What rituals can I do for the death of a loved one?
July 14th, 2020
Creating your own ritual is such a beautiful thing to do, such an act of love. One of the most important and beautiful things to do is to be prepared to wash the body. So you need to consider how you're going to do that. Discuss this before the death. Who do you want to wash the body? How do you turn the body? How do you use the rose water, or whatever perfumes you want in the water? Who's there? For some people, just washing the hands and feet is enough. You want the body treated with the utmost respect, and when the funeral director comes, you can say, we've washed and shrouded the body. You'll want to know what fabrics your loved one wanted to be shrouded in. Get all this prepared ahead of time so that when the person dies, everyone's ready to go into action. A ritualistic side of this, too, is preparing the room for the bathing before washing the body. Do you want music, candles or incense? It's about creating the right container for this really, really final act of love. Because once this ritual is complete and the body is shrouded, you call the funeral director and that's the last time you're going to see the body unless there's a viewing and memorial or funeral. But this is the last gift of love you can give. A few months ago we had a beautiful ritual. I'd been seeing this gentleman for a few weeks before he died and we discussed all these things: who do you want in the room while dying, are there family members you do not want there, who are they. So the morning he died, he was laying in bed, the wife and live-in nurse were there, and we invited the three sons into the room. They were unable to step close to the bed because seeing their father suddenly dead was really shocking for them. They were around 19, 15 and eight. I invited them to come and help with the washing and they said no, they couldn't do it. So we said, "tell us a little bit about your dad and what he meant to you. What was his favorite song?" It was "Wild Horses" by Mick Jagger. So we opened all the windows in the bedroom, this beautiful apartment in New York, got onto Spotify, and played Mick Jagger full blast.The kids were dancing with mom and they were laughing and crying and telling stories. Once all that was done, talking about dad and remembering who dad was in his life, we were able to slow the whole process down and the kids were able to wash the body. Such a beautiful inroad to something that can be really frightening to some people. After the memorial service, each of the kids said to us that they were so glad to help wash that body, and if they hadn't they would've regretted it for the rest of their lives. They said they'd always remember it. So that kind of ritualistic taking care, that final act of love is so important. And some people don't want that, which is of course ok.