1st Edition

Personal Grief Rituals Creating Unique Expressions of Loss and Meaningful Acts of Mourning in Clinical or Private Settings

By Paul Martin Copyright 2023
    280 Pages
    by Routledge

    280 Pages
    by Routledge

    Personal Grief Rituals presents a new model for how bereaved individuals can create unique expressions of mourning that are tailored to their psychological needs and grounded in memories and emotions specific to the relationship they lost.

    This book examines cultures across the world and throughout history to shed light on how humanity has always turned to grief rituals and how custom can stifle one’s pursuit of healthy and meaningful mourning. Contemporary psychological research, most notably attachment theory, provides an in-depth understanding of how each individual’s subjective experience of loss varies and why complicated bereavement may emerge. Richly detailed psychotherapy case studies exemplify innovative strategies for designing personal grief rituals. Where one person may visit an old haunt to express sorrow, another might use symbols to strengthen their connection to the deceased, and still another could cast aside vestiges of the past.

    Personal Grief Rituals is an excellent resource for professionals, students studying the psychology of loss, or anyone hoping to carve a new path through their own grief and mourning.

    1. Cultural Grief Rituals and the Mourning Process: An Anthropological Perspective  2. Absence-and-Presence: The Subjective Experience of Loss, Grief, and Mourning  3. Designing Personal Grief Rituals  4. Confirming Absence: Rituals that Facilitate Acceptance of Loss  5. Expressing Grief: Rituals that Expand and Limit Emotional Experiences of Loss  6. Continuing Bonds: Rituals that Create an Enduring Connection  7. Moving Forward: Rituals that Embrace New Life


    Paul M. Martin is a licensed clinical psychologist, the assistant director of The Center for Grief Recovery, and an adjunct professor at Northwestern University. He specializes in psychotherapy for those struggling with complicated bereavement and regularly provides continuing education workshops and individual consultation for professionals.

    'In Personal Grief Rituals, Paul Martin has produced that rarest of things in the literature on grief therapy: a compendium that is at once deeply scholarly while being immensely practical.  Chapter after chapter, I found myself intrigued, instructed and inspired by his astonishing and appreciative grasp of the endless cultural variations on rituals of mourning, while counterbalancing this with a theoretically sophisticated and empirically informed psychodynamic understanding of the nuances of grieving that collective practices often only awkwardly accommodate. Drawing with equal alacrity on classical attachment theory and contemporary models of coping with loss, Martin then proceeds to offer clear and helpful principles for co-constructing with clients healing rituals of both remembrance and release, conveyed by concrete and relatable case studies.  For its recognition of the dialectics of honoring continuing bonds while also embracing life, and its balanced critique of the siren song of endless mourning and a defensive deafness to the natural call of grief, I recommend this infectiously readable volume to every grief therapist who seeks to transcend words alone to help clients reach beyond loss to life, and to embrace the meaning that can be found in mourning.'

    Robert A. Neimeyer, editor of New Techniques of Grief Therapy and director, Portland Institute for Loss and Transition

    "This is a highly valuable and thought-provoking book, a leading-edge contribution to understanding a critically important topic in bereavement research and practice, namely, the role of rituals in adapting to the death of someone close. It offers a fresh approach, drawing on the author’s remarkably broad knowledge in the fields of sociology, cultural anthropology and psychology, to argue the case for creating personal grief rituals when established ones fail to facilitate healthy grieving. This he does by inter-weaving descriptions of rituals throughout history and around the world with his understanding of the relevant psychological literature, as well as by drawing on his own clinical skill and experience. In doing so, he links theory with application, demonstrating how therapists may help bereaved clients with grieving difficulties, through designing individually tailored rituals in accordance with the person’s specific experience and needs. In my view, the book’s appeal will be far-reaching both within and beyond the field of thanatology."

    Margaret Stroebe, professor emerita at the Department of Clinical and Health Psychology, Utrecht University, and the Department of Clinical Psychology and Experimental Psychopathology, University of Groningen

    "Paul Martin's Personal Grief Rituals is a fascinating exploration of the role of rituals in grief and mourning. Artfully blending insights from anthropology, psychology, history, and sociology, Personal Grief Rituals is an amazing asset to death educators, counselors, and the general public. It is bound to become a classic work!"

    Kenneth J. Doka, senior vice-president for Grief Programs, The Hospice Foundation of America; professor emeritus, The College of New Rochelle