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Greetings to Our Partners in Care!

Welcome to this month's edition of GriefPerspectives

I want to thank those of you who came out for our in-person workshops last month. Our time with Dr. Hoy was truly so refreshing and it was so great to see your faces!

I want to highlight our blog this month, where we addressed the question, "Should we still have a funeral?" COVID made so many funerals impossible or delayed them dramatically. So, when a lot of time has passed, should we still get together? This question is so important and while our answer is expected, the reasons for having a funeral are stronger and more significant than many people realize. If you or someone you know is on the fence about holding one of these events, the blog asks some great questions we hope you'll consider.

Wishing you all a very happy end-of-summer!

Your partner & resource,

Becky Lomaka, MA, CT
Director of Grief Support & Education
(949) 581-4300 ext. 229

Why Doing Matters in Grief
by William G. Hoy

In my cross-cultural research on funerals and memorialization, I have fairly consistently found a near-universal quality I have called “ritual action.” In the chapter of Do Funerals Matter? The Purposes and Practices of Death Rituals in Global Perspective (Hoy, 2013), where I introduced this research discovery, I titled the chapter with these words: “Walk out what you can’t talk out.” From time immemorial, it seems that bereaved people have possessed a need to do just that: to enact the emotions and memories that we cannot easily verbalize. The introduction to the chapter articulates it this way: “When mourners ‘aid in burying’ their dead or participate in other activities in the face of their grief, they are joining with ancestors in utilizing movement to manage emotion. Whether bathing the deceased, digging a grave, bearing the body to the tomb, kneeling in reverence, beating a drum, or preparing a salad to contribute to the ‘casserole caravan,’ getting busy doing something is a natural human response to loss.


Humans (or at least western ones!) do not seem content to simply stand around the grave peering in to the hole and experiencing our feelings of loss. We are willing to stand by idly for a moment but then we want to get moving—not away from the loss but into adaptive actions that help us cope with it. Why else would we, in the face of unimaginable sorrow, promise to the bereaved family that we are willing and ready to do anything we can. Our words often seem hollow—“Let me know if I can do anything”—but their heartfelt intent is the same anyway.
One oppressed people group that has immigrated to the United States and Canada in large numbers is the Hmong, a resourceful group from the hill country of Laos. Though their emigration to the west began in 1975 following the rise of Communism in their former homeland, their group now numbers an estimated 327,000 in the United States alone (Pew Research Center, 2021). While Canadian numbers are somewhat more elusive, the Canadian refugee resettlement program admitted 905 Hmong in 1978-79 and that number appears now to have grown to several thousand (Shalka, 2019).
Their memorial customs are important for this discussion because of the large number of participants (“funeral helpers”) likely seen in a Hmong funeral. Bliatout (1993) described 10 days of highly ritualized observances filled with symbolism and the assistance of as many as five dozen people each with their own prescribed job to carry out in the execution of the funeral observance. Could it be that this cultural group has determined, much like the ancient Jewish custom of reciting the Mourner’s Kaddish in the presence of a minyan, ten individuals, that grief is not borne well when we try to bear it alone?
This “acting out” of bereavement emotions dovetails nicely with the instrumental-intuitive grief style continuum first articulated by Doka and Martin (2010). In their analysis, few humans are purely one style or the other and the “take action” notions of instrumental grief provides much direction for intuitive grievers, as well.  I suspect that the act of ordering flowers for the funeral (or arranging the picked blooms from one’s own garden sometimes seen in rural areas) is itself an act of ritual. As I explained in the June issue of this column, I have long thought that it is primarily these instrumental grievers who start foundations and support organizations to provide research dollars and other resources for the causes that ended their loved one’s life. The world is filled with example but three that readily come to mind for me are Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (, and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (Adam Walsh Foundation) (
So does ritual action help? While there are to my knowledge no empirical studies comparing the “bereavement outcomes” of grievers who do and who do not participate in particular ritual actions, the continuation of such customs over generations and centuries would indicate some likely perceived benefit. What we can surmise is that ritual actions provide a measure of calm and predictability in the midst of the chaos of early grief. For families involved in the community, the highly prescribed rituals of the Roman Catholic funeral liturgy provide just such a measure of instrumentality in grief. Rising at prescribed moments, kneeling, praying, reciting, and even processing into the church behind the casket of their loved one all contribute to the sense that something is predictable in the midst of uncertainty. I have often said that in the Roman Catholic funeral, it is as if the Liturgy and history of the faith itself is personified standing in the center aisle of the church saying, “We know you don’t know the way through this experience but we do; follow us and we will walk with you through it.” That is the power of ritual action in the midst of grief.
Bliatout, B.T. (1993). Hmong death customs: Traditional and acculturated. In D. P. Irish, C.F. Lundquist, & V.J. Nelsen (Eds.) Ethnic variations in death, dying, death, and grief: Diversity in universality (pp. 79-100). Taylor & Francis.
Doka, K.J. & Martin, T.L. (2010). Grieving beyond gender: Understanding the ways men and women mourn. Routledge.
Hoy, W.G. (2013). Do funerals matter? The purposes and practices of death rituals in global perspective. Routledge.
Pew Research Center. (2021). Hmong in the U.S. fact sheet.
Shalka, R. (2019). The Hmong after 40 years in Canada. Canadian Immigration and Historical Society Bulletin, 91(12), 1-3.

