The Role of Rituals and Society in Bereavement

TheRole of Rituals and Society in Bereavement

Q.1: The role of rituals and society in bereavement

Ritualsare collective affairs with staged events that follow some standardprotocol every time they are performed. They are social acts that arebased on humanity and serve as a means of communication. The primaryrole of rituals is to address the negative effects (including thedisruption of community networks and destruction of the familystructure) caused by death on the bereaved family and the society(Bourchier, 2001). In essence rituals have four major roles. First,they provide emotional stability to the bereaved persons by reducingtheir anxiety and keeping their emotions under control. Secondly,rituals help in validating the legacy of the dead by highlightingtheir valuable qualities that are worth imitating. Third, ritualsremind the society of what should be done or done in a different way.This is achieved by highlight on issues (such as injustices) thatmight have resulted in the death of the dead persons. Lastly, ritualsreassure the continuation of the family and the society by remindingpeople about the new roles they are expected to assume in order tofill the gap left by the dead.

Allpeople experience the sense of loss of loved ones, but the way thefeelings are expressed varies across cultures. This is becausedifferent communities have different beliefs, behaviors, values, andtraditions that affect the way they perceive death and conductthemselves in response to that death (Bourchier, 2001). Consequently,each community has its own practices and rituals that influence theway it expresses grief in a manner that is consistent with its valuesand beliefs. A family with people from different cultural backgroundswill likely have people who respond to grief in different ways. Thisimplies that the expression of grief acts as a reflection of culturalblend.

Q.2: Grieving and resilience

Theempirical and theoretical work of Bananno (2008) aimed at answeringthe question of how people cope with trauma, loss, and other forms ofadversity with a focus on resilience role of personality andemotional regulatory process. Bananno made a clear distinctionbetween resilience and delayed reactions and reported that thereality of delayed reaction has not even been proven in thelongitudinal studies. Until recent, theorists held that the absenceof psychopathology following an exposure to traumatizing situationsoccurred in people with special emotional strength. However, there issufficient evidence that resilience to traumatizing situations iscommonplace, and it does not indicate exceptional strength. Accordingto Bonanno &amp Mancini (2008) resilience can now be regarded as oneof the fundamental features of coping skills. In addition, recoveryand resilience can be clearly distinguished in cases of loss,potential trauma, or major illness.

Banannobelieves that human beings are designed to grieve and a good numberof them can be classified a resilient mourners. Resilient mournerstruggle with the loss for a moment (few days or weeks) and get backto their normal lives and functioning. This group of mourners may notresolve the underlying loss, but they have the ability to continuefunctioning (Bonanno &amp Mancini, 2008). Although it is generallyperceived that resilient mourners consider grief a process of lookingfor comfort, Bananno tries to ensure that this category of themourner is not punished inadvertently. He tries to suggest thatdifferent people express feelings in different ways and in varyinglevels. For example, some bereaved persons feel relieved after aloss, especially in cases when a long-term is the major cause ofdeath. In this case, a resilient mourner may perceive death as a wayof opening up new opportunities for them.

Q.3: The attachment theory

Asupportive relationship and the type of caring that people receiveduring childhood determine their ability to trust in themselves aswell as other and increase the level of efficacy. The attachmenttheory gives an explanation and a description of people interactswith each other from the biological and psychological points of view.From a biological point of view, the left part of the brain isresponsible for verbalizing internal feelings and thoughts, creatinglife stories, and autobiographical narratives (Schore, 2003). Theright side, on the other hand, is non-verbal and is responsible forhuman emotions and mediation of human emotional and physiologicalstate. People’s ability to verbalize feelings and experiences theyreceived from caregivers enables the right and the left sides of thebrain to work together and gives an individual the ability to makesense out of precedent occurrences. The ability to make sense out oftraumatic events affects resilience more than the trauma itself. Fromthe psychological point of view, the treatment that one receives fromcaregivers determines whether people will believe in themselves andfeel worthy or lovable. This eventually determines how peopleinterpret traumatic events in later life.

