Glossary & Definitions

  • In this section, find a glossary containing definitions of common words and rituals relating to sympathy.

    A B C D E F G H I J K L M
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  • Bereavement

    Although the word can encompass any aspect of being deprived of something, the term bereavement finds its most stinging reality in the loss felt following a death. We tend to want to limit the time parameters to the days immediately surrounding the funeral and burial, the pains of bereavement usually continue for a much longer period of time.

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  • Condolence

    Condolences are words of sympathy that are offered as an expression of compassion toward the one who has suffered an intense loss. Expressions of true condolence first attempt to put words where words are not easily found. When the pain of loss is overwhelming, no words will lessen the emotions, let alone remove them. Condolences acknowledge that words are not enough.

  • Coping

    Coping is spending a conscious effort to handle personal and interpersonal problems minimizing their levels of stress and conflict. The tools that are used to accomplish this task are often called “coping skills” or “coping tools.” With regard to the death of a loved one, one speaks of the ability to cope with – deal with – the effects and consequences of the loss.

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  • Cremate

    Cremation rates vary from country to country. Japan has the largest percentage of cremation to deaths, reporting about a 98% rate. The smallest rate is about 6% and is found in Poland. In 2012, cremation accounted for about 20% of the final resting places of the dead in the United States.



  • Epitaph

    Epitaphs are known for spinning plays on words, attempting to capture the essence of life in a handful of thoughts. They may be clever, funny, or poignant. Gregory Nunn, former athlete and now an agent for several NBA players, once said that “the most touching epitaph I ever encountered was on the tombstone of the printer of Edinburgh. It said simply: He kept down the cost and set the type right.”

  • Eulogy

    The word “epitaph” comes from two Greek words that literally mean “over a tomb” and is used to describe the words that are etched on a gravestone or tomb marker.



  • Grief

    Above all else, grief is a response to loss. It may take several shapes and forms – from painful and passionate tears to striking outbursts of anger. Grief is experienced on physical, mental, emotional, social and philosophical levels. Though the terms are often used interchangeably, bereavement is the state of loss; grief is the response to the loss.

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  • Memorial

    A memorial is an object which serves to focus thoughts and remembrances for an important event or a life lost. Popular memorials include landmarks, art objects such as paintings, sculptures, or statues, and fountains. Other memorials would include parks, roads, plaques, and posters.



  • Obituary

    An obituary is an article in a newspaper that reports the recent death of an individual from the community. It typically includes the date of the death, a brief account of the individual’s life, and listing of the surviving close family members.



  • Sympathy

    Sympathy is the understanding and reaction to the distress and need of another human. Empathy and sympathy are often used interchangeably, though there are real differences in the emphasis of the two. Empathy refers to the sharing of the same or very similar emotional states.



  • Tribute

    A tribute is wealth that one person gives to another as a sign of respect or allegiance. To be called a tribute, the payment must be made from a lesser party to the greater one. In ancient times, the tribute often reflected political submission of an inferior army to a superior one. Technically, payment from the superior party to the inferior one is called a subsidy.



  • Vigil

    A vigil is a period of time spent without sleep for the purpose of an intense watching or observance. It was often associated with a time of spiritual devotion, most often spent in prayer and fasting.



  • Wake

    A wake is a ceremony associated with the death of an individual. Traditionally, the wake took place at the home of the deceased, with the body present. Modern society holds the wake in the funeral home and is often called the “viewing” or “visitation.”


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