Rituals are symbolic experiences that help us, together with our families and friends, express our deepest thoughts and feelings about life’s most important events. For example, birthday parties honor the passing of another year in life. Weddings publicly affirm the private love shared by two people.
Rituals Unite Us
Typically, public events, families, friends, church members, villages, even nations create and enact rituals. It’s a way of providing a support system for common beliefs and values.
Rituals Help Us Feel at Ease
Most rituals follow an established, specific procedure. The details will change, but the general pattern remains recognizable. The predictability of rituals helps participants feel at ease.
Rituals Help Us Express Our Feelings
The symbol of ritual provides a means to express our beliefs and feelings when language along will not do those beliefs and feeling justice. Wedding rings, christening gowns and gold watches all symbolize important life transitions and commitments. Not just the objects, but the very acts of ritual are symbolic as well.
Like all rituals, the funeral ritual is a public, traditional and symbolic means of expressing our beliefs, thoughts and feelings about the death of someone loved.
This article is a contribution of Dr. Alan Wolfelt, who has been recognized as one of North America’s leading death educators and grief counselors. His books have sold more than a million copies worldwide and have been translated into many languages. Well respected for his inspiring teaching ability, Dr. Wolfelt is a past recipient of the Association for Death Education Death Educator Award. He is known around the world for his compassionate messages of hope and healing as well as his companioning philosophy of grief care.