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Stellenbosch Theological Journal

On-line version ISSN 2413-9467
Print version ISSN 2413-9459


GIBSON, L  and  LOUW, DJ. A practical theology of bereavement care: Re-ritualization within a paradigm of "comforting presence". STJ [online]. 2018, vol.4, n.2, pp.521-551. ISSN 2413-9467.

The investigation focuses on a concern for the marginalization of bereaved human beings in the context of cultural shifts now shaping twenty-first century pastoral care. The article advocates for a practical theology of bereavement to aid in nurturing care and eudaimonic well-being (including both vocational pastors and funeral directors) within the paradigmatic framework of a theopaschitic understanding of compassion (oiktirmos). The investigation examines the growing threat of deritualization - a public openness to revise, replace, minimize the significance of, and even eliminate or avoid long-held funerary rituals to assist in the adaptation of loss. The notion of re-ritualization is operationalized as an intentional act of restoring and re-engaging in creative and meaningful ritual forms that give symbolic expression to significant thoughts and feelings of the bereaved within a social ethos that is no longer committed to a conventional or fixed approach to ritualization. In order to facilitate a process of re-ritualization, bereavement care is linked to the notion of "comforting presence".

Keywords : Grief and mourning in pastoral caregiving; funeral directors; deritualization; resilience; re-ritualization; comforting presence; practical theology of bereavement; theology of compassion; theopaschitic thinking.

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