed to feel and act? How do we respectfully honour the deceased and support the bereaved? Answers to these questions are usually dictated by culture and religion. Death-related beliefs and practices are part of every culture, but how we deal with death is diverse. Although post-death events typically involve honouring the dead and supporting the bereaved (i.e., an individual, a family, or a community), these events can take a variety of forms (e.g., funerals, wakes, celebrations of life, etc.). Some are celebratory in nature, some are highly emotive, while others are solemn and reserved. This chapter provides an overview of some cultural and religious death-related rituals, ceremonies, and practices.
After completing the chapter materials, you should have an understanding of:
- Cultural rituals and ceremonies, and the role they play in death, grief, and mourning.
- The death-related practice of professional mourning.
- Cross-cultural and religious variations in funeral and death-related rituals, ceremonies, and practices.
Questions to Think About When Completing Chapter Materials
- What death-related tradition(s) do you have in your family? What would happen if someone in your family chose not to follow the practices dictated by your culture and/or religion?
- Which death-related practice(s) do you find most interesting? What makes them interesting?
- What is role of death rituals and ceremonies for the bereaved and the community?
- What are some similarities among the funeral rites and rituals of different cultures and/or and religions?