The Ceremony of Loss is conducted when a person dies by accident. This is different from release, which the people of Jonas’s community do not actually understand to be death. The Ceremony of Loss is described as taking place along with the other ceremonies in December. It is a failure for the community, because almost no one ever dies unintentionally.
The entire community had performed the Ceremony of Loss together, murmuring the name Caleb throughout an entire day, less and less frequently, softer in volume, as the long and somber day went on, so that the little Four seemed to fade away gradually from everyone's consciousness. (Ch. 6)
Jonas describes loss of a child as “very, very rare.” However, once the ceremony is performed, it is like the person never existed. He or she is forgotten. The Four Caleb fell in the river, his ceremony was performed, and his family was given a new baby named Caleb. He was replaced, just like that.
The reason that Jonas’s community conducts this ceremony is that they want to ensure that no one ever has to face real feelings of loss. The community mimics the grieving process in a flash, so quickly that it is artificially imposed upon them. People in Jonas’s community wouldn’t know the difference anyway. They are unable to experience real pain because they know no real emotions. Emotions have been taken from them in the name of Sameness. It is the community’s method of controlling everyone.
When a person is released, there is no Ceremony of Loss. Release occurs as a result of punishment, when a newchild fails, or when an elderly person has reached a certain age. Most people in the community never think twice about release. They know that the person is going to Elsewhere, but they do not understand what that means. They do not equate Elsewhere with death, just as they do not equate the Ceremony of Loss with death. They do not know what death is. This is why it is such a shock for Jonas when he finds out what his father is really doing to the babies when he releases them. Other than The Giver, he is the only one who would see death as wrong or know what it means.