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.
- Explain the five anchors present in death-related rituals.
- Describe how survivors create, maintain, and modify the deceased’s legacy through ritual elements.
- Utilize principles for co-creating psychotherapeutic rituals in counselling with bereaved individuals and families.
Dr. William G. (Bill) Hoy, D.Min., FT, is a clinical professor of medical humanities at Baylor University and an authority on the role of social support in death, dying and grief. With more than 30 years' experience in grief and loss work, Hoy has directed hospice bereavement and pastoral care programs for a southern California hospice for more than 16 years. Prior to Baylor, he taught on the health science faculty at Cypress College and in the graduate program in thanatology (death and bereavement) at Marian University. He is the author of more than 100 book chapters, journal articles and educational pamphlets and has authored six books, three of which remain in print.
Hoy is active in leadership of the Association for Death Education & Counseling, serving on the board since 2013 and as association treasurer since 2014. He holds the Fellow in Thanatology (FT), the advanced practice credential in death, dying and bereavement. He is a frequently-invited keynote and workshop speaker, annually presenting more than 50 continuing education workshops and addresses for professionals in mental health, nursing, education, medicine, funeral service, and ministry.
Hoy is considered an authority on funeral rites from both a cross-cultural and historical perspective, having studied memorial rituals in more than 100 people groups. He is the author of Do Funerals Matter? The Purpose and Practice of Death Rituals in Global Perspective (Routledge, 2013) and of Bereavement Groups and the Role of Social Support: Integrating Theory, Research, and Practice (Routledge, 2016).
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