Finding Solace in Ritual – Mourning with a Purpose
I think there is something dignified and calming about rituals. We humans like our ceremony. Whether for celebration or mourning, our religions and belief systems are filled with them. Recently, I’ve been finding solace in making ‘ritual’ more individual and mindful, which is bringing it closer to and healing my heart.
Time is a human construct, yet as earthly creatures, we have to work within that construct. When someone we love dies, certain days and times of year take on a heightening meaning. Their or our birthdays, wedding anniversaries, special holidays–these days and the subsequent times of year change for us. The person who made these days special is no longer physically present, which can confuse the whole celebratory aspect these times are supposed to represent. Entirely different emotions and feelings of powerlessness occur on the anniversary of the day they died. Studies show that actively planning something to do on these trigger days significantly helps those trying to process the loss. http://www.hbs.edu/faculty/Publication%20Files/norton%20gino%202014_e44eb177-f8f4-4f0d-a458-625c1268b391.pdf
A deliberate act of remembrance, whether part of a funeral service or a private time after that day, has been shown to be helpful and healthy well beyond the magnitude of the action.
The feeling of loss of control can engulf our heads, blinding us to everything but how broken our hearts are. Meanwhile, the outside world goes on seemingly unchanged. Performing a small ceremony can have the power to bring us back to centre for a moment, allowing us some semblance of control at a time when even breathing no longer feels natural. As we move further away from the actual death of our person, significant dates and seasons can sneak up on us, bringing us right back to the emotions of the day he or she died or adding to the overwhelming feelings of trying to cope in the now.
Lighting a candle, visiting a burial site, eating a special meal, playing certain music, planting a tree– these acts can be part of a mindful ritual of remembrance. These are just ideas, but the point is to do something that feels comfortable to you.
When we consciously choose to do a certain action in memory of someone dear, it becomes symbolic. It becomes purposeful connection that means more than just the act, and it can give us a foothold on steadier ground.
A friend has a beautiful ritual he performs on any significant day involving him and his late wife.
“Rose petals are part of my ceremony to remember milestones, especially on anniversaries and birthdays. I can’t manage it for Valentine’s Day with the lake frozen and all.
The end of our dock is perfect for this. I take a rose or two out there with a bottle of proper champagne and two glasses. Cheap champagne was against the rules with Amy. It all fits neatly in a picnic basket. It always seems like a long walk out there. I open the champagne and pour two glasses. One gets poured into the lake; one I drink. Then comes the ritual of pulling the rose petals off the flower and, one by one, letting them go into the lake. That’s when I remember—calling forth all the memories of our good times together, all the love, all those moments that spring to mind without any effort at all. Of course, there are tears as well. There are always tears.” -Bob Filipczak
I am also letting the idea of mini rituals spread into the everyday. Hummingbirds remind me of my mom. When I see one, I try to give it my full attention, take it in with all of my senses, and then I send off a wish, dream or prayer of gratitude for having her as a mother. It doesn’t make me miss her less but it gives me focus and control and sometimes that is as good as we can get in the grieving process.
Take Time – Acknowledge Your Loss – Grieve Together – Mourn Together