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The farewell rituals: a quilt of affections

How important are rituals involving death? The funeral traditions, burial or cremation, as well as the rites, religious or not, that mark the passage of time of death, vary according to the beliefs, but all of them carry the same meaning: the farewell and our affection statement to the one who is gone and the beloved ones

The farewell rituals are essential for the elaboration of grieving. It will be the last time we see the body of the beloved one, and perhaps the last chance to publicly express love and respect for the life that is gone.

However, it is increasingly common to have a practical and functional approach of the final rites. In the Western society, people believe they can mourn their dead with more “discretion”, privately, and tend to underestimate the value of collective ceremonies, as “forcing” friends to attend funerals were a social nuisance in the middle of an increasingly accelerated routine. What is behind the elimination or reduction of time and tributes of the rituals is the very denial of death and everything that surrounds it. Previously, the dead would leave by the front door of the house and was taken to the cemetery in processions that were revered on the streets. In the modern world, this would be impossible. But this does not justify the abbreviation of the funeral rites. We are a society that celebrates life as if it would never finish and that has no room for sadness will interrupt the regualr pace. Thinking like this, a funeral disrupts the agenda. It should be brief and preferably painless.

“We have seen more and more what I “funeral express”: less than 24 hours between the death and burial or cremation. What we do not realize is that we are giving up valuable time for the farewell of our beloved one”, says the psychologist Elaine Gomes dos Reis Alves, doctor in addressing the issues of death and grieving.

According to Dr. Elaine, “dead today and already buried” is wrong. “I often say that rituals are a very powerful farewell. It is important to give it time so that friends and acquaintances show up, receiving people, hearing what they have to say”, says the psychologist. “Grief is just like making a patchwork quilt of affection and every person who visits the family and friends they take a a little piece of love. Some people bring a different story and tell us how he was at work, another says they met the day before, remember the last conversation, the funniest and most fond memories. Each friend or acquaintance delivers a piece of the history of the deceased one for the family and close friends in a viewing. These bereaved people will use it later. They will remember who came, what they said, the passage that was recalled.”

Some religious traditions are especially lavish in encouraging collective celebration and the ritual exchange of memories. In Japanese Buddhism, for example, funerals are organized as a party, where the deceased is placed on a stage, surrounded by many flowers, with every kind of ornament and to the sound of music, with a very large picture of the person to the side. “The ones who go to the ceremony wear special clothes, as beautiful as those worn in a wedding. A feast is served and the guests drink the “sake of nostalgia” says Buddhist monk Coen Roshi. The one who comes to the funeral, offers an incense, a fragrance that will raise the person who died in his new journey. Close friends, no family, who are too moved to do so, take the microphone, approach the deceased one: “What a pity you died, my friend, I remember when we did this or that” they say. The statements follow one another and each one has affectionate passages to tell and say what they feel.

Even if the family and the deceased person himself have no religious belief in particular (and no need to have it in order to understand the meaning of life and our finitude) tributes of friends warm the heart of the bereaved one. Rituals can be simple ones and pagan ones. They can simply revere the places and practices that died more loved as a beach party, launching boats with candles, flowers and sea love messages, or even a meeting at home to play your favorite songs remember your stories.

“Rituals help the physical and mental organization in loss and death situations”, says Dr. Maria Julia Kovács, professor and coordinator of the Research Laboratory on the USP Death. “The collective rituals bring together people in a community and the bereaved family, offer a sense of belonging and acceptance and help in the construction of meanings in relation to the loss. The important thing is that rituals can make sense to those who are going through the pain of loss and include children, always remember to inform and explain to them what’s going on”, advises the specialist.

All kinds of emories and celebration for the one who is gone help addressing the longing. A part of the one who passed remains in us and it is essential to be able to share it with others the love tha was cultivated in life. Speaking of the dead, hearing from others, their memories, helps us to think about everything that person was and represented in life. And mainly teaches us to preserve the best of him/her forever in our hearts.