How different religions mourn after losing a loved one
Grief and a period of mourning are things that we all experience after the death of a loved one. Within different religions, the mourning period is handled differently according to customs and practices. Religious mourning is routine and has significant elements of symbolism woven into the period. Whereas, secular/non-religious mourning is up to the individual and there is no set routine to follow like there is in many major religions.
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As part of the mourning period which follows the funeral, it is common for close ones of the family of the deceased to send flowers to the mourners. The flowers are meant to represent the beauty of the Heaven and the deceased’s new life there in union with Christ.
Just as in the funeral service, candles will be lit in the home to represent the Christian that Jesus is the light of the world and to welcome his presence. It is believed that Jesus has provided all Christians with the opportunity to be saved from worldly sins and go to heaven.
As discussed, in traditional British or Christian funerals, flowers are considered an extremely important feature, providing decoration and symbolism. However, in Jewish culture flowers are not permitted to be present at a funeral. The reason behind this is that flowers will eventually die. Therefore, to represent the memory of the deceased living on, stones are placed on the grave since these do not decay as a flower inevitably would.
In the funeral itself, Jews will often tear their clothes to show their grief. In some cases in modern Judaism, families will wear clothing with strands hanging off it so not to actually ruin their clothing.
The mourning period called Shiva begins after the funeral has concluded. A seven-day mourning period begins in which the family must follow a particular code of conduct.
Some things must happen within the home. Candles must be kept burning and all the mirrors must be covered. Each member of the immediate family must stay within the home and are not allowed to shave or cut their hair and must sit on low stools.
During Shiva, friends and family will visit the house to wish each family member “a long life”. It is customary for the family to sit in a line, on their low stools to greet each person offering their condolences.
Kiddish, which is a Jewish prayer, is said three times a day. For the next eleven months, Kaddish is recited each and every day. For the years to come, the deceased is remembered on the date of their death by reciting the Kiddish and by lighting a Yahrzeit candle.
In Islam, mourning is also treated as an important ritual. Muslims commonly believe that seeing the body of someone that has passed away is actually an important part of the healing process, so is customary in the mourning process. The reasoning for this is that seeing the dead body makes all humble. It acts as a reminder that death is unavoidable and should never to be feared if your faith in Allah is strong and pure.
It is expected of Widows to observe a longer mourning period, typically of four months. Widows are prohibited from interacting with any men who they could potentially marry during these months of mourning, therefore this does not apply to family members that are male. Nevertheless, this custom is overlooked if there is an emergency which requires the widow to be seen by a doctor that happens to be a male.
In terms of publicly expressing your grief, crying and weeping at the time of the death and at the funeral service and burial are acceptable. However, shrieking and wailing are considered distasteful in public, but are allowed to occur privately if need be. Read here about muslim funerals.