Why practice mourning rituals?
Grief can sometimes feel strong enough to tear you at the seams. It is such an enormous, all-consuming and overwhelming experience that it can be difficult to stay grounded in your body and present in the moment.
When coping with grief, some people may find it helpful to create a system, pattern, or ritual to ground themselves. While grief rituals are not a substitute for therapy or other forms of professional help, they can provide you with a container for the draining, earth-shattering emotion we associate with grief.
Rituals are intentional and intentional, which can make them a good way to balance out the confusion and chaos of grief. Grief rituals provide time, space, and structure to help you connect with your feelings. The more in tune you are with yourself, the easier it is for you to make progress toward one of the most difficult steps in grieving: acceptance.
Grief is difficult and painful, but also a largely unavoidable part of life. The challenge is to process and respond to these changes in your world. By expressing your grief in a healthy way, you can change and grow as you move forward.
A guide to mourning rituals
With all rituals, it can be helpful to find a way to mark the beginning and end of your practice. You could try lighting a candle when you begin and blowing it out when you’re done, or turning the music on for the duration of your mourning rituals and turning it off when you’re done. You could even try something as simple as putting on a jacket for the ritual and taking it off afterwards. Whichever method you choose, the goal is to develop a habit that prepares you to access your grief early in the ritual, and then change your mindset to something else once you’re done.
With that out of the way, here are seven grieving rituals that may help in the healing process. You can choose one that suits your purposes or mix and match them until you have something that perfectly suits your needs.
funeral or release
Whether grieving a bereavement or some other form of loss or trauma, many people find that a funeral or other form of physical release helps them begin the process of moving forward and finding closure. If you don’t have anything physical to represent your grief, you should write down your thoughts and experiences on paper (or other suitable material). Once you’ve done that, try burying or burning the note and releasing its ashes to the wind.
Write a letter
Writing is a way to organize and understand the disorienting and sometimes deafening whirlwind of emotions we associate with grief. When you are ready, try writing a letter to yourself or to the person or event you are grieving. Write down everything that comes to your mind. It may not make sense to you, but grief isn’t always a logical experience. When you have finished writing, you can put the letter on an altar place; Put it in a box with other things related to the loss or change you are experiencing; or release it by burying, burning or composting.
Create an altar
An altar is a curated place of remembrance and honor. Choose a spot that can remain relatively untouched, then place items related to your grief on the altar. This may include photographs, items in a relevant color or color scheme, letters, or a rock from a significant location. You can also place offerings such as flowers, food, healing crystals, candles, and art on the altar. Try to look at the altar periodically and think of the person, event, or change that is causing your grief. Make an effort to stay fully present as you experience your feelings in this moment. You can play music if you want. Just ground yourself in your memories and emotions.
Visit a significant place
Spend some time in a place that reminds you of the source of your grief. Feel the presence there. Open yourself up to any feelings that come your way and allow yourself to act as your instinct tells you (provided you feel comfortable and safe). Do you feel like dancing, singing or sitting still? Or do you feel like throwing something, crying, running or walking? Do what feels right to you as long as it doesn’t harm you or others who may be around.
Celebrate an anniversary
Set a date to remember and/or do something to honor the loss or change that prompted your grief. In this way, you can keep that person or experience present in your life on a regular and recurring basis.
Light a candle
Choose a time when you feel connected to your grief, light a candle, and take a moment to breathe and remember. Perhaps you light a candle at 6 p.m. each day because the person you lost usually comes home from work at that time, or perhaps you light a candle at the exact time the traumatic event took place . You could also light a candle when certain emotions, thoughts, or memories come to you. Let the flame remind you of the lasting effect someone or something had on you.
Make some noise
Pick a time and place where you don’t have to worry about it being too loud, and then get to work! Make some loud noises however you like. You might play an instrument, shout, play loud music, or bang on a pot. Just do what feels right to you as long as it’s safe! Let the vibrations overwhelm you. Maybe you can let go and access your feelings, or maybe you just want to go outside for a while. See what works for you right now!
Be open about your grieving rituals
You’ll likely find that the frequency with which you choose to engage in your grieving rituals will change over time. This is completely normal! Some people use their mourning rituals often when the grief is fresh and less when time has passed, while others do the opposite. Both are fine. Just don’t commit yourself to a schedule that doesn’t serve you.
Grief varies greatly from person to person and even from time to time. There is no one size fits all solution or even one solution that works for one person in every single situation! There is no need to overestimate these differences. Grief isn’t exactly patient or logical. As long as you’re confident, just listen to what you feel called to do, even if you don’t understand it. You may set out to perform an elaborate ritual only to find all you can do is cry or sit and stare.
Make space for your feelings to come out in their own way and don’t be ashamed to seek help from a psychologist if needed. Be tender now and forgive yourself. You are meant to grow and change as your world goes through these changes. It’s not comfortable, but it can be deeply meaningful. The things and people we lose don’t have to be a source of pain forever, but they can still remain a part of our heart.
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