Acknowledgment of the importance of the person who died, the importance of his or her death, and the irrevocable change that has taken place are necessary for mourning to proceed. Acting as though we are unaffected, or believing we should not be affected, by the death of someone important to us inhibits the process of purging of our pain, adjusting to the significant change, redefining ourself without the person who died, and making the necessary adjustments for living without him or her.
Traditional religious and cultural mourning rituals have served the function of acknowledging the significance of death and validating the the grief response. Sharing a religious or cultural mind set, and having prescribed mourning rituals, relieves the bereaved and the community of the task of demonstrating the importance of the deceased. There is no need to justify the pain of grief. A community mourning together helps soothe the pain while at the same time confronting the issues of powerlessness, helplessness, mortality, and finality in the face of death.
Powerless in relation to the finality of death, helpless in relation to the loss, and fearful from the confrontation with mortality, people realized that honoring the importance and meaningfulness of the deceased and the life we lived with them eased the grief. Validating the grief response by publicly shared mourning helps the bereaved stay connected to family and community in a meaningful way. Sadly, many traditional mourning rituals have become hollow exercises in modern society. For many, despite the original intent, the rituals offer little solace or reconnection to community.
Activities that acknowledge the importance and meaningfulness of the deceased facilitate the grief process. These essential mourning activities help us purge the pain, incorporate this profound human experience into an ongoing, expanding redefinition of self, and make the necessary adjustments to life without the one who died.
Finding ways to acknowledge the importance of the deceased and his/her death, and to validate your grief response can be a burden during a time of bereavement. Alternately, it can also be an opportunity for creative mourning activities and rituals that truly honor the individual who has died, your unique relationship with her or him, and the specific meaning to you of the life shared and now lost.
I recommend that you utilize and share personal or traditional rituals and activities to acknowledge the importance of your connection to others, the severing of these connections, the experience of loss, and the validity of grief.
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