Date of Paper


Type of Paper

Clinical research paper

Degree Name

Master of Social Work (M.S.W.)


Social Work

First Advisor

Courtney K. Wells


Social Work


The numerous approaches of saying goodbye to a deceased loved-one have many different perceptions and traditions attached to them. The author of this study organized a review of current, published literature on studies that contained the rituals and elements of funeral services across several geographical locations, cultures and religions. Of the original 32 articles, only 13 met the criteria of having enough detailed information and definitions of rituals. The author organized the information into six core themes of origins, rituals, purpose, outcomes (if ritual performed), decline of ritual and outcomes (if ritual not performed). The author hypothesized that most rituals originated and performed for the preservation of culture; however, the findings of the research suggest the top factors in most rituals originate from a combination of religious beliefs and cultural traditions. Communal support, preserving the afterlife and naturally building coping skills after loss are the other key findings within this study. Taking into account the limitations of studies that describe and define death rituals, research is lacking in the actual outcomes of performed rituals and rituals not performed. There are few studies indicating the results in the coping skills of bereaved individuals, bearing in mind the decline in religiosity and the decline of the traditional funeral. There is a need for research on the impacts of individuals lost in grief and in the diagnosis of complicated grief and/or depression if expected traditions are not accomplished. Awareness and education must occur for professionals working in end-of-life care to advocate and advise participation of rituals in hopes of ensuring healthy grieving and an individual’s ability to move forward after loss.

Included in

Social Work Commons