On marking loss and time with ritual.
This article is cross-posted from my weekly newsletter, The Sunday Soother, a newsletter about clarity, intention, and useful tips for creating more meaning in your life that goes out every Sunday morning. Subscribe here. I am also a coach who works with sensitive people so they can stop second-guessing, make decisions confidently and live the life they’ve always dreamed of. You can learn more about working with me here.
This past week marked the one-year anniversary of the beginning of lockdown and the pandemic changing our lives in the United States. It has also been a year marked by continued violence of white supremacy, the loss and violence inflicted on communities and individuals by it, and reckonings for many of us with our own complicity in white supremacy and racism.
These 12 months will have looked and felt very different for every single person reading this newsletter. Some of you will have experienced significant loss; death, loss of job, loss of time or even identity.
Others of you may not have experienced loss, exactly, but were still faced with other reckonings; the fragility of support for working parents; the stripping away of the wool of busy-ness that had covered your eyes to something painful that you needed to see. Friendships and other relationships may have fallen away. And maybe, you were simply lonely. Scared. Uncertain of where to go from here, or frozen in your ability to meaningfully plan for the future.
Whatever our paths may have been in the last year, now we may come together on a juncture of the road forward and the remembering, the honoring, the processing that needs to happen to continue on the path.
One of my favorite ways to process growth, loss and transformation is the use of ritual. The intentional act of sacred moments for reflection, done and performed in our outer worlds of action, can create truly profound changes in our emotions, our subconscious, our hearts, I believe. When we express with actions, movements and symbols in ritual, unspoken and even non-verbal feelings, thoughts and emotions are given space to rise to the surface to be processed, expressed, honored, and integrated.
With that in mind, I wanted to offer you three potential rituals you can use and make your own to mark the past year. These are meant to be used flexibly and adapted as you like; they’re simply frameworks and structures on which you can hang your own emotions and interpretations. Take what serves you, leave the rest.
#1: Seed planting ritual.
This ritual is meant to express the releasing of what you’d like to leave from the last year and the planting of seeds for the year to come.
- Pick three things that represent your ‘former’ life that you are ready to part with
- Get a seed from somewhere (any seed is fine, a flower seed, a seed from a fruit you ate, whatever) as well as something that symbolizes your hope from your new future (a crystal, a feather, postcard of somewhere you hope to move, whatever comes to mind is fine)
- Pick a special place in nature and go there with these items and your journal
- Place the items all in front of you; sit with your journal and meditate on the past life items you are about to part with, thanking them for all they have been and meant to you; consider writing this down in your journal as a letter
- Then bury them in the ground (or if you don’t feel comfortable with this option, place them in a bag and you can dispose of them in another way that feels comfortable to you)
- Then, take the seed and the item that represents your new life, and write a letter to them about your hopes for the future
- Bury the seed in a new spot close by
- Rest your hands in the dirt after you bury the seed and visualize this new future and new phase of your life, as if they are sprouting like a seed
- Put the other item somewhere in your home where you can see it often
#2: Full moon release ritual
The next full moon we have is March 28. Full moons are great for releasing what no longer serves you but you can do this at any time, really.
Write a letter to the pandemic/the past year, stating the harm, loss and effect it had on you, other communities, and the world around you. Really let it go; imbue it with anger and rage and sadness and tears and whatever else comes up.
When you are done, burn the letter in a fire-safe manner and container, throwing away the ashes when cool. Then, prepare a bath or foot soak with Epsom salts; if you want to get real fancy, add in rose quartz and rose petals for heart healing. Visualize the pain of the last year washing away and the water cleansing you bring in a brighter, clearer hope for the year to come.
#3: A ritual to honor loss
This is a good one to do with loved ones, either outside, or over Zoom. You’ll need a candle and lighter, and a list of things that have been lost in the past year (names of those who have passed away; jobs; hopes; etc).
- Choose an order your group will go in (like alphabetical or by age)
- Have each person, when it’s their turn, explain the following: Name the loss(es) they have experienced in the past year, and how it has affected them
- Then, pause, and the individual whose turn it is lights their candle and says something along the lines of, “This flame honors those and that which has been lost, and it also symbolizes the way in which I will honor those losses in the coming year.”
- Then the individual shares their plans for honoring that which has been lost in the coming year. It could be as simple as regular visits to a loved one’s grave; a charitable donation; or a new way of being you would like to cultivate.
- After each person has gone, break for conversation, tea, laughter, reflection; whatever comes up.
- Keep each candle going until your event is over then safely put it out. Light it every time you want to acknowledge and remember the losses and the future hope and honoring you will bring to them.