A Good Ritual Brings Us Comfort

Going through grief and loss turns our worlds upside down. Even if our day-to-day stays mostly the same, the way we experience our lives is completely different. The familiar task of making a morning cup of coffee might become a devastating reminder of your husband’s worsening illness. The holiday tradition you used to love may feel empty and meaningless without your sister there to share it.

Routines and rituals are both marked by grief, but they are not the same thing. Routines are repetitive actions, and rituals are those actions we imbue with attention and meaning. Setting the table every night is a routine, but cooking your late husband’s favorite ravioli dinner on Valentine’s Day is a ritual. We are handed many expected rituals when someone dies, like saying a eulogy or laying flowers on a grave. But as time goes on, it’s often up to us to create the rituals that hold continued meaning. They can be about grief and honoring our loss. But they can also be about soothing ourselves. 

A good ritual feels good. Many people love taking a long bath to relax. They turn it into a ritual with candles, music, and their favorite scents. But others get bored and uncomfortable in the tub. Don’t do something that doesn’t feel good. It might take effort to get into a ritual, especially while you’re grieving, but the experience itself should nourish your mind, body, or soul.

A good ritual is accessible. If you want to cook an elaborate meal but don’t want the stress of grocery shopping and meal prep, find an easier way. Your ritual can involve ordering takeout.  

A good ritual has meaning that doesn’t need to apply to anyone but you. If your whole family likes to get together every year on the anniversary of your mother’s death, but you find it more meaningful to stay home in your pajamas and watch a marathon of her favorite romantic comedies, your ritual is just as valid.

And remember, making something meaningful does not mean it has to be serious. A ritual filled with tears and candles is no more valid than one filled with dance parties and laughter. 

To help you nurture and develop rituals that work best for you, take a look at these questions for reflection.

    • What routines or rituals bring your comfort?
    • Have any rituals been passed down in your family? If so, what are they?
    • What routine can you elevate into a ritual?
    • Do you follow any religious or spiritual rituals? 
    • What new routines or rituals would you like to incorporate into your life?
    • Try this ritual. Write a letter to the loved one you miss most. Then, write a letter to yourself from their perspective.

Share your rituals with us. We’d love to hear the rituals that bring you comfort and find out what we can do to further support you in your grief journey.