The Power & Potential of Funeral Rituals (That You Never Realized)

The funeral service industry has long relied on traditions. Traditions that often stemmed from, or were created within the realms of religion.

However, with religious identification on a downward slope, is an opportunity to create a richness and meaning to death, that may not involve religious traditions. 

But how? Through the power of ritual.

Before I get into why ritual is powerful, let’s first start with the basics…

 

What is ritual?

Ritual can be defined as “a repeated pattern of behavior performed at specified times”, and it often includes the use of symbols, rites and actions. 

Rituals have historically been cultural and religious, much like traditions, however there has been a large increase in personal rituals over the years.

An example of a cultural ritual is Dia De Los Muertos.

An example of a religious ritual is performing the Last Rites on a dying person.

An example of a personal ritual is visiting a lost loved one or pet at a cemetery on certain days of the year.

Now that we’ve defined ritual and given some distinctions between the different kinds of rituals, let’s move into why they’re important.

 

Why funeral ritual is important 

  • They bring people together.

According to Tracey Wallace from Eterneva, “Mourning rituals and ceremonies are meant to bring people together, to take the hands of those mourning the loss and lead them astray from isolation”. 

  • They help us become more emotionally resilient.

In a grief study done by Harvard, researchers found that those who have shown little to no grief symptoms within 1 month of a loss all had one thing in common: they performed rituals to remember, grieve, celebrate and process the loss.

  • They help us to feel more in “control” of our lives

In the same study mentioned above, subjects who either performed a ritual or wrote about creating a ritual felt that “‘things were in check’ and less likely to feel ‘helpless’, ‘powerless’, and ‘out of control’.” 

  • They create a sense of familiarity in a world without our loved ones

One of the key aspects of rituals is a shared sense of meaning and familiarity. The Conversation put it best when they said, “Using familiar words and actions in an unfamiliar situation can help us find our way through it”. 

  • They allow us space to process our emotions and thoughts

In the aforementioned Harvard Study, researchers realized that it was personal ritual that helped grievers the most through their grief journey. Although most of the personal rituals described seemed completely meaningless to the researchers, it was little acts the grieving did, such as washing a car on the same day every week, which helped them emotionally process. Through performing these rituals, grievers felt more sad at the time. But after the ritual, they felt relieved and lighter emotionally.

 

Some funeral ritual ideas to offer your client families

Whether you decide to do these rituals with your families, or simply share them, we hope these ideas will help bring more healing into the hearts of those who have faced a loss:

Create a memory box with families

Facilitate an experience where your client families gather photos, mementos, clothing items, some of the loved one’s favorite items into a box. You can use Life Tributes printing software to include poems and quotes that remind the family of the loved one. Keep the box in a special, accessible place so families can visit it certain times of the year.

 

Plant a tree or flower garden

If there is space to do so, create a space where the family can plant a tree or flower garden in honor of the loved one. Everytime they water it, they can spend some time remembering the loved one, and stay connected to them. 

 

Host a gathering at the loved one’s favorite place

Whether it’s their place of work, favorite park, or dream destination they always wanted to visit, by creating a gathering at these places we can connect to our lost loved one’s passions and favorite hobbies, creating familiarity in a time of emotional chaos.

 

Encourage families to carry on the loved one’s favorite rituals

One of the most healing ways for me to grieve my grandfather was to carry on his tradition of ordering take out from Long John Silvers (anyone remember this chain?) every Friday and watch the show Family Matters. I still to this day, 13 years later, get takeout or go out to eat to treat myself and remember my grandfather.

 

Share memories 

Using the loved one’s social memorial website, families can share a memory or a post of remembrance about the loved one on special days of the year. This gives them space to talk about the loved one and publicly heal their grief.

 

Give meditation a try

One easy service to offer families is guided grief meditations. You can create them on Youtube, or even Insight Timer. If you don’t feel comfortable recording a meditation, find a local meditation or yoga teacher who can. Meditation is a good practice to do for the first weeks following a death. It brings peace and helps the grieving remember that they’re supported in this journey following the loss.

 

Offer a grief journal for families

You can create a simple grief journal for families, or offer them journaling prompts to create a personal ritual in their journal (ideally following the meditation mentioned above) everyday for 30 days following the death. They can write a letter to the loved one, write about why they are grateful for them or just write about how they’re feeling that day in their grief journey. For inspiration, encourage families to subscribe to f1Connect’s 365 days of grief affirmations.

If you’d like to learn more rituals you can try with your families, check out these 9 Simple Mourning Rituals For The Modern Griever on our blog.

What kinds of rituals have you tried at your funeral home? Share them with us in the comments below!

 

Looking for the right tool to help your families create rituals for their loved ones in a unique way? Life Tributes software suite makes funeral personalization simple. Give it a try by clicking here to grab a free 30-day trial.

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