Grieving Rituals Help With Mourning Around the World

There’s no one right way to grieve. In fact, the ways in which bereaved people process death varies from culture to culture. However, around the world, one thing is certain: grieving rituals – regardless of shape, color, or form – encourage a sense of security in an uncertain time.

Culturally Significant

When we look at different cultures, we keep in mind the combination of religious beliefs, values, traditions, and behaviors that are shared among a group of people. Grieving rituals help define and differentiate cultures.

Around the world, people have belief systems that seek to explain the meaning of life and what happens after death. This obviously plays a large part in how a group approaches grieving rituals. If a culture includes the concept of reincarnation, that may make it easier to cope with death. In whatever way a culture perceives death, grieving rituals can help make sense of the mystery.

Support the Bereaved

Dying and death can create a great deal of pain, confusion and chaos. There are many ways to support the bereaved, but grieving rituals provide an outlet for expression. Additionally, because they come with a clear set of directions, grieving rituals offer a routine and/or structure that people find helpful. This allows for a sense of normalcy that carries people through grief.

Coming to Terms

There are similarities in all cultural traditions. For example, the ways people dress after a death, what and when they eat, and key behavioral rules are commonly observed in many grieving rituals. Candles are typically lit, a wake or other service is held, and a religious leader of some sort is involved. However, the following are different characteristics of grieving rituals from the world’s major religions:


  • Hinduism – Death is part of one’s journey and is not viewed as the end of life. A flame is lit next to the deceased for 3 days, but the body is cremated the day after death. Mourning is 13 days long and family members are expected to refrain from performing religious ceremonies, visiting sacred sites, or engaging in other actions perceived to be at odds with grieving. They wear white, bathe twice each day, leave offerings to the gods and ancestors, and eat a single vegetarian meal.
  • Islam – The formal mourning period is 3 days, but the grieving process of a widow is exactly 4 lunar months and 10 days. Decorative clothing or jewelry is off-limits; crying is acceptable, but other extreme emotional displays are forbidden.
  • Buddhism – Reincarnation is a central focal point for Buddhists, and they believe that 9 months after passing, the deceased are born again. Meditation, prayers, and formal services are offered alongside an open casket before the traditional option of cremation. White is also worn.
  • Judaism – Mourners “sit shiva” at home for 7 days after a death, a practice that helps keep the focus on the deceased and forget about appearances or comfort. All mirrors are covered, people gather on uncomfortable seats, wear black ribbon and slippers, and men don’t shave. A candle is continually lit during shiva and re-lit for 24 hours on each year anniversary.
  • Christianity – Black is worn during a somber wake at the grieving family’s house or funeral home. People can choose to be cremated or buried after a traditionally religious service with prayer and hymnal music.

Grieving Rituals

There are many more grieving rituals from around the world that are all equally fascinating. If you ever have any questions about which rituals may be right for you and your family, we encourage you to contact the team at Miller Funeral and Cremation Services.

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