The Death Of An Individual

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As seen throughout the assigned readings and videos from this semester, for many cultures and religions, the death of an individual is not quite the end. There are still many things done after the death, from preserving the body to never even mentioning that deceased individual’s name again. Life styles tend to influence death styles. Religious beliefs are the primary way to understand how societies frame the explanation, grief management and societal impact of the loss of an individual. In the case of death, although the focus is on the dead individual - the function of certain rituals is to help survivors by allowing the group a “time out” period after which the group must deal with a “new normal”. Before the turn of the century, death usually took place in the home (DeSpelder, Strickland, 6). A coffin was built that was then set up in the parlor of the home. Friends, acquaintances, and other relatives would come to the family’s home to view the body and share in the act of mourning. Children even sometimes slept in the same room as the corpse! Each person learned about death first-hand. In some cultures, such as in Indonesia, the family keeps their dead relative’s corpse in the house with them as if they were still alive. Now, in modern times, our participation in the rituals surrounding the dead is minimal. It is often stated by anthropologists that the dominant feeling of the survivors is that of horror at the corpse and of fear of the ghost (Malinowski, 19).
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