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"Definition of Spontaneous Memorial"

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Updated: September 18, 2006

Definition:

A first reaction to the unanticipated, unexpected and violent loss of life.

A rapid public response to publicized, unexpected and violent deaths, typically involving the accumulation of individual mementos to create a shrine at the death site.

The collection of mementos, usually of a symbolic nature, that people bring to and leave at the site of the collective traumatic event.

Characteristics:
Most spontaneous memorials start within hours of death notification; someone leaves a candle or bouquet of flowers, which is followed quickly by contributions from others.

They can be the limited, personal expression of the family and friends who place flowers, candles, stuffed animals, and notes on a tree by the roadside where a fatal accident occurred, or occur on a global level.

Spontaneous Memorials tend to be impermanent, but can become the place of a permanent memorial.

Also Known As: Spontaneous Memorialization, Spontaneous Shrines


Sources:
Facing History and Ourselves. Memory, History & Memorials: Spontaneous Memorials. http://www.facinghistory.org/campus/memorials.nsf/Home?OpenFrameSet
Roberts P. Encyclopedia of Death and Dying: Me-Nu. Memorialization, Spontaneous. http://www.deathreference.com/Me-Nu/Memorialization-Spontaneous.html
Haney, C.A., Leimer, C., & Lowery, J. (1997). Spontaneous memorialization: Violent death and emerging mourning rituals. Omega: Journal of Death and Dying, 35, 159-171.

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