Designing personal grief rituals:an analysis of symbolic objects and actions

Sas, Corina and Coman, Alina (2016) Designing personal grief rituals:an analysis of symbolic objects and actions. Death Studies, 40 (9). pp. 558-569. ISSN 0748-1187

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Personal grief rituals are beneficial in dealing with complicated grief, but challenging to design, as they require symbolic objects and actions meeting clients’ emotional needs. We report interviews with ten therapists with expertise in both grief therapy and grief rituals. Findings indicate three types of rituals supporting honoring, letting go, and self transformation, with the latter being particularly complex. Outcome also point to a taxonomy of ritual objects for framing and remembering ritual experience, and for capturing and processing grief. Besides symbolic possessions, we identified other types of ritual objects including transformational and future-oriented ones. Symbolic actions include creative craft of ritual objects, respectful handling, disposal and symbolic play. We conclude with theoretical implications of these findings, and a reflection on their value for tailored, creative co-design of grief rituals. In particular, we identified several implications for designing grief rituals which include accounting for the client’s need, selecting (or creating) the most appropriate objects and actions from the identified types, integrating principles of both grief and art/drama therapy, exploring clients’ affinity for the ancient elements as medium of disposal in letting go rituals, and the value of technology for recording and reflecting on ritual experience.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
Death Studies
Additional Information:
This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Death Studies on 11/08/2016, available online:
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Deposited On:
25 Apr 2016 10:32
Last Modified:
28 May 2023 03:08