Modern Grief and Grieving Rituals

1. Describe grieving rituals in your family and/or community. Indicate which rituals are tied to formal religion or have a basis in a religion practiced by you, your family, and/or your community. For non-religious grieving rituals, describe their origin if possible. Indicate which grieving rituals require or usually involve the presence of the deceased body.

2. Which of the following grief events have you participated in: a funeral, a wake, a rosary, sitting shiva, scattering ashes, a memorial service, a burial, or another event not listed here? Describe the event, especially focusing on how the people in attendance acted/grieved. How did the grieving make you feel?

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3. Have you ever written an obituary or some other memorialization of someone who has died? Was it easy or difficult to write? Do you ever read obituaries (such as in a printed newspaper)? What do you think makes for a good obituary? Have you ever given a spoken eulogy?


4. Have you participated in any of the following activities: buying a cemetery plot or crypt, buying a casket, arranging for/planning a grief event? Did these activities occur in the immediate aftermath of death, or as part of far-off planning? How did you feel?

5. Have you personally experienced grief over a death or other substantial loss? How long did you feel you were grieving? Did you “get over it”? Have you experienced additional emotions in conjunction with feeling grief? Which ones and why?

6. Have you observed death firsthand? What were the circumstances? How did you feel? Have you otherwise been in the visual presence of a dead body (other than at an open casket funeral or wake)? Was it embalmed? How did you feel?

7. Have you ever experienced grief over the death of someone you did not know personally? What motivated you to grieve? Did you participate in any grieving rituals? Did you “get over” this grief?

8. Have you experienced grief with regard to the pandemic? Was this because someone you knew died, or just generally due to the sheer number of deaths? How did this make you feel?

9. Have you ever visited a cemetery, aside from connection with a funeral? Where? Were you visiting the grave of someone you knew? What did you do when visiting the cemetery? Did you bring anything with you? How did you feel?

10. Have you visited or constructed any public mourning sites? Where? Where they formal (i.e., established by the government, an organization, etc.) or informal (grassroots, roadside, etc.)? Were they permanent or temporary sites? What motivated the existence of the sites? What motivated you to go to the sites? How did you feel?

11. Have you participated in any of the following “virtual”/modern grieving rituals, rituals that don’t involve the presence of the body: tattoos, car decals, t-shirts, social media memorializing, others? Describe your participation and who was being memorialized.

12. Have you ever participated in a séance or other effort to contact/talk to the dead? What happened? How did you feel? Have you ever seen a ghost? If so, describe.

13. When you were a child, was death discussed in your household, school, church? How was it portrayed? Was it discussed in relationship to a particular death (if so, who) or in general? Did you experience the discussion in a positive or negative way?

14. Is there anything else about grieving that this reflection essay has made you think about, that hasn’t been addressed by any of the above questions?