As a counselor doing groups with domestic violence perpatrators, and experiential weekends as a staff member of the New Warrior Adventure weekend, I have participated in many ritual funerals, some occurring decades after the loss, by sons and fathers and husbands and grandfathers and comrades in arms who have lost loved ones or ideals to war, tragedy, addiction, and natural causes.
What I have learned is that ritual is an important factor in tapping the healing process of grief management. (Truth be told, ritual is an important component of many transitions in our lives).
That ritual can be community wide as Malidoma Some' describes in his work describing how his village in Africa sent the spirit of the deceased off to the land of the ancestors, and ritual might be totally improvised in a process during a group therapy session or an experiential weekend.
A very serious point for the healing power of ritual is that there is a community involved somehow, group members, workshop members, and that a strong container be built for the healing process. This sometimes means tapping into a hidden well of sorrow. There is tremendous relief in having someone respectfully hear your story and witness your sorrow.
We humans have developed many grief management rituals, which help individuals, families, and communities deal with grief.
In my community, the murder of a respected Police Officer a few years back brought an outpouring of grief which helped all of us to pass through to a place of inner peace.
Perhaps you can remember back to the State funeral of Ronald Reagan, which helped the world and the country say goodbye to a respected leader.
Certainly the State funeral for Queen Elizabeth was another example of the role of ritual in grief management.
When we in the United States were a more rural country, a wake might be held in the home of the deceased, and the villagers might come by to pay their respects, offer condolences, and offer help.
The family of the deceased would wear black to symbolize the need to attend to their inner process of grief for a season or more.
Where I live, farmers will often band together to bring in a harvest for another farmer who passes before he can bring in his own harvest.
A significant part of grief management is to understand that grief has a normal trajectory, which will involve some feelings of sorrow, some tears, and perhaps some melancholy for a period of time as an individual transitions through the change in their life.
Grief can become complicated, which might require the services of a professional.
But for the most part, while our grief has some similar characteristics, it will also have some individual characteristics, and it will pass.
Grief is like the winter of emotional life, and needs to pass for spring to come.
Any number of tools can help with that winter, and once we get used to the idea of attending to each episode of grief as it arises, or as soon after it arises as we can, (I call it bookmarking), we can develop a feel for the process, and even begin to manage and facilitate the grief management.
Art work, journaling, ritual, visits to graves, (which I still do for my parents, brother, and grandparents), and experiential workshops like Breathwork, or the New Warrior Adventure Weekend, can be scheduled.
You can look at cultural traditions for guidance which might strike a resonant chord.
My family has a Celtic heritage, and looking at ancient traditions like the Days of Chaos heading into the Winter Solstice and noticing how you feel can help manage grief.
There is also rumor of a Kickapoo Native American connection in my family, and if you look at Kickapoo traditions for the Solstice, the rituals are village wide and taken very seriously by the Kickapoo, because if mistakes are made, then the Solstice will not happen and no spring or joy can come.
I know that as the Winter Solstice comes closer, I feel out of sorts, and there is a real relief when the longer days start to happen.
I may even get the lawnmower blade sharpened.
I also know that Christian holiday traditions are comforting. I remember as a boy how safe I felt at church participating in the ritual of the services as an acolyte.
Paying attention inward is an important process of grief management, knowing and recognizing your feelings and remembering even the most painful parts of the process are healing, moving you back to the spring of emotions.
If you need to talk to a grief coach, please consider giving me a call. You can find my information at this
The Heartmath process is an excellent way to learn a heart based approach to grief management.
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