Personal Grief Rituals presents a new model for how bereaved individuals can create unique expressions of mourning that are tailored to their psychological needs and grounded in memories and emotions specific to the relationship they lost.

This book examines cultures across the world and throughout history to shed light on how humanity has always turned to grief rituals and how custom can stifle one’s pursuit of healthy and meaningful mourning. Contemporary psychological research, most notably attachment theory, provides an in-depth understanding of how each individual’s subjective experience of loss varies and why complicated bereavement may emerge. Richly detailed psychotherapy case studies exemplify innovative strategies for designing personal grief rituals. Where one person may visit an old haunt to express sorrow, another might use symbols to strengthen their connection to the deceased, and still another could cast aside vestiges of the past.

Personal Grief Rituals is an excellent resource for professionals, students studying the psychology of loss, or anyone hoping to carve a new path through their own grief and mourning.


In Personal Grief Rituals, Paul Martin has produced that rarest of things in the literature on grief: a compendium that is at once scholarly while also being immensely practical. For its recognition of the dialectics of honoring continuing bonds while also pursuing new life, and its balanced critique of the siren song of endless mourning and the defensive deafness to grief’s natural call, I recommend this infectiously readable volume to every grief therapist and bereaved individual who seeks to transcend words alone to embody the meaning that can be found in mourning.

Robert A. Neimeyer

Editor of New Techniques of Grief Therapy and director of Portland Institute for Loss and Transition

This book offers a fresh approach to problems of mourning, as it argues a case for creating personal grief rituals when cultural rituals fail to facilitate healthy grieving. Drawing on the author’s remarkably broad knowledge in the fields of cultural anthropology and psychology, he links theory with application and demonstrates how therapists may help bereaved clients design individually tailored rituals in accordance with the person’s specific experience and needs. In my view, the appeal of Personal Grief Rituals will be far-reaching both within and beyond the field of thanatology. 

Margaret Stroebe

Professor emerita at the Department of Clinical and Health Psychology, Utrecht University and the Department of Clinical Psychology and Experimental Psychopathology, Groningen University

Artfully blending insights from anthropology, psychology, history, and sociology, Personal Grief Rituals is an amazing asset to death educators, counselors, and the general public. It is bound to become a classic work!

Kenneth J. Doka

Senior vice-president for Grief Programs, The Hospice Foundation of America; professor emeritus, The College of New Rochelle