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When we think of mourning rituals, we usually conjure images of funerals, wakes, and other displays of shared grief. Public rituals following death are performed by all cultures as a way to honor the deceased and help comfort the bereaved. But what about rituals we do alone? Small private actions are extremely beneficial too. Even though listening to your loved one’s song on repeat may make you feel sad in the moment, it has the opposite effect in the long-term.
Go to the funeral.
Or memorial service, or shiva, or wake. There’s a reason almost every culture around the world performs formal grief ceremonies. Not only do they honor the dead, they give us closure, allow us to connect with and support our community in shared grief, and gives us a sense of order and control to something that we have no control over.
Take care of you.
For some, going about their daily routine soon after a loss will be difficult. But others may find it comforting. It’s important to try to keep up self-care routines such as eating well, getting exercise, and paying bills on time. But other routines can help too, like getting your hair or nails done, talking to a counselor, or a weekly coffee date with a friend to talk.
Do something they loved.
Participating in the simple things your loved one enjoyed can help bring back positive emotions. Listening to their favorite song, cooking their favorite foods, or participating in their favorite pastime are all good ideas.
Take over a ritual of theirs.
Continuing your loved one’s rituals, even the seemingly mundane, can bring some peace to your grief. If they mowed the lawn every Saturday, try mowing the lawn every Saturday. If they laid out tomorrow’s clothes the night before, it may bring you some comfort to do the same.
Create your own.
Any symbolic, meaningful ceremony has been shown to alleviate grief, whether religious or secular. Light a candle in your loved one’s honor. Visit their gravesite every month. Create a special ritual just for their birthday. Talk to your loved one out loud before you go to sleep. A ritual can be as unique as they were.