Days of “Mourning” and Night

“There are numerous methods in which diverse cultures mourn for the death of a loved one. In my culture, we have a particular method of dealing with the dead. My family mourns the death of a loved one as a community. After the death of a loved one, my family finds a place to gather and mourn for the death of the person who has passed away, typically a relative’s home. The mourning process can last days to weeks. During each day, there is a praying session followed by a gathering. The mourning process ends on the day of the funeral when everyone says their final good-bye’s.”

My informant is of Mexican descent and finds his culture’s death-related folklore to be the most interesting to him. He learns the lore of his culture primarily by remembering those that have some relation to death. He informed me about a time that he was able to use one of his culture’s folk rituals to mourn for the death of a family member. He found it interesting that his family was able to integrate this ritual into U.S. culture, where apparently, mourning rituals differ greatly. During the mourning process, family members take time off in a day to pay respects to the deceased person. He indicated that there should be no excuses for not coming unless the person was ill; however, they would have to be chronically ill. He joins in performing this type of ritual out of a sign of respect and, interestingly, as a method to cope with his own issues. The death of a family member can be very difficult to overcome. Therefore, spending time with the family provides an alternative way to deal with such tragedies. Moreover, during the time of mourning, prayers are performed to bless the body in the afterlife.

The informant learned this as a child from his mother, who introduced him to this ritual after the death of his cousin. His mother described it as a custom they performed in their hometown of Colima, Mexico. He mentioned that children don’t really understand death in a way that is positive. Rather, they find it to be horrifying. As he grew up and witnessed deaths of his own loved ones, he came to realize that mourning the way his culture did helped him become more comfortable with the event.

My take on this ritual is that I notice these types of mourning rituals to be highly used in cultures that believe in life after death. These rituals may be used to alleviate the fear and irrational emotions that comes with an unfortunate event. It can help maintain sanity for people who have to deal with these outcomes. One can observe a similar rendition of this type of death-related ritual in the Filipino culture, for example. I remember after one of my grandmothers died, we spent exactly a week after her death visiting a particular family members home. Each day of the week, there was a different event scheduled, such as an initial gathering, speaking about the positives about the deceased member, reciting chants and prayers, etc. Together, these rituals have provided a way for people to see death in a different light and as a way to acknowledge this person for the positive things about them. Hence, it can be perceived as a commemoration for that individual rather than as a time for pity.