Sunday, November 13, 2005

Chapter Ten Short Essay - Death Rituals

As varied as death rituals are around the world, like other rites of passage, they all consist of three parts. The first is the separation of the bereaved from the non-bereaved. In most cultures, this is not actually a physical separation as it is identifying the affected people through marking them as mourners. This can be accomplished through a change of clothing and adornment and/or actions that are not commonly used during normal life. Sometimes the bereaved do separate themselves physically from others to be alone with their grief. They withdraw themselves from work and other social activities. Depending on the culture, the mourners can be extremely quiet and stoic about their loss or everyone may take the opportunity to wail and release their sorrow in a physically intense manner. In general, women are expected to take longer at this than men. Many cultures allow men to remarry sooner than women after the death of a spouse without social reprisals.

The second part is the transition from being a part of the society to being accepted as dead. With some cultures this is a relatively short part, taking only as long as it does to bury the body (or send it to professionals to do it) and getting the paperwork done to take care of the estate and notify the government. In other cultures, it can take up to three years and even a few reburials.

Once the deceased has been ritualistically declared no longer a living part of society, the reintegration of the mourners into society occurs. This is done usually through a large meal or party, where people can begin to shed their more visible mourning behavior and return to a normal daily routine.

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