Honoring the Deceased: El Dia de los Muertos

BY: Diane Snyder Cowan
CATEGORY: Grief and Loss

Your cultural background has an impact on your approach to the grief process. Culture includes gender, religion, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, age, background,  ethnicity, race and many other variables.  Some cultures have built-in rituals to help people through the grief process. I have written about the Jewish mourning process and now I offer you the perspective of El Dia de los Muertos.

El Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, is a Latin American tradition dedicated to honoring the dead and their spirits that have passed on to another life. The holiday, which takes place on the first and second of November, focuses on gatherings of family and friend to celebrate those that have died. Traditionally, families build private altars that they decorate with sugar skulls, marigolds and favorite foods of the deceased. During the celebration, not only do people honor those who have died, but it is also believed that the spirits of the deceased are present. It is thought to be a time where the souls of the living and the souls of the deceased can coexist in harmony.

El Dia de los Muertos is a time to remember and cherish the memories and many gifts of the deceased. The holiday allows folks to remember those who have died in a happy and cheerful way. Many grieving individuals find that doing something that is positive and action-oriented is an important ingredient for healing. Dia de los Meurtos provides a natural occasion to remember and talk about our deceased loved ones. It’s a way to cherish the memories that you hold so dear.

Culture’s impact on grief includes the manner in which one grieves, the length of time to grieve, how one adapts and the meaning of loss.  Whatever our culture, when we grieve as a community it is a reminder that grief is universal. No one needs to grieve alone.

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