Creating grief rituals is as individual as the one who mourns and can help us continue to feel connected.
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When someone we love dies, the grief we feel is all encompassing. There is nothing we can do to change the reality that nothing will ever be the same again. Life is turned upside down and we feel helpless. It is for this very reason that a meaningful ceremony and ritual is so important. Researchers Norton and Gino found that “rituals help people overcome grief by counteracting the turbulence and chaos that follow loss.”
My granddaughter and I watched The Book of Life, an animated movie based on the Mexican celebration of ancestors called the Day of the Dead or Día de los Muertos. The annual multi-day holiday is celebrated on the first two days of November. In the movie, two male characters compete for the love of a girl and the story of an afterlife adventure takes the viewer to ‘The Land of the Forgotten’ and ‘The Land of the Remembered’. Inscribed on the hero’s guitar by his love are the words “always play from the heart”.
That inscription has a rather poignant meaning for me as I believe ritual should be from the heart – always. When my Dad knew his time was ending due to leukemia, he told me “Marilyn, I have to die from something. It’s the circle of life.” I wrote and shared his life story with family and friends.
His memory lives on in Tombstone, AZ where new owners were found for his collection of cowboy shirts that he had worn square dancing. His necktie collection was crafted into pillows to cuddle. When I especially miss him, listening to recordings of him singing and playing guitar brings him closer. Hearing a particular song on the radio reminds me of him. During all of these activities, I remember him as tears fall. But more, I celebrate him. Every time I pick up any guitar but especially the one he gave me, I remember it was Dad who taught me to play.
At a recent funeral, I shared the avid golfer and grounds keeper’s story. I encouraged guests to take one of the over 2,000 lost golf balls he had collected as they left and keep it in remembrance of him or play it in the next game in memory of him – after all, he was a pretty lucky guy. Without a doubt, this man will reside in the “Land of the Remembered”. I overheard a gentleman telling the widow during the reception that he would be sure to send her a photo of him getting a hole in one with the ball he had chosen!
Creating grief rituals is as individual as the one who mourns. It can be structured with a place, time and activity of remembrance such as a well-written memorial focused on our beloved’s life story. Rituals can also be those moments in time when we create something or do something that causes us to reflect on a life and the impact on our own. Powerful grief rituals help us to still feel connected. It can be as simple as whispering goodnight while envisioning our loved ones smile before we turn out the light.
The Celebrant Foundation & Institute (CF&I) is the nation’s preeminent online educational institute that teaches and certifies people as modern day ritual and ceremony professionals called Life-Cycle Celebrants®. Founded in 2001, the educational nonprofit organization headquartered in Montclair, NJ, is a member of the International Federation of Celebrants. To date, the CF&I has graduated nearly 900 Life-Cycle Celebrants® who preside over 20,000 ceremonies each year throughout North America, Asia and Europe. To learn more about the CF&I, visit www.celebrantinstitute.org
Watch January 2017's Weddings with Zita (Zita Christian) with featured guest Elisa Chase, CF&I Academic Manager, discussing Ceremony, Rituals and the Celebrant Foundation & Institute.