In Talking to the Dead: Kate and Maggie Fox and the Rise of Spiritualism, Barbara Weisberg explains how industrialization, the burgeoning middle class, and new religious beliefs altered the mourning practices of 19th century America:
In the past as well, men and women had been anchored in cohesive communities through ties such as church membership and extended kinship. But as nineteenth-century men and women found themselves increasingly on the move, seeking new lives in strange cities or unfamiliar territories, they also found themselves more isolated when confronted with the deaths of their loves ones. With death omnipresent, and neither religion nor science nor community of much comfort, the bereaved took solace in their immediate families, in sentimental rites and remembrances, and in other expressions of personal feeling.
The genteel middle class, which valued each family member in life, equally cherished the departed and demonstrated its devotion in new ways. Funerals and mourners' finery grew more elaborate, traditions imported from England, where the wealthier class imitated the ostentation practiced by their royal betters. Memorial portraits of the dead--either in their last days or in their coffins--were placed prominently in the home, and friends sent outpourings of poems and letters to console the bereaved. A curl of hair from the departed, tied with a ribbon, was often kept in a locket worn on a necklace or watch chain, and sometimes a small shrine of favorite artifacts and memorabilia would be arranged in a corner of the parlor or bedroom.
Christianity had long encouraged an acceptance of death and had promised a heavenly afterlife to some if not to all. Now, however, the increased focus on each person's specialness seemed to make it that much more difficult to let someone go. The rise of magnificent rural cemeteries in the 1830s was one of the most striking examples of a shift in attitude. The word cemetery, derived from the Greek, was just coming into use and literally means "sleeping place." Burial grounds, formerly modest plots behind churches, expanded into parks with vistas and gardens, not unlike the vision of heaven described by the philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg. In dedicating one of these cemeteries, a Supreme Court justice noted that its lush surroundings existed "as it were, upon the borders of two worlds." Families strolled through these scenic graveyards not only to visit the departed but also for melancholy pleasure[...].
Encouraged by the culture to dwell on their feelings, individuals poured their grief and their hope for immortality into their poems, prose, art, and architecture. These works abounded in consoling images of loved ones in heaven but also had a paradoxical effect: they turned mourning into a way of life that pervaded everything, from Sunday strolls among cemetery tombs to the songs sung by children at their music lessons.