The importance of rituals in grieving

Throughout history and across different cultures, there is a wide variety of rituals connected with death and funerals. And, whatever our cultural upbringing here in the UK, there is a basic shared understanding of what a funeral entails here: coming together to mourn the deceased at the time of the committal of their body – and to offer support and sympathy to the bereaved.

During the coronavirus lockdown, however, restrictions on travel and social distancing mean that for many mourners, there is no opportunity to come together to offer sympathy or to be there at the committal and this is causing immeasurable heartbreak on top of the grief from the bereavement.

The lack of a traditional final farewell – whatever form that may take – makes it harder for grieving friends and family to feel a sense of closure.

So, what can be done to help?

Humanist funeral celebrants are helping non-religious families in the following ways:

They can also help with ideas for meaningful, non-religious rituals that can be enacted at home at the time of the committal for those unable to attend the funeral.

‘Rituals give purpose to action and always serve to connect us to something else, generally something greater than our own solitary selves.’ goodtherapy.org

Meaningful rituals

Carrying out rituals is a way of collectively remembering and honouring a loved one. Some examples of rituals and symbolic acts include:

  • Lighting and extinguishing a candle at the beginning and end of an online ceremony
  • Listening to their favourite music
  • Singing their favourite song
  • Reading their favourite poem
  • Planting a tree in their memory

Symbolic act of remembrance – planting a tree

Committal rituals can help the bereaved to say goodbye. When there isn’t a committal, symbolic gestures can be a substitute. As well as being a way of saying farewell, they can help mourners to feel connected to the person who has died, and express love, closeness or admiration. Your celebrant will be able to suggest a range of appropriate gestures for you to choose from.

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