Rituals are used quite often, not only during bereavement, but in our everyday lives. Rituals specifically used in bereavement offer the griever an opportunity to feel connected to their lost loved ones. Rituals can also offer a sense of peace and comfort to the griever, even if it's only for a little while. Often, a griever may have problems working through their grief process because they interpret that if they stop grieving their loved one, they will forget them. NOT TRUE! We all come to know that eventually, but when someone is in the middle of their grief, it is very hard to convince them of that fact. That is when we can use rituals as a way for the griever to honor and remember their loved one.
The key to making rituals a powerful, healing and symbolic action is in the KISS principle. Keep It Simple Silly! Ok, that last word wasn't supposed to be "silly," but I don't like the other word, and this is my blog, so I'm taking artistic freedom here. Rituals can be as complicated or as easy as you want them to be. However, I have found that the less complex a ritual is, the more likely a griever will use it. Let's face it - when you're grieving, it can be a chore just to get out of bed in the morning and take a shower. Who would want to participate in a complicated ritual? On Thanksgiving, my family has the ritual of everyone around the table taking a turn and saying what they are grateful for. Pretty simple, right? Well, it is - but my niece showed me that it could be made even simpler and the power of the ritual was not diminished, in fact, it made it even more special and memorable. As each person took their turn, most said they were grateful for their family and health. When it was her turn she said, "I'm grateful for my fish!" You can't get more simple than that!
Rituals can be as varied as your imagination and creativity allow. Here are some common ones that people seem to enjoy.
Sharing memories of the loved one with others who knew the loved one as well.
Sharing the loved ones favorite food or drink and helping others to know the loved one better.
Light a candle.
Plant a tree.
Play a song.
Release balloons - with or without messages to the loved one.
Build a bouquet of flowers.
This last ritual we actually use a lot in our children's groups and our adult groups as well. It is very simple and yet very powerful and effective. I have included the instructions here for your use. This ritual can even be used with family members.
Build a Bouquet
Supplies: Flowers, vase
Lay flowers out on a table.
Have each person approach the table, pick a flower and place the flower in the vase.
As they place the flower in the vase, they can think to themselves, or say out loud, something they would like to convey to their loved one. (I miss you. I love you.)
The person goes back to their seat and allows the next person to go up to the table.
Once the bouquet has been built, everyone sits quietly for a few moments and observes the beautiful bouquet that was put together with loving thoughts.
Remember, rituals don't have to be complicated. They just have to feel meaningful to you. Remember KISS!
Until next week, please be gentle with yourself.
P.S. If you have found this posting or previous postings helpful, please consider making a donation to The Bereavement Center. We are a non-profit organization that serves the community, and we operate solely on donations from families, clients and the community. As always, your donation will be greatly appreciated and acknowledged.