Moving from the Environment of Death to the Environment of the Living

Michal Mahat-Shamir, Ronit D. Leichtentritt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The daily reminders of life’s fragility can lead to moral, emotional, and psychological distress. Establishing clear boundaries between work and non-work environments is a suggested approach to mitigate these adverse effects. Drawing on van Gennep’s work on rites of passage, this paper explores the rituals and strategies employed by professionals dedicated to the dying/deceased to transition between their work and home environments. Through a qualitative interpretive phenomenological analysis of 23 in-depth semi-structured interviews with Israeli hospice social workers and undertakers, two main strategies emerged as “rites of passage”: Physical Purification and Escapism. However, participants noted that these rituals were not always foolproof, with instances of “leakage” where elements from the realm of death and dying carried over into their personal lives. The study suggests that engaging in idiosyncratic rituals plays a crucial role in facilitating the reintegration of professionals involved in the care of the dead and dying, offering a means of expressing and containing challenging emotions and providing structure during the transitional phase.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Loss and Trauma
StateAccepted/In press - 2024
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 The Author(s). Published with license by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.


  • Experienced-space
  • hospice
  • palliative care
  • social workers
  • undertakers


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