Shivas, Wakes and Other Bereavement Rituals

Whether we mourn the dead by ‘sitting’ shiva, having a wake, or other memorials and tributes, most of us cherish the time set aside to remember those we loved.  Grief is so personal and idiosyncratic – some people become crazy busy and others are stopped in their tracks, some want to talk and others are private, and everyone has a myriad of feelings from sadness to anger.  This weekend, I was back in New Jersey to grieve with my family and friends.  My cousin Bob had died unexpectedly and far too young.  Most of the grief over Bob will be done alone, in private, but for one afternoon, his family and friends gathered and reminisced.  I’m not much of a ‘group’ person but I relished the time spent with my family to focus on our memories, hear stories that I’ve never heard before and tell a few of my own.

Even though I’m a psychologist, I’m not a proponent of ‘sharing’ everything; it can be a terrible burden on the receiver. But religions have it right – gathering after a death, being together, talking, talking, talking, crying, laughing and talking some more is the beginning of healing.

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