Traumaticexperiences are closely associated with one’s ability to establisha connection between the left and the right hemispheres of the brain.This reduces one’s ability to create a coherent story of theirlives. Healthy attachments provide an opportunity for people with ahistory of traumatic emotions to integrate the two hemispheresthrough the verbal expression. A successful integration of the twohemispheres enables the affected person to change internalizedperceptions, increased ability to regulate emotions, achieve selfawareness, and continuation of healthy development of the brain(Schore, 2003). This implies that a counselor or a friend workingwith a person who was insecurely attached should focus onestablishing the connectivity between the hemispheres in order tohelp the affected persons realizes themselves.

Q.4: Meaning making

Meaningmaking is a relational, complex, and an ongoing process that is basicto the conceptualization of grieving. This process involves anattempt by individuals to become proactive towards the reconstructionof a meaningful understanding of their world and their place in thatworld (Neimeyer, Burke, Mackay &amp Stringer, 2009). However, theability of individuals to constructive narratives of their place inthe world varies because the process of conceptualization isdetermined by some exclusive and a precise definition of meaning,which in turn provides a satisfactory response. This implies thatwhat constitutes a meaning differs from one person to the otherdepending on the person’s loss event and social-cultural history.This concept of constructivism is based on the proposition thatpeople are provoked to construct their meaningful self-narrative by acognitive behavioral structure that is responsible for theorganization of daily life into micro-narratives.

Theimpact of the process of constructing the meaning of life can bederived from narratives or self-stories people use in trying toexplain events that occur in their lives. Narratives provide aneffective way through which people learn about others’ perceptionof their traumatizing events. A loss of loved one or any othertraumatizing event can dislocate the stories that people tell aboutwho they think they are and how they understand the world (Neimeyer,Burke, Mackay &amp Stringer, 2009). Therefore, bereavement refers toa reflexive and a never-ending conversation with others and self. Theconversation between a bereaved person and a professional counseloraims at helping people shape the meanings that govern theirexperience and assist them in handling grief processes that occurnaturally. In essence, narratives are expressions of how people viewthemselves and the world.

Q.5: Elements of meaning making

Thekey elements of the process of meaning making (including sense makingand benefit finding) help in understanding of how different peoplemanage grief. Sense making involves the determination of how deathfits into human understanding of the world and activities that peopleneed to undertake in after a loss in order to change theirunderstanding of the world (Neimeyer, 2009). Benefit finding, on theother hand, involves finding the good that come from death andlessons (including valuing relationship, self-awareness, andenhancing life appreciation) learned from death. This implies thatthe ability of bereaved people to make sense out of loss and identifythe benefits of loss is positively associated with the rate ofrecovery. Consequently, lack of ability to make sense and identifythe benefits of loss slows down the process of recovering from grief.

Theresponse of the community towards the marathon bombing variesdepending on the ability of individual members of the community tomake sense out of the bombings and identify the benefits of bombing.People who have the ability to embrace the two elements of meaningmaking learned three major lessons from the bombing. These lessonsinclude the appreciation of the efforts applied by others in makingthem feel comfortable, understanding that mental therapy works, and arecognition of individuals’ commitment to keep peace (Ameen, 2014).Those who are unable to embrace the elements of meaning making, takea long time to recover and live to blame other people for the loss.


Ameen,E. (2014). Findingsilver linings after the Boston Marathon bombings.Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Bonanno,A. &amp Mancini, D. (2008). The human capacity to thrive in the faceof potential trauma. Pediatrics,121 (2), 369-379.

Bourchier,C. (2001). Ritualsof mourning: Bereavement, grief, and mourning in the First World War.Calgary, AB: University of Calgary.

Neimeyer,A., Burke, A., Mackay, M., &amp Stringer, G. (2009). Grief therapyand the recognition of meaning: From principles to practice. Journalof Contemporary Psychotherapy,1, 1-11. DOI 10.1007/s10879-009-9135-3

Schore,N. (2003). Advancesin neuropsychoanalysis, attachment theory, and trauma research:Implications for self psychology.Oakland: University of California.