Tag Archives: ritual

2011: Funeral Participation And Satisfaction

The Good Funeral: Toward An Understanding Of Funeral Participation And Satisfaction examined the question of what makes funerals meaningful for attendees. Previous research had shown that people can come away from funerals with very different impressions. Some attendees give positive appraisals, some negative. Studies have suggested that some people only get short-term benefits from the rituals, and some find little benefit because their grieving has barely begun. There may be problems, such as the interpersonal issues highlighted in the adverse events study. But many say the rituals were meaningful for them. Key variables identified in several studies—which also make intuitive sense—are the attendees’ roles and levels of involvement, with more involvement leading to higher satisfaction. This study analyzed the relationship between roles and degrees of involvement, as well as other aspects of the funeral, to see which were associated with meaningful experiences.1

Subjects: 1,210 adults who “had ever attended a funeral”; volunteers comprised of undergraduate students and their adult relatives, average age 30.41. Respondents from 23 states with 96% from California.

Main findings

This study provided strong support for the idea that funerals are important because they allow people to express emotions and be supported by others at a difficult time.

Respondents had relatively high satisfaction with the funerals they’ve experienced.

The most important factor in whether a funeral was viewed as meaningful was whether the attendee participated by sharing and communicating emotions with other people.

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2006-2007: Funeral Attitudes And Coping With The Funeral

In the early 2000s, Hayslip, Guarnaccia, and colleagues conducted an extensive survey of several hundred bereaved adults, collected a large amount of data, and ran numerous analyses on the data in order to publish two reports in the Omega journal. The relevant conclusions, for my purposes, overlap and are modest in number. Therefore, since they are based on the same data pool, I am going to combine the two reports into a single, longer review.

Proximal And Distal Antecedents Of Funeral Attitudes: A Multidimensional Analysis attempted to learn whether close/direct or distant/indirect factors are more likely to affect how people think about funerals. Close, or “proximal,” influences include emotional reactions to and personal feelings about death, and involvement in funeral-related activities. Distant, or “distal,” factors would include things like socioeconomic background, age, general health, and personality characteristics. Portions of the data were also used to determine the “pragmatic” versus “emotional” reasons behind opinions about funerals.1

Assessing Adults’ Difficulty In Coping With Funerals took a different perspective on the data from the same surveys, in order to explore characteristics of people who report positive or negative experiences from different aspects of funeral participation. The survey questionnaire, described in more detail below, was composed of many questions from many separate tools inquiring about personality, health, experiences, and opinions. One of the tools asked about participation in all of the different elements of funeral and burial rituals—before, during, and after the main ceremonies—and how difficult it was to cope with each element. Results from this set of questions were analyzed as to how they varied according to other factors in the data collection.2

Subjects: 348 adult volunteers “who had experienced the death and funeral of a close family member or close friend within the past two years” (90% within the previous year, average length of time since death = 11.83 months). Recruiting of volunteers took place through various support organizations such as bereavement groups, churches, and hospices, as well as through university classes and newspaper ads. Age range was from 18 to 88, with average age = 34.21.

Main findings

The subjects’ opinions on funerals appear to have been mainly formed by their personal experiences with funerals and death rather than by more distant or indirect factors.

People who showed the most positive attitudes toward funerals were those who had been more personally involved in pre-funeral ritual activities, and who also reported positive grief adjustment.

Continue reading 2006-2007: Funeral Attitudes And Coping With The Funeral

2003: Funerals And Grief Experiences Of Adolescents And Adults

Post-Loss Adjustment And Funeral Perceptions Of Parentally Bereaved Adolescents And Adults investigated whether the death of a parent has a different effect on adolescent survivors than on adults. Although past studies had explored adult reactions to funerals and the grief adaptation experiences of people of different ages after losing a parent, none had investigated the funeral experiences of parentally bereaved adolescents, nor compared such experiences with those of adults.1

Subjects: 84 parentally bereaved adolescents aged 13-18 (average age = 16, average time since death = 4 years, 2 months). 79 parentally bereaved adults aged 19-66, 90% of whom were age 25 or older (average age = 41, average time since death = 1 year). Texas and Minnesota.

Main findings

Adolescent subjects had worse emotional adjustment and more negative experiences and perceptions all around than did the adults.

Time since the death of their parent did not change the adolescents’ grief-related feelings.

The younger people were much less satisfied with the funeral, especially with viewing the body.

Study detail

Most of the subjects were located through grief and bereavement support organizations, such hospices and churches. Some of the students were recruited through their schools, presumably identified by some adult or support organization after learning of the study. All of the participants volunteered.

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1998: Grief adjustment influenced by funeral participation and adverse funeral events

Grief Adjustment As Influenced By Funeral Participation And Occurrence Of Adverse Funeral Events examined how funeral experiences affect later grief recovery. A number of studies had associated participating in funerals with positive grief adjustment. The researchers in this study attempted to test the correlation between positive funeral experiences and grief afterward, and also whether negative experiences during the funeral affected grief recovery.1

Subjects: 74 adults who had lost a family member to various causes of death within 1 month to 25 years (median time interval since death was 11.5 months). Subjects’ ages 20-80; average age 50.7. Data used was part of a larger study conducted in 1998.

Main findings

People who experienced funeral services as comforting showed significantly lower levels of grief misery on the subsequent assessment, compared to funeral attendees who did not find the ceremonies comforting.

The highest grief misery scores were reported by mourners who experienced adverse events at the funeral and also did not find the funeral comforting.

However, about one-third (11 of 32 interviewees) who experienced adverse events at the funeral still found the funeral comforting, and did not report increased grief misery.

People who were active in helping to plan funeral arrangements for their loved one also were assessed as having somewhat lower levels of grief misery.

Study detail

Subjects first completed a questionnaire called the Grief Experience Inventory (GEI) that measured levels of despair, hostility, guilt, social isolation, loss of control, rumination, depersonalization, somatization (feeling physically sick because of psychological distress), and death anxiety. Each person’s overall grief misery level was also devised by combining results of the nine measurements.

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