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AbstractFrom 1200 onward in Western Europe, funeral practices have been considered as a vital aspect of society. As time has progressed, funeral rituals are still considered as an important aspect in society however, now Western Europe society lives in a time where death is considered a taboo topic. People speak in hushed tones and strive to ignore the subject of death and subsequently, devaluing the funeral ritual. This review will survey if funerals are more for the living and societal values than they are for the deceased. Furthermore, this literature review will look at the benefits of a funeral ritual that include the promotion of social cohesion, accepting and understanding death and acting out grief. “A funeral is a counter-cultural phenomenon. In a culture that denies death, a funeral can make death a reality, normalise the grieving process, and introduce the possibilities for hope, imagination, and new life for survivors.” (Giblin, Hug, 2006)Durkheim’s Constructionist TheoryDurkheim argues that human society is created and maintained by the intense feeling that occurs in gatherings and assemblies such as a funeral. (Fisher, Chon, 1989)Durkheim discovered that the ‘aptitude of society for setting itself up as a god or for creating gods’. (Schwartz, 2000)Durkheim has been called an “architect” of the social constructionist approach to emotions (Scheff, 1983). The constructionist theory is explaining how people learn and understand life from experiences. However, this view ‘does not emphasise the plasticity of emotions’. (Shott 1979) It is argued that specific emotions are felt by interactions within a collective society rather than individually. This value is used within society and is used as a social norm. As a result of Durkheim’s view, specific emotions can be linked to specific events. (Hochschild, 1983)Durkheim’s theory surrounding funeral rites explores how funeral rituals have little do with grieving and mourning. Durkheim explains that a funeral demands the mourner to ‘beat himself, bruise himself, lace ate himself, and burn himself . . . What reason has the dead man for imposing such torments upon (his mourners)’. (Durkheim 1961, p. 444)  Furthermore, Durkheim believes that the funeral is a way to reassemble society after it has lost a member. It is meant to renew solidarity, “It, too, is made up out of collective ceremonies which produce a state of effervescence among those who take part in them. The sentiments aroused are different, but the arousal is the same”. (Schwartz, 2000)A funeral encourages a society to assemble and react against the loss of its member. Relatives and friends will gather to mark the end of the deceased’s life and each will bring their own personal grief and sorrow but, ‘the society exercises a moral pressure over its members to put their sentiments in harmony with the situation’. (Fernea, 2005)However, it is argued that grief is organically felt and not socially caused. A funeral collectively involves an assembly of people, however, grief that is felt and expressed by individuals in a group is ‘effected with little no inner sorrow’. This display of emotion is a behaviour rather than an emotion. (Hochschild, 1983)The grieving processA funeral ritual encourages the start of the grieving process by accepting and understand the recent death of a loved one. Freud explains that mourning and melancholia are similar but different responses to loss. An individual who is mourning is grieving the loss of a loved one and the process takes place in the conscious mind. However, In Melancholia, a person grieves for a loss they are unable to understand or identity and this process takes place in the unconscious mind. Mourning is considered as the natural process of grieving a lost loved one whilst melancholia is considered pathological. Freud argues that it is essential to mourn accordingly and complete the period so the ego ‘becomes free and uninhibited again’. (Strachey and Freyd, 1917)Since Freud’s mourning and melancholia theory has been heavily criticised ‘for assuming a model of subjectivity based on a strongly bounded form of individuation.’ (Clewell, 2004) Freud argued in 1917 that mourning eventually comes to a conscious end once an individual has emotionally unattached themselves from the loss of a loved one. However, Freud revised his theory in his paper ‘The Ego and the Id’ published in1923, where he redefined the identification process previously associated with melancholia as a vital component of mourning. “By viewing the character of the ego as an elegiac formation, that is, as “a precipitate of abandoned object-cathexes,” (Clewell, 2004)In Freud’s later work, the updated theory of mourning and melancholia reveals the endlessness of normal grieving. (Clewell, 2004)Purpose of a funeralFuneral practices have been used in the past to represent class and wealth of the deceased, these rituals have evolved and are now used as a community experience to reflect a more advanced understanding of ritual whilst at the same time, understanding the importance of death (Irion, 1991). From the beginning of recorded history, evidence reveals how “people have not faced the death of loved ones alone, and that communities seek to avoid letting their bereaved to navigate the adjustment process in solitude.” (Hoy, 2013)A typical funeral serves the purpose of disposing of a body however, this ritual also allows the living to accept and understand the change which has occurred in their life as a result of the death of a member of their society. (Cowling, 2010) “Funerals often end prior to lowering the body into the earth.” (Gibling, Hug, 2006)As well as providing a ritual for the living to accept the change in their personal life, funerals also have the purpose to create a memory where people will remember the deceased by creating a harmonious ceremony in an effort to not forget an individual whilst at the same time, celebrating their life. (Irwin, 2015) Furthermore, this ritual marks an endpoint and a starting point for the living who have been affected by a death because funerals mark the end of an individuals life whilst providing the rest of society with the ‘opportunity to affirm life by affirming death (Irion, 1991).Funerals provide a safe space for the living to express their inner deep feelings of grief and come to terms with the death as well as exploring what this means and how their life has been affected (Van Beck, 2010)

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