Rituals alleviate grieving for loved ones, lovers, and lotteries

J Exp Psychol Gen. 2014 Feb;143(1):266-72. doi: 10.1037/a0031772. Epub 2013 Feb 11.


Three experiments explored the impact of mourning rituals--after losses of loved ones, lovers, and lotteries--on mitigating grief. Participants who were directed to reflect on past rituals or who were assigned to complete novel rituals after experiencing losses reported lower levels of grief. Increased feelings of control after rituals mediated the link between use of rituals and reduced grief after losses, and the benefits of rituals accrued not only to individuals who professed a belief in rituals' effectiveness but also to those who did not. Although the specific rituals in which people engage after losses vary widely by culture and religion-and among our participants--our results suggest a common psychological mechanism underlying their effectiveness: regained feelings of control.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adult
  • Ceremonial Behavior*
  • Female
  • Grief*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged