Guide to Transitional Rituals

There is a wide variety of beliefs about the meaning of life and death and many of them are guided by religious traditions. People may be aware of their own tradition, but often they are not aware of the traditions of others. In this section we offer a summary of the teachings of some of the major belief systems in the hope that you will be more knowledgeable and more comfortable as a Soul Sitter Involved in the care of a wide range of people.

We have provided for categories of information for each of the belief systems. Even though there is overlap between many of them, we have tried to define the distinctions that many people consider to be important about their own beliefs. This is meant to be a helpful overview and not an exhaustive catalog of beliefs and practices. If you have insight about particular beliefs and practices, we'd love to hear from you so that we can make this section even more useful to site visitors.

Each of the belief systems outlined here considers an overview of the belief, including a bit of history of the religious tradition and core teachings. This is important information for a Soul Sitter to know as they address the needs of a dying person and their family. A rudimentary knowledge of the religious beliefs of others is, in itself, a demonstration of caring and respect. If you feel you need more detailed information about a particular belief system, it's a good idea to talk to a leader of the faith about particulars rather than family members.

In our summary of belief systems we have included sections on agnosticism, atheism and the nonreligious. We realize that these are not faith systems as are the other religions mentioned, but each one has its own ethos and it is important to have an understanding the fundamental beliefs of people, religious or not.

As well as an overview of general beliefs, we also focus in on the specific views on death and the afterlife for each group.

We have also added an overview of each group's morning and funeral rites. There is a universal respect for the process of dying and for honoring the dead, but each group also has unique practices. It is our intention to point out the unique aspects so you have a better ability to be of service as a Soul Sitter.

Many people using this material will be experienced Soul Sitters and they will have a greater understanding and appreciation for this material. However, we know that there will be many casual visitors to this site who will want to show their respect to friends and family members who may be of a faith different than their own. Thus, for both groups, we have outlined how you can express your condolences. Many people feel awkward about how to do that in an appropriate way, and we hope that the guidelines that we have provided are helpful.

If you would like to provide us with more information about your own faith, or more details about any of the sections we cover here, we would invite you to share your insights with us here at