Francesca Gino and Michael I. Norton wrote this 2013 essay for the Scientific American on the benefits of ritual from a psychological perspective:
Rituals in the face of losses such as the death of a loved one or the end of a relationship (or loss of limb from shark bite) are ubiquitous. There is such a wide variety of known mourning rituals that they can even be contradictory: crying near the dying is viewed as disruptive by Tibetan Buddhists but as a sign of respect by Catholic Latinos; Hindu rituals encourage the removal of hair during mourning, while growing hair (in the form of a beard) is the preferred ritual for Jewish males.
People perform mourning rituals in an effort to alleviate their grief – but do they work? Our research suggests they do. In one of our experiments, we asked people to recall and write about the death of a loved one or the end of a close relationship. Some also wrote about a ritual they performed after experiencing the loss:
“I used to play the song by Natalie Cole “I miss you like crazy” and cry every time I heard it and thought of my mom.”
“I looked for all the pictures we took together during the time we dated. I then destroyed them into small pieces (even the ones I really liked!), and then burnt them in the park where we first kissed.”