The first 49 days is believed by Buddhists to be an important period, during which time the deceased is reincarnated and makes their transition to the new life. Prayers are offered to guide and support the spirit.
Because of my personal religious beliefs -- but moreover because I know my mom didn't believe in reincarnation -- I don't put much stock in the meaning of the ritual (had to find out about it online). I attended more for the cultural aspect of the mourning process, which establishes certain intervals at which the family comes together to grieve and also celebrate the deceased: we went back to the grave three days after the burial, then once a week for seven weeks; the extended family will come together again at 100 days, and again at the year. The increased intervals are meant to "ease" the presence of the deceased out of daily life. I like that we're not expected to jump back into our regular schedules right after the funeral or after the bereavement leave allocated by work. I like that it's a yearlong process, and that we will continue to meet each year on my mom's death anniversary. And always on her birthday, and Mother's Day.
[family at 49]
To me, the larger gatherings are more for the "outer" circles of family and friends, where I am not so much mourning or remembering but simply "showing face." For me and for my immediate family, it's not, "See ya!" until 100 days. We continue to grieve, both as a unit and individually. I do so by allowing the laughs and tears to come as they may, and by (re)turning to words -- self-help books, memoirs, articles, and yes, even my own.