From acupressure to hot stone massages, ayurvedic facials and herbal treatments, many of today’s popular healing rituals have a deep connection with ancient practices that originated in the far corners of the world. These ancient traditions of the past have now gained a newfound respect in our forward-thinking wellness communities. The reason for this is simple: rituals offer a time to relax and unwind, to focus on self-care. The power of rituals, in other words, is their ability to heal and transform. In most Western cultures and religions, a visitation or viewing of the deceased is usually held prior to a funeral service. This is where friends and family gather to remember their loved one, share photos, videos, stories and favorite items of the deceased, give condolences and even deliver a eulogy (a speech honoring the dead).
Generally speaking, a visitation is similar to a wake except that during this time it is customary for the body of the deceased to be displayed in an open casket. A funeral service is usually held at a church, crematorium or cemetery and may include prayer, sermons, music and hymns. The body is then buried or cremated. A common ritual for people who have experienced a loss is to sit Shiva, which is a seven-day period of mourning following the funeral and burial. In this way, the deceased person’s family is able to spend time together to honor their loved one and to focus on the importance of forgiveness. Other funeral rituals can vary widely depending on the country, culture, ethnicity or religion of the deceased.
For example, in some Caribbean cultures, a wake and funeral are done simultaneously and the deceased’s body is often displayed during this time. Other cultures may have a visitation, funeral and then a burial with the body being buried in a grave or crypt. Generally, adults wear black while children are dressed in a lighter appropriate color during these services. The way in which a funeral is conducted differs greatly between the African American and Afro-Caribbean communities.
These cultures have what are called “body work” rituals where family members wash, dress and wash the hair of their dead loved ones during the visitation. It is also very common to see relatives touch and convey their feelings of grief on the body while this is occurring. In some cultures, it is believed that if the deceased’s spirit is not appeased in this life, it may cause harm to the living. This is why the Afro-Caribbean community believes that it is important to cry at a funeral so that the soul can be released.