Today’s Word from Rev. David Bieniek…
I have been experiencing a lot of deaths lately. Not all of them have been friends or family members, and some I have only known of through the evening news, but at least 8 people’s deaths have affected me over the last week or so. It started with remembering my mom and a good friend, both who died in 2007, and had July birthdays one day apart. Most recently my brother-in-law’s mother passed away after a long illness. In there were some deaths from Covid-19 which made the pandemic so much more real for me.
As Bereavement Coordinator for WhidbeyHealth Hospice for almost 10 years, I learned that each person’s grief is unique, and just because your head knows what to do with your grief, it does not always communicate that to your heart. Or maybe the heart just does not listen.
When it comes to grief, it is often important to express your grief in some sort of ritual – allowing your heart to express the pain it feels and helping your head to look forward. We all know about the common grief rituals in our society – funerals, memorial services, rosaries, wakes, etc. – many of which have not been available to us during this pandemic.
But rituals do not have to be large church affairs. Ritual is simply an action that has a deeper meaning for those participating – rituals should speak to you. For instance, allow your heart to express its emotions in a letter and then allow that letter to float up to heaven by sending it up in flames, floating away on the waves, or being torn into pieces and scattered in the wind. If writing works for you, consider writing your memories and feelings in a journal and then placing that journal next to a picture of your loved one.
Use nature in your ritual. Plant a tree or a garden to dedicate new growth to your loved one. Build or commission a bench in a beautiful place where you can sit and talk to your loved one – a great way to remember them and to be of service to others. If you can find a place, light a fire on the beach at low tide, speak to your loved one and watch as the tide comes in and washes away the fire.
Use art or creative crafts to express your grief. Paint a picture or a room, sew a quilt, or create a sculpture; as you do it, put your memories and prayers into every stroke, stitch, or movement. Your heart will be able to express the feelings. Rediscover and cook with cherished recipes that connect you to the one you mourn.
The night I found out my friend Patrick had died back in 2007, I went out at sunset with a white rose. I stood on a bridge and plucked petals and with each petal that fell into the water I recalled a memory and spoke to him. At the end there was a long line of white petals floating down the river in the golden sunset.
Each year on my mom’s birthday, we have a nice dinner, open a bottle of wine, and toast her at sunset – three of her favorite things. It is a simple ritual that keeps her alive in our hearts.
Your rituals do not have to be big – they just need to be meaningful to allow your heart to heal and allow you to move forward with your grief. If you need some other ideas, reach out. Grief shared is always easier to deal with.
Rev. Dave Bieniek