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Mourning rituals: parting and remembering the loved one

Why do you actually throw earth into the pit at a funeral? Mourning rituals have many faces. They help to cope with the loss and give the bereaved the opportunity to express their pain.

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What are mourning rituals?

Mourning rituals are a multitude of different actions or customs that are intended to give comfort after the death of a loved one and keep the memory of the deceased alive. Some of these rituals are performed in public, others are performed in silence.

Mourning rituals are part of everyday culture and are heavily influenced by the prevailing religions. They therefore differ from region to region. Viewed worldwide, there are even very large differences between the known rituals that are still practiced today.

What is the function of mourning rituals?

Mourning rituals help the bereaved through the difficult time after a death. First and foremost, they help to come to terms with the grief for the deceased or the painful loss. In addition, they can also help to keep the memory of the dead alive and to consolidate the social status of the mourner.

Farewell

Farewell rituals help loved ones to realize their loss and to understand that the loved one has passed away. This is an important first step in grief work.

Coping with grief

With fixed rituals, mourners create a safe framework in which they can express their feelings and allow their pain. The repetition of old, well-known actions gives them stability and helps them to find a way in the time of sadness, chaos and despair.

memory

When a loved one dies, they can live forever in the hearts of loved ones. The grief over his loss will also accompany the relatives for a lifetime. Outsiders, on the other hand, continue to live their lives as before and will sooner or later forget the deceased.

With rituals performed together, mourners can ensure that the dead will be remembered. They keep the memory of the loved one alive and also ensure that the pain and grief of the bereaved are not forgotten.

Social reinsurance

Some outsiders consider it inappropriate to let your feelings run free in public. The ritualized expression of feelings, on the other hand, is a socially accepted form of mourning. Rituals are therefore also a socially safe framework for the bereaved to show pain and other feelings.

By performing mourning rituals, bereaved relatives also demonstrate that they have appropriate feelings for the situation, i.e. mourn. The public rituals thus consolidate the social position of the bereaved and ensure that their fellow human beings are respected.

What mourning rituals are there?

Many of the well-known mourning rituals are performed as part of the funeral and memorial service. Other mourning rituals are celebrated on certain days of the year or on commemorative days. These include the birthday and day of death of the deceased, wedding anniversaries, public holidays such as Christmas or memorial days in November such as All Souls' Day and the Sunday of the Dead.

Preparation of the funeral

Washing and dressing

If you wish, you can wash the deceased and dress for the funeral or funeral. This is usually the job of the undertaker. However, you can ask him about it and tell him that you would like to do it yourself.

Laying out and wake

The deceased can be laid out at home for up to 36 hours after their death. During this time, the bereaved have the opportunity to say goodbye. Traditionally, this ritual is known as the wake. The mourners can design the ritual freely, often they pray, sing, talk to each other or eat something together.

Paint the coffin or urn

In preparation for the burial, mourners can paint the coffin or urn for the deceased themselves. You create a loving farewell gift and give your grief creative expression.

Plan your own funeral

Preventive care makes life easier for the people you love. Arrange your own funeral now and live with the good feeling that you have already taken care of everything.

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Rituals during the funeral service

The funeral with a memorial service is probably the best-known funeral ritual. Both the funeral and the memorial service in turn include many smaller rituals with which mourners say goodbye to their loved one.

Farewell to the open coffin

A farewell to the open coffin can be made possible in almost every death. The undertaker prepares the deceased for the funeral service and ensures that he has an attractive appearance. In the event of disfiguring illnesses or accidents, it may be necessary for a thanatopractor to take over this task.

Funeral speech

The funeral speech is a central element in every funeral service. The speaker looks back on the life and work of the deceased. The bereaved can thus affirm their love and establish a bond with the other mourners. The bond through the shared loss and grief, but also the shared memories, have a comforting effect.

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Funeral music

Instead of the classic church or funeral songs, the favorite songs of the deceased are often played at a funeral service today. They awaken memories and bring back common experiences.

