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The word “ritual” may conjure up visions of nefarious actions designed to incite negativity. Lighting birthday candles is a type of ritual that most of us enjoy. I think there is a sacred place for rituals and ceremonies in death and dying. It is a way to remember and celebrate our lives and honour our deaths.
Public Mourning & Private Mourning
Mourning is an expression of our grief. Consider the following: rituals are a way to symbolically express our feelings of grief and feel connected to someone we have loved who has died. A funeral service and memorials are a way of publicly mourning.
Rituals also allow us to privately reflect, remember, and acknowledge in a ceremonial way. This can be done once or repeatedly and anyone can create their own rituals and remembrances. A ritual will have a beginning and an end, which benefits our grief processing therapeutically and allows us to channel feelings of grief.
Express your feelings through the action of a Ritual.
Acknowledge the Continuing Bond to your loved one by trying one or some of these ideas:
- Have a physical space on a table or space on a wall or shelf in memory of your loved one during the holidays, or all the time.
- Feel a connection to your loved one by doing an activity they enjoyed.
- Create a memory scrapbook and fill it with pictures, letters, postcards and other significant memorabilia.
- Write a letter to the person who has died. Put your letter in a scrapbook or burn the letter and visualize the rising smoke carrying your message to them.
- Light a candle or burn incense in honour of your loved one.
- Plant and dedicate a garden, shrub, or tree to your special person.
- Make a donation gift or dedicate time to a charity in your loved one’s name. Although they are not physically here to carry out this work, you may do this in their name and in their honour.
- Spend time watching your loved one’s favourite movies or listening to their favourite music.
- Carry or wear something special that reminds you of your loved one.
- Create a work of art in their memory (no expertise necessary!)
- Read or say aloud an inspirational verse, poem, or prayer.
- Be in nature, symbolically place stones in a stream or lake or create a stone statue. Let being outdoors bring your awareness of the life around you.
Of Note: Be sure to have a beginning and an end to the ritual to allow yourself to transition back into a different frame of mind (of your daily grind perhaps). Do what feels comfortable for you and create what works.