Are there rituals to help with grief?
July 12th, 2020
Each person’s way of grieving is different. There is no single factor that predicts who copes well and who does not. Many variables impact how we feel loss. The nature of our relationship with deceased, cause of death, stress levels, cultural background, personality and support systems to name a few.
Public memorials and ceremonies exist in all cultures and can be very important in marking loss and healing through grief. Customs like “sitting shiva” in Judaism, funeral rites in Christian traditions, or bardo practices in Tibetan Buddhism can help create a sense of community, helping mourners cope in a meaningful ways.
For some, private rituals can be invaluable. Rituals have a way of making the truth that is present evident. They may draw on ancient wisdom or not but more importantly they have a personal relevance for the participants. They acknowledge the reality of the death, encourage the expression of grief, and help us find hope for our continued living.
Simple practices like creating an honored place in your home with a photo of the deceased person can be helpful. Light a candle daily and speak to the person sharing the range of your emotional experiences and day to day activities. Many people are comforted by the rituals of wearing or sleeping with a piece of their deceased spouse’s clothing. Others set aside the anniversary of the death as a holiday. Other plant a tree or favorite flower that blooms each year. Be creative. And know that it is OK to talk to the person who has died. You are not crazy!
Emily PinzurSeptember 18th, 2020
Grief is oceanic. It rocks us back and forth, again and again, through waves of emotion. The waves are rough, frequent, and unpredictable. When we grieve, no matter what we grieve (maybe a person, a pet, the end of a relationship, an illness), it can feel like the grief is taking over. Everything is different: time, space, even our own body. We need to reorient ourselves, again and again, to a world, and a life, that in some important ways is new to us. When we grieve, whatever we grieve, we have permission to go back to basics.
This is the first grief ritual.
Part of going back to basics is doing what we know. We crave comfort, we need to reorient ourselves. Yet another part of us wants to give this exquisitely tender time the pause…and special recognition… it deserves. We toggle back and forth between our need for the routine, and our need for the extraordinary. We can acknowledge and hold both needs at once by honoring them in ritual. Ritual asks for our attention and intention. It grounds us firmly in the present moment and makes room for the sacred to join us.
As you grieve, be sure to make room for ritual in your life! Be extremely gentle with yourself as you do this, clearing as much space and time as you need. If you can, practice gratitude. Practicing gratitude means recognizing the good that is already yours. Gratitude feels good and has multiple benefits for the body that are especially helpful while mourning because people who practice gratitude feel less isolated, more attuned to the interconnectedness of life, and more rooted in the present moment.
Take a deep breath. Locate your heart with your mind’s eye and well up a feeling of gratitude there. Think of, then write down 3-5 things you felt grateful for during the day. Include any prayers or blessings that feel meaningful to you or let your gratitude practice be your prayer.