Finding Comfort in Grief through Rituals

When emotions of grief and sadness become too strong, it is as if rain clouds have opened up producing floods of tears to wash our lives.  We become helpless from the onslaught of emotions that surface.  These floods of emotions traveling through our days actually help us move on to a healthier existence.  Surprisingly, releasing tears cleanses and balances our inner core.

There are many deaths, death of a career path, death of a marriage, etc.  All this can be just as devastating as a loved one passing away. Any relationship that changes is not always comfortable.  We tend to attach too much identity with both a person or a career.  When all along we might try looking at our inner wealth and drawing from that to keep our mind and body healthy and happy.

“Time heals all wounds is a myth,” says Dr. Sharon J. Wendt, founder/director of Radiant Heart Healing Institute.  “A more accurate statement is: Love heals all wounds.  Fill up with love.  Spend time with loving people.  Get hugs every day.  Ask friends to support you. Tell your friends what you need. “

“Believe that you deserve love and support as you heal.  Be active in finding love.  Learn to laugh again–it lightens your heart.  Each and every day you can make the choice to take charge of your heart and heal your grief.”

Therefore, practicing rituals can comfort us in our grief. You may ask who needs rituals? We all do.

Rituals help us work through negative emotions such as grief, sadness, anger, resentment, etc. According to Sogyal Rinpoche, author of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, there is a common belief that a ritual must either be a formal ceremony or one that is strange and unfamiliar, and some may hesitate to embrace the idea that rituals may be helpful to them.  What they may overlook is their participation in rituals that have become ordinary markers in their day to day lives, such as birthdays, anniversary, or graduation celebrations.   Rituals can be especially important to those who may be grieving but do not have traditional relationships or ways to express their grief.

Creating a ritual starts with examining the focus of a goal – getting clear about what you want to do and the outcome you desire.  What would you like to experience?  Your goal should be simple and realistic; if it is complicated, work toward the outcome in stages.  Repetition empowers a ritual.

Planning and thinking about what is needed and how it may be achieved helps you to know yourself better and discover what is important to you.  Decide whether or not you want others to participate, how much time will be involved, where this ritual will take place and if using symbols, which ones will best represent your needs.

Prepare yourself by going through the physical, mental, and emotional aspects of your plan. You are fine-tuning your plan. Physically, you find symbols and a setting; mentally, you must refine the details; and emotionally, you must confront the emotions that will arise from this process.  Your ritual will allow you to access, express, and transform the most difficult feelings in a way that comforts both you and those who participate on your behalf.

When the manifestation of the ritual includes using, making, or receiving something tangible, it becomes easier to shift. The tangible object will still be important and offer a sense of connection, even when the ceremony has been completed.

Evaluate and take time to process the effects of your ritual.  Are you noticing a shift in feeling, thinking or acting?  Are your feelings more manageable?  Have your daily habits normalized?  If so, your ritual may be helping.

Here are some rituals I performed after my parents passed away:
1) A few days after each parent passed away I applied “Phowa”, a spiritual practice from The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying.  According to Rinpoche, the most powerful time to do this spiritual practice for someone who has died is during the first forty-nine days.  It is during these first three weeks that the dead have a stronger link with this life, which makes them more accessible to our help.  Help for the dead, however, is not confined to the forty-nine days after death.  It is never too late to help someone who has died, no matter how long ago it was.  Even if the person you want to help has been dead a hundred years, but it will still be of benefit.  This ceremony can be performed on any day of the forty-nine day period, but especially on the same day of the week that the person died.

A mantra is then spoken from the Buddha of Compassion, which purifies all negative emotions.  As I repeated the mantra over and over,” OM MANI PADME HUM (pronounced by Tibetans:OM Mani Peme Hung.), I visualized my parents, whole, happy and well.   As a result, many hours of peace and clarity emerged, even though my life continued very tumultuously.

2) For my Father’s memorial, my brother and I bought a couple of dozen colorful balloons and released them into a clear blue sky on top of Gates Pass in Tucson, AZ.  The balloons drifted up and up and as with the memory of a loved one, we may no longer be able to see them, but they are only out of sight, not out of mind or our hearts.   This memory will remain with us forever.

3) Shortly thereafter, a girlfriend of mine sweetly constructed a small wooden cross, painted white with red, green and blue flowers on the tips, that read Mom and Dad across it. I planted the cross near a creek in the Mount Baldy Wilderness area. This wilderness area is one of my favorites and now holds lots magic for me every time I visit.

4) Journaling is another avenue that helps us get in touch and release our innermost emotions.  Any size spiral notebook will work. Just write any and all that is in your mind and heart for at least 30 minutes a day and watch what insights may reveal themselves to you.

5) Internal cleanses are invaluable for the body in eliminating grief and old emotional traumas.   My first cleanse was the Liver, Kidney and Gall Bladder Cleanse.  This particular cleanse involves ingesting Chinese tinctures for 60 days.  Gold Coin tincture works on the liver and Bitters tincture works on softening stones in the kidney and gall bladder.  After 60 days, I drank only organic apple juice for two days.  At the end of the second day, right before I retired for the night, I drank a mixture of olive oil and lemon juice.  Swallowing this mixture was probably the hardest part!  Around 4 am, I awoke and ran to the bathroom to expel.  I’ll spare you the details, but it became very apparent as the day wore on, that a major emotional shift has occurred.  I felt a tremendous amount of weight off my shoulders, heart and mind.

6) And last but not least, meditating always helps, even if for only five to fifteen minutes a day.  Your immune system strengthens and will thank you for developing inner peace.

As you may have noticed, all of these rituals are about Letting Go. What we think might be the end is often the beginning. The beginning of a new you and finding new strengths that may have been hidden.

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