Throw soil or petals into the pit

Throwing earth into the pit helps to understand the finality of death. Flower petals, on the other hand, stand for a tender farewell greeting and good wishes.

Funeral feast

At the funeral feast, also called funeral coffee or funeral coffee, the funeral party comes together after the funeral and strengthens itself together. This mourning ritual shows the bereaved that life goes on despite their loss. Being with the mourning community reminds them that they are not alone in the difficult time after death.

Mourning rituals on annual and memorial days

Anniversaries are a touchstone for the work of mourning. The birthday of the deceased, a wedding anniversary and especially the first anniversary of death remind the mourners of what they lost with the death of the loved one and how much they miss him. That is why mourning rituals are particularly common on these days.

  • Pray in church, alone or with friends
  • Let balloons fly, even with letters to the dead
  • Light candles: e.g. B. in the cemetery or at home, at the house altar or in front of a picture of the deceased
  • Cooking favorite food for the dead, alone or with friends
  • Visiting meaningful places: favorite restaurant, place of first date or marriage proposal

Accident crosses

After fatal traffic accidents, relatives sometimes put crosses at the scene of the accident. These crosses are called accident crosses, road crosses, death crosses or simply wooden crosses. Often these places of remembrance are lovingly decorated with photos, flowers, candles and also stuffed animals. They warn of the risk of another accident, help to keep memories of the accident and its victim alive and represent an important point of contact and place of mourning for relatives.

Memorial pages

For some time now, various websites have offered the possibility of setting up memorial pages for deceased people. These websites are also called virtual cemeteries. Survivors can design the memorial page with photos and information about the life and death of the deceased. Visitors can leave condolences and light virtual candles in memory of the dead.

Mourning rituals for children

It can also be important for children to say goodbye to the deceased. You should therefore not be excluded from mourning rituals. However, it is important not to leave them alone and to explain to them beforehand what will happen at a funeral service and why it is happening. If the situation overwhelms you, you should always have the opportunity to withdraw.

Memorabilia

Mementos or personal mementos of the dead play an important role in many mourning rituals. They are kept in a safe place and taken out or viewed on memorial days. These memorabilia can be, for example, personal belongings of the deceased such as toys, items of clothing, a comb, or a clock.

But you can also create your own mementos or have them made. A popular souvenir is, for example, a lock of hair that is worn around the neck in a pendant. It is also possible to have a death mask removed in order to obtain a lifelike image of the beloved face.

Memorial diamond

In diamond burial, the ashes of a dead person are used to create an artificial diamond. You can wear the finished memorial diamond on your body as a piece of jewelry or keep it at home.

Memory tree

The Tree of Life burial is another way to get a very personal keepsake. The ashes of the deceased are taken up by the roots of a young tree. Later this memory tree can be planted in a location of your choice - for example in your own garden.

Other memorabilia

In addition, in some European countries there is the possibility to have the ashes of the deceased processed into records or beautiful pieces of jewelry made of glass. We would be happy to advise you on this.

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Frequently asked questions

What are mourning rituals?

Mourning rituals are many different actions and customs that are supposed to give comfort after the death of a person and keep the memory of the deceased alive. Some of these rituals are performed in public, others are performed in silence.

What is the function of mourning rituals?

Mourning rituals help the bereaved through the difficult time after a death. First and foremost, they help to come to terms with the painful loss and grief for the deceased. In addition, they can also help to keep the memory of the dead permanently alive and to consolidate the social status of the mourners.

What mourning rituals are there?

Many funeral rituals are performed as part of the funeral and memorial service. Other mourning rituals are celebrated on certain days of the year or on commemorative days.

Some examples:

  • Keeping the wake at home
  • Say goodbye to the open coffin
  • Praying alone or with loved ones / friends
  • Light candles, e.g. B. in the cemetery
  • Place flowers at the grave
  • Raise balloons with letters to the deceased
  • Cooking the deceased's favorite food