Sunday, January 15, 2006


It is useful to distinguish the word mourning form the word bereavement. The first usually applies to the socially defined period of time and set of activities that follow the death of an intimate person, whereas the second usually refers to the inward pain or sense of loss that accompanies such a death.
Mourning events include funerals, visiting hours with the bereaved person or family members, customs regarding dress and behavior following bereavement, and the like.
Such practices differ widely from country to country and among ethnic groups-ranging from festive and joyful occasions celebrated with firecrackers and feasts (as carried out in parts of China and Indonesia) to periods of wailing and despair demanded from women in the near East.
In the United States mourning customs before World War I used to include wearing of black clothing by widows, black arm bands or diamond-shaped black sleeve patches worn by men (more so in Europe than in the United States), and a period of withdrawal from social activity. These kinds of customs have all but disappeared in the United States within the past 50 years, but some thanatologists (people who study death and its surrounding customs) hold that the decline of mourning customs deprives bereaved persons of due recognition of their grief, and of the social support needed to complete their grief work.
Ward, R. A. The Aging Experience, 2nd ed. New York: Harper and Row, 1984.


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