Conversations in Grief Blog: Creating Our Own Rituals
Funerals, celebrations of life, memorial services…whatever words you use, these events are significant for the living to say good-bye and to honor and to express their feelings to/for their loved one who has died.
The loss of this closure or having to delay this indefinitely due to COVID-19 leaves grieving loved ones in a very awkward place. They are left hanging; one daughter described it to me as having her grief put on the back burner. Dr. Alan Wolfelt makes the point that funerals may be more helpfully understood as a “ritual of beginning. It is a rite of passage from life before the death to life after the death…it marks the beginning of our new lives.”
For those of you who have been forced to put your grief on the back burner, I invite you to create a ritual to help yourself honor your loved one and honor your own profound sense of loss. Rituals are important because they lend actions and even objects when words are not enough. I heard of one woman who washes her husband’s car every week. The act of soaping up his car, rinsing it off, and then drying it allows her time to remember and honor her husband and remember and honor her grief. Caring for his car, a possession that he valued, is a way for her to continue to care for him.
Wolfelt has written a book, Grief Day By Day: Simple Practices to Help Yourself Survive…and Thrive, that is very timely and essential during this time of COVID grief. He introduces his reader to the idea of ritual, helps the reader prepare to practice ritual, and then provides 35 rituals to practice in stillness or movement, alone or with others.
Let me offer up and summarize one of his rituals for your own practice of honoring your grief. The Photo Frame Ritual allows the griever to remember the person who died. Gather a few photos of your loved one, a scissors, a pen, and purchase a double glass frame for holding the photos. First, center yourself. Make sure you are comfortable. Prepare yourself for this time of remembering. Second, set your intention. What do you want to accomplish? It may be a desire to remember the gifts, interests, and passions of your loved one or it may be a desire to remember special times you shared with your loved one. Third, tell your stories with your pictures. Trim the pictures to fit the frame. Write on the backs of the pictures what you remember about that photo: who, when, where, why. Take your time, remember, feel whatever you feel as you reflect on your loved one. Fourth, speak out loud how you are grateful and how the ritual may have helped you. Finally, close with affirmation. This is mainly a repetition of your intention. This is you saying you choose to continue to remember how uniquely gifted your loved one was or that you will always treasure the times you shared together.
I hope this ritual inspires you to find ways to intentionally remember and honor your loved one. Please let me know your own ways of practicing ritual or, if you decide to try the photo frame ritual, how it went for you.