Searching for life in death: celebratory mortuary ritual in the context of US interfaith families

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Contemporary societies offer an increasing range of options for mortuary ritual and for dealing with the deceased person’s body. This study explores how a sample of couples coming from differing religious upbringings navigates these choices to reach compatible understandings of death ritual that is appropriate for them. Although some respondents found meaning in established practices of their or their spouse’s religious backgrounds, more commonly they found compatible understandings in the ‘celebration of life’ approach to death. This response can be understood in the relationship between increased interfaith marriage and societal pluralism and in the symbolic ambiguity of ‘celebrating’, which can accomplish Hertz’s goals of mortuary ritual in the context of postmodern project of self-construction.