Tuesday March 19, 2019

Do we ritualise death to quell our own Sorrows and Anxieties?

Simple rituals, even those that are invented or made up can reduce people’s feeling of grief, say Harvard University experiments

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A Cemetery. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
  • Veneration of the dead is one of the integral parts of religious practices all over the world
  • The earliest evidence of burial comes from Upper Palaeolithic burial sites dating back thousands of years ago
  • Studies show that we ritualise death for our own sake, to quell our own sorrows and anxieties

From mummification to ‘sky burials’, human beings have always shown some form of obsession when it comes to the dead. Mortuary rituals are universal across cultures, but how the dead are dressed vary widely.

While expensive lined and cushioned mahogany or walnut caskets often used in modern Western burials, the Zoroastrians used to place corpses atop specially constructed Towers of Silence for the scavenging birds, said a Scroll.in report.

The Dani people of West Papua, New Guinea also had to cut off their own fingers after the death of a loved one. This seemingly severe and incomprehensible ritual applied to any woman related to the deceased, as well as any children.

For some cultures like those of the Melanesians of Papua New Guinea and the Wari people of Brazil, the best way to honor the dead is by eating them.

Sky Burial Image Source:Wikipedia Commons

For thousands of years, Tibetan Buddhists practice ritual dissection, or “Sky Burials” — the tradition of chopping up the dead into small pieces and giving the remains to animals, particularly birds. Sometimes, the body is also left intact.

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According to Scroll.in, the earliest evidence of burial comes from Upper Palaeolithic burial sites dating back thousands of years ago. The grave goods and other similar burial practices indicate at least rudimentary afterlife beliefs. Even now, veneration of the dead is one of the integral parts of religious practices all over the world.

Death is also central to Christianity. After all, the crucifix is an instrument of torture and execution. Christians also observe special days dedicated to death, such as Good Friday. Rather than celebrating the anniversaries of their births, most saints’ days fall on the dates of their deaths

The Psychology Of Rituals

“Funerals, I had decided, are for the living.” ― John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

Studies show that we ritualise death for our own sake, to quell our own sorrows and anxieties. There is increasing evidence that rituals serve to regulate our emotional reactions. According to experiments conducted at the Harvard University, simple rituals, even those that are invented or made up can reduce people’s feeling of grief, said the Scroll.in report.

Rituals also serve other purposes and are indications of stress relief. Certain studies show that when people become more rigid and repetitive when put in stressful situations , they are in fact relieving stress and reducing anxiety. Rituals may also serve to stave off our own anxieties concerning mortality.

Furthermore, as rituals call for social gatherings, they create a comfortable atmosphere that binds people together over the loss of a loved one. Hence group rituals, particularly those involving synchronous behavior, also foster a sense of social cohesion that can help us to feel more physically formidable.

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According to Scroll.in, another purpose of ritualising death could be that it helps us to deal with the feelings of guilt associated with disposing of a corpse. When a process is formulated and followed for generations, the central focus is shifted from disposing the corpse to saying goodbye to the one we loved. By doing so, they cease to be people and become objects that we can dispose.

Despite the wide diversity in the traditions of disposing the dead or to bid a last goodbye, it seems that death rituals are meant to make us feel less helpless in the face of our grief and pain.

-prepared by Ajay Krishna, an intern at NewsGram. Twitter: @ajkrish14

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Unites States’ Death Rate By Cancer Hits Milestone

In the early 1970s, colon cancer death rates in the poorest counties were 20 percent lower than those in affluent counties

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Cancer, U.S.
Importantly, ORP2 could also be targeted to fight cancer. 

The U.S. cancer death rate has hit a milestone: It’s been falling for at least 25 years, according to a new report.

Lower smoking rates are translating into fewer deaths. Advances in early detection and treatment also are having a positive impact, experts say.

But it’s not all good news. Obesity-related cancer deaths are rising, and prostate cancer deaths are no longer dropping, said Rebecca Siegel, lead author of the American Cancer Society report published Tuesday.

Cancer also remains the nation’s No. 2 killer. The society predicts there will be more than 1.7 million new cancer cases, and more than 600,000 cancer deaths, in the U.S. this year.

A breakdown of what the report says:

Cancers, U.S.
Women receive cancer treatment at The National Oncology Center in Sanaa, Yemen. VOA

Decline

There’s been a lot of bad news recently regarding U.S. death rates. In 2017, increases were seen in fatalities from seven of the 10 leading causes of death, according to recently released government data. But cancer has been something of a bright spot.

The nation’s cancer death rate was increasing until the early 1990s. It has been dropping since, falling 27 percent between 1991 and 2016, the Cancer Society reported.

Lung cancer is the main reason. Among cancers, it has long killed the most people, especially men. But the lung cancer death rate dropped by nearly 50 percent among men since 1991. It was a delayed effect from a decline in smoking that began in the 1960s, Siegel said.

Cancers, U.S.
Diakite, 46, looks out the window after her annual check up with Dr. Abdoul Aziz Kasse at the Clinique des Mamelles in Dakar, Senegal on July 13, 2017. Diakite has successfully recovered from cervical cancer thanks to Dr. Kasse and yearly checks. VOA

Prostate cancer

The report has some mixed news about prostate cancer, the second leading cause of cancer death in men.

The prostate cancer death rate fell by half over two decades, but experts have been wondering whether the trend changed after a 2011 decision by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force to stop recommending routine testing of men using the PSA blood test. That decision was prompted by concerns the test was leading to overdiagnosis and overtreatment.

The prostate cancer death rate flattened from 2013 to 2016. So, while the PSA testing may have surfaced cases that didn’t actually need treatment, it may also have prevented some cancer deaths, the report suggests.

Obesity

Of the most common types of cancer in the U.S., all the ones with increasing death rates are linked to obesity, including cancers of the pancreas and uterus.

cancer, cellphone, U.S.
A radiologist examines the brain X-rays of a patient. In a small study, patients with brain tumors were given genetically modified poliovirus, which helped their bodies attack the cancer. VOA

Another is liver cancer. Liver cancer deaths have been increasing since the 1970s, and initially most of the increase was tied to hepatitis C infections spread among people who abuse drugs. But now obesity accounts for a third of liver cancer deaths, and is more of a factor than hepatitis, Siegel said.

The nation’s growing obesity epidemic was first identified as a problem in the 1990s. It can take decades to see how a risk factor influences cancer rates, “so we may just be seeing the tip of the iceberg in terms of the effect of the obesity epidemic on cancer,” Siegel said.

Disparity

There’s been a decline in the historic racial gap in cancer death rates, but an economic gap is growing — especially when it comes to deaths that could be prevented by early screening and treatment, better eating and less smoking.

Also Read: https://www.newsgram.com/drugs-breast-cancer-treating-drug-resistant-lung-tumours/

In the early 1970s, colon cancer death rates in the poorest counties were 20 percent lower than those in affluent counties; now they’re 30 percent higher. Cervical cancer deaths are twice as high for women in poor counties now, compared with women in affluent counties. And lung and liver cancer death rates are 40 percent higher for men in poor counties.

Dr. Darrell Gray, deputy director of Ohio State University’s Center for Cancer Health Equity, called the findings “important but not surprising.”

“We’ve known for some time that race is a surrogate” for other factors, like poverty and difficulty getting to — or paying for — doctor’s appointments, he said. (VOA)