The Value of Ritual


The Value of Ritual

Having worked in end-of-life for over 30 years, I have repeatedly witnessed the value of ritual in helping bereaved family & friends navigate loss. When notified of a death, there is a natural tendency to offer food or practical help, such as picking up relatives at the airport, assisting with housework or grocery shopping, notifying others, or just being present, perhaps sharing a cup of coffee & a bagel.

Planning the funeral or reviewing the advance funeral planning directives helps us realize that we are part of a family & community. Funeral planning helps us understand the wishes of the person who died & to think about their unique personality, contributions & legacy. It helps us reflect on our ancestors, for without them, we would not be here. Clergy are here to guide us, to offer prayers & comfort & to help us pay tribute with the eulogy. Cantors sing liturgical music & lead prayers. Family & friends help to tell the story of the person who died & to give witness that this life mattered & that this death is significant. Funeral directors & other staff members are present to listen, guide & companion you.

Gathering for the service is an opportunity to hear more stories about your loved one, to show respect, to give & receive hugs, support & comfort. This also provides a focus for our grief, whether looking at a casket, or standing at the graveside. Linking objects, such as pictures of the person who died, help people recall memories & share stories. Driving in procession is another way to see how many are offering condolences & seeing a procession is a reminder for all of the fragility of life & the concept of impermanence. For those who served in the military, honors can be arranged as a final acknowledgment of respect & gratitude.

We have a team of professionals standing by to assist in your time of need. We honor & respect your end of life wishes.


Reflection: What is a meaningful ritual that I value?

Next topic: Changing Rituals

Marguerite O’Connor, M.Ed., Goodwill Ambassador for Chicago Jewish Funerals

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