Grief is universal. It’s unavoidable. It’s difficult. In today’s fast paced world we often look at the grief that comes with losing a loved one as something to “get through.”  But many cultures around the world turn to grief rituals to help honor the passing of a loved one.

Grief rituals all have one thing in common: they help you to regain a sense of control of your emotions and your life. Having some method to work through loss helps the grief-stricken to feel more in control after a devastating loss.  We know what a strong impact grief can have on overall mental health, and a ritual, both spiritual and otherwise, can help you heal.

Different Grief Rituals for Different People

Grief rituals can take many different forms and can be both personal and spiritual in nature. For many, a traditional funeral or memorial service accompanied by a burial can greatly help in the mending process. For others, choosing custom rituals in addition to the funeral services are crucial for their peace and healing.

For this reason it has become even more important for funeral services to be customizable and offer a variety of options. Many choose cremation for this reason. Cremation offers different timing and location choices, and different burial options, including the “scattering of the remains.”

But how and where your loved one is buried may not be as important as the custom and personal rituals that you choose – before, during and even after the services. Going to your loved one’s favorite restaurant to eat their favorite meal, toasting them with their favorite beverage at family events, or leaving something special at their grave can help remember and honor your loved one.

Here are 7 therapeutic rituals that can help you take control of your grief.

  1. Leaving something on the gravesite. Many people choose to leave flowers, balloons and teddy bears, a letter or photo, stones, or even something more unique like their favorite candy bar.
  2. Take a ride. Taking a drive in a loved one’s car or truck can be difficult for some, but it can also be very therapeutic and healing. Some will even wash their vehicle for them like they used to do, or drive through an old neighborhood.
  3. Bury a time capsule. Many times a gravesite is not convenient to your home or community, or you might not have access to their urn or scattered remains. Putting together a time capsule and burying it can be a very therapeutic way to honor your loved one and remember some of the things that made them special. You can include their favorite hat, some photos, a letter or stories of your time together or maybe their favorite CD of music. By doing this you can create a spot for ritual closer to your home.
  4. Remember them on a special anniversary. You might choose to do a toast or read something special at a gathering later down the road… maybe on a special day in history you had with them or on their birthday.
  5. Write a letter. Letters can be as short or as long as you want. They say exactly what you want them to say, whether its memories you had with them or things you wish you had been able to say before they passed. This can be very special and therapeutic. You can leave it with them before they are buried, at their gravesite afterwards, or just keep it with you.
  6. Write on their Facebook wall. After someone passes, their Facebook page often becomes a place of commemoration where friends and family can share photos, stories, and leave sympathy messages for their loved ones.
  7. Embrace grief when it comes. Although this is not a specific ritual, it is one that can be the most important for anyone grieving a loss. Since you can’t control your grief, it’s important to look out for moments when you might especially feel the need to cry or mourn your loss. This might happen when you are driving and hear a specific song come on the radio, when you find something that belonged to them, or in passing conversation. Grief itself needs to be expressed – some even embrace it.

Remember, they are not forgotten.

Not only does a grief ritual help you heal as you regain steady emotions, it gives you and other friends and family an opportunity to remember and reflect on your loved one’s life.  Having a regular ritual to remember them and honor their life is essential in a healthy grieving process.

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