When the lupines pop, the bluebird eggs hatch, and lettuce seed germinates, I remember my husband Vic. His death is part of this season, part of the earth and the cycles of my life. Images of Vic’s last days float through my mind as I enjoy nature’s enthusiasm. I remember the moment he did not inhale, just after midnight on June 3, 2008.
Usually grief is my quiet familiar rather than a bleeding wound, but as the anniversary approaches, I feel alone and preoccupied, tense and unsettled. To honor my love and comfort myself, I create a personal ritual. By creating an intentional ritual, we consciously recognize the time of transition and ground ourselves in our new life. I use images meaningful to me and my ritual changes in time as I change, so create anything that feels right for you.
I’ll begin with flowers. Flowers remind us of life’s beauty and brevity. I choose lupines because I returned home to fields of lupines on the day of Vic’s death. After we first planted them, purple lupines seeded themselves and thrived in the most depleted soil with persistent enthusiasm.
My ritual will be outside, even if it’s raining. Your ritual might be in your home or a church or another meaningful place. I’ll walk to the stone cairn in my forest where Vic’s ashes are buried. I’ll lay a lupine bouquet on the flat shale base of the cairn.
I’ll read poetry to myself and the trees. Perhaps you also love poetry or spiritual passages from a sacred text. A few years ago, a friend sent me “The Window” by Rumi.
Your body is away from me
but there is a window open
from my heart to yours.
From this window, like the moon
I keep sending news secretly.
My ritual will include a photograph of Vic, a candle, and a period of silence. Perhaps yours will include singing or music or dance. I’ll light a candle to mark the beginning of the ritual and extinguish it to mark the end.
My ritual will provide tender support to the grieving me. It will give me a sense of purpose and place. I’ll likely be alone this year. Last year, I marked the fifth anniversary with my family, but grief is often solitary now. Unlike most other cultures, ours doesn’t value remembering the ancestors. Few of us wear black and visit the cemetery frequently. We’re modern. We’re supposed to get over it. But ask those who’ve lost their beloved spouse, their child, a close parent, a sibling, a friend, or their pet. “Are you over it?” We’ll laugh. We don’t want to get over loving and remembering.
Ritual helps me remember, release, and connect to something beyond my daily life. We create a new life even if we don’t expect it. It happens day by day. We might fall in love or find a new vocation. Maybe we moved far away and found new friends. We still find ourselves remembering these anniversaries.
Ritual brings gratitude and peace. I’ll let the rose-breasted grosbeak and wood thrush provide sacred music for my ritual. Who can be sad when hearing those songs? I’ll be thankful and remember that although love always ends in loss, it’s worth the price.
I’ll leave something behind and take something home. I’ll leave flowers and poems in the forest. I’ll leave behind my tears and a little of my grief. I’ll exhale and take all the love and gratitude with me to help me begin a new cycle.
What do you imagine leaving behind? What will you bring home?
I hope you enjoy another piece I’ve written called Creating a Grief Ritual. I also recommend The Power of Creating Rituals after the Loss of a Loved One by Dr. Gail Gross and Creating Rituals to Move through Grief by Karla Helbert. Marty Tousley’s Grief Rituals Can Help on Valentine’s Day has excellent ideas for creating a grief ritual any time.