Creating Rituals helps deal with Grief

We humans like things to stay the same. Even if we are open to change, change can be very difficult. There is nothing more disruptive than the death of someone you love, someone whose existence is part and parcel to your own. When someone you love dies, you experience deep, soul-wrenching pain. Your life changes. You change. Everything changes. Things are very different than you thought they would be. Yes, it hurts terribly. But there is nothing wrong with you. Grief is not pathological. Grief is normal, and there are things you can do to help grief along its way; one thing I believe can be the most helpful is to engage in ritual.

What Is a Ritual?

Rituals are actions done in purposeful ways that symbolize something much more than the acts themselves. They are constructed of actions that represent ideas, thoughts, myths, or beliefs about a subject and give purpose to action, serving to connect us to something greater than our own solitary selves. We may engage in ritual as we seek peace, clarity of mind, or to become more grounded. We may seek connectedness to family, a particular person, our culture, society, traditions, ancestors, or even to our own selves.

Perhaps the most significant thing that rituals provide is a certain order to an existence that otherwise might be full of confusion and chaos. Human life is full of confusion and uncertainty and, undoubtedly, the most chaotic times in our lives are those when we are grieving. Grief is chaos. Times of grief are when we need ritual most. Unfortunately, in our society, there are few rituals that are specifically designed for grieving people, aside from the funeral or memorial service.

Create Your Own Rituals

Creating personal rituals to remember your loved ones allows you to face and work through your grief in a safe, constructive way. Some people plan rituals in remembrance of a loved one’s birthday or anniversary. Others express their grief through small daily or weekly rituals. Some examples of small rituals include:

Some people engage in the smaller, spontaneous rituals listed above on a regular basis. You may do something similar, or you might choose to create a more structured ritual. You may decide to create a special ritual only one time, or you might decide to hold your ritual (or some version of it) on a regular basis—daily, weekly, monthly, or on special days like birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, or other special occasions.

When selecting activities for a more structured grief ritual, choose specific things to mark the opening and the closing of your ritual:

Clearly marking the beginning and the end of the ritual will help you transition into a different frame of mind at the opening, and it will signal that it is time to shift consciousness back to the mundane at the closing.