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The Author: For more than three decades, William G. Hoy has been counseling with the bereaved, supporting the dying and their families, and teaching colleagues how to provide effective care. After a career in congregation, hospice, and educational resource practice, he now holds a full-time teaching appointment as Clinical Professor of Medical Humanities at Baylor University in Waco, Texas where he has taught since 2012. His most recent book is Bereavement Groups and the Role of Social Support: Bridging Theory, Research, and Practice (Routledge, 2016).

Our Events Calendar
 Reiki + Meditation Circle

Relax, rejuvenate, and heal with meditation, Reiki, and other mindfulness practices.

Join Reiki Master and event host, Kathy Brook-Wong for our upcoming Zoom circles:

with Kathy Brook-Wong & Alejendrah K. East
Sunday, September 5 from 3:00 - 4:15pm   
We will take a look at attitudes and practices around death and dying around the world and learn ways that we can become more comfortable with dying as a part of living and embrace this life cycle with compassion and love. 

Reiki + Transcending Grief Circle
with Kathy Brook-Wong and Alejendrah Kamille East 
Sunday, September 19  3:00pm - 4:15pm 
Register Here
We are living through a time of great change! Now more than ever, we need to join our energies to better understand ourselves, love each other, and raise the vibration of the planet.   
Reiki Master Kathy Brook-Wong is hosting another event to support your healing journey. Join Kathy and Alejendrah Kamille East, Personal and Spiritual Development Instructor, and Facilitator of Death Processes in our Zoom circle for an afternoon of connection, inspiration, and healing.
Kathy will share about what Reiki is and ways we can use it in our daily lives while Alejendrah will teach you about the power of Grief and Sadness and guide you through an empowering process to heal your Heart. 
Join this online workshop to learn:
  • What Sadness and Grief are all about and how you can transform them into a source is Inner Peace.
  • Become a true Blessing for your departed loved one.
  • Process to activate your Eternal Connection with your loved one.
  • Learn about Reiki to deepen your connection with Universal Life Force Energy.
Be a blessing to someone who is sad and grieving the departure of a loved one by  inviting them to join us.  Let us collectively transform grief and sadness Into a higher form of love. Please share this invite.
Advanced Registration is Required.
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining us on Zoom.
Resource Review

In the spirit of taking action and doing something when someone is grieving, sending gifts or a simple, hand-written card can mean so much. 
Simple gifts or notes are a thoughtful way to reach out, and remind your grieving friend that they are still connected to you and thought of. 
When we can continue to reach out beyond the funeral days, that intention and attention is significantly felt.
So, for those needing to do something: sending a card, thoughtful text messages, the gift of a blanket, emailing a DoorDash gift card, or gifting a book like the one below are all kind ways to care.

Your Professional Library

Forsythia, S. (2020). Your grief, your way: A year of practical guidance and comfort after loss. Zeitgeist.
Reviewed by Molly A. Keating, MA, CT
Editor, GriefPerspectives

Forsythia's book functions as a daily ritual. With a thoughtful and brief entry for every day of the year, Your Grief, Your Way offers companionship, comfort, journal prompts, possible action steps and more in small, manageable paragraph. 

While grief books of all kinds have something unique to offer their readers, this particular book is unique in the amount of time you stay with it (a full calendar year), and the brevity of your time with it each day. Each daily entry takes just 1 to 2 minutes to read. Inspirational and profound quotes are littered through the pages along with practical truths and helpful re-framings.
This book is the perfect gift for someone intimidated by long, intellectual, theoretical or auto-biographical grief books. Focused on practical daily steps and support for the reader alone, Forsythia's book connects without overwhelming or piling on more.  

Research that Matters
Wicker, P. & Orlowski, J. (2021). Coping with adversity: Physical activity as a moderator in adaption to bereavement. Journal of Public Health43(2), e196–e203.

Cognitive Behavioral therapists, physicians, and virtually every other health care professional has long recommended physical exercise as one practice to mitigate the effects of clinical depression and to cope with a variety of symptoms that result from loss. The authors of this study, however, wanted to explore the possible positive (or negative) effects of physical activity prior to a major life event such as bereavement to determine what mitigating effects these prior practices might have on the experiences of loss. They analyzed the records of 24,328 German individuals collected in eight waves over 16 years in order to explore a diversity of loss issues.
Using a regression analysis method to help control variability in their sample’s responses, what the researchers found was that regular physical activity in the months leading up to a loss (such as widowhood) tended to predict better adjustment in the months after the loss. While the difference was most notable among females, both genders saw significantly better “adaptation to the life event” (p. e199) for those who were physically active before the loss than those who were not.
In describing their study’s major findings, the authors note the common public health admonition toward physical activity for its physical health benefits. “However,” they continue, “it can also be actively used as a mean to accelerate the adaption process following adverse life events such as bereavement. Hence, public health officials and individuals providing mental support for people who likely suffer bereavement in the near future (if it can be expected) should encourage them to engage in physical activity. Thus, physical activity should also be promoted as a buffer to negative well-being impacts of adverse life events” (p. e202).
GriefPerspectives is published monthly by Grief Connect, Inc. Copyright ©2021. All rights reserved, including publication or distribution in any form, electronic or printed. For reprint permissions or suggestions for content, please email us at
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