Funeral Practices and Memorial Rituals

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					Funeral Practices and Memorial
            Rituals
  What do we do after someone dies?
          Funerals as Rituals
• Ritual: A symbolic activity performed by a
  group.
  – Often done at crucial turning points or during
    crises.
  – Provides order and familiarity during a
    potential time of chaos.
  The American Funeral System
• Critiques
   – Too expensive in terms of time and energy.
   – Distances us from death.
• In support
   – Makes sense of a chaotic period.
   – Reunites a scattered community.
   – Constructive role in grief work (e.g., makes the death
     real).
   – General public reports a fairly high level of satisfaction
     with the funeral industry.
  Tasks associated with the funeral
               ritual
• (1) Disposition of the body: for health, social, and
  religious reasons the body must be removed.
  Different traditions, but respect is central in all.
• Contemporary American society:
   – Embalming: grew in popularity after the Civil War.
     Removal of bodily fluids and replacement with artificial
     preservatives.
   – Prevents the spread of disease and slows decay. Allows for
     open casket viewing.
   – Not required by law, but without can’t have a viewing
     without.
  (2) Disposal of Body
• Options include in-ground burial, above
  ground entombment, cremation, and
  donation.
  – Burial: Variety of waiting periods. Determined
    by religious views (e.g., Judaism requires burial
    within 24 hours), body preparation, gathering
    of family.
  – Cremation: 1800ºF. Water evaporates, other
    soft-tissue spontaneously combusts. Anything
    remaining is pulverized.
  – Account for 25% of deaths now.
 (3) Making real the implications
            of death
• Allows for recognition and acceptance of
  death by the survivors.
• Seeing the body might make the death seem
  “real.”
• Some argue that this is undermined by
  making the deceases look alive and by not
  allowing people to view coffin being placed
  in ground.
   (4) Activates Social Support
• Family integration: we live in a far-flung
  society. Gives everyone a chance to
  reunite.
• Jewish funeral system lasts almost a year.
Cemeteries and Memorialization
• Resurgence of entombment and rapid
  increase in cremation.
• Increase in flush to ground markers.
  – Makes grounds keeping easier.
• Use of memorial photography and video.
  – Provides a tangible memory of the event.

				
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posted:8/18/2012
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