Rituals such as funerals, memorial services, and counselling activities can contribute to the aspect of meaning-making known as “legacy.” As bereaved individuals, families, and communities mark the experiences of death, these ceremonies can assist in the transition to a meaningful “new life” for the bereaved. A growing body of research points to the absence of rituals in the immediate aftermath of death as a possible risk factor contributing to complicated bereavement.
In his research into death-related rituals around the world and throughout history, Bill Hoy has discovered a set of core “anchors” that appear to be commonly held among diverse people groups: significant symbols, gathered community, ritual action, cultural heritage, and transition of the dead. In part because the utilization of these anchors as media for telling the life story of the deceased, they collectively become instruments in establishing a narrative legacy of the deceased. In turn, this enables survivors to capture a stable post-death identity for their loved one. In addition to utilizing these five ritual anchors in planning funerals and memorial services, they can also provide a model for counsellor-assisted ritual creation in psychotherapy.
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