On June 3, the ninth anniversary of my husband Vic’s death, I created a ritual of remembrance. It’s something I do every year.
“Aren’t you done with that by now?” you might ask. It’s a question I ask myself.
I’ll be done when I stop thinking of Vic when I see Swallowtails dining on Dame’s Rockets in early June. I’ll be done when the fields are no longer covered with purple blue Lupine blossoms as they were on the day he died. I’ll be done when the bluebirds stop tending their nestlings in early June.
I’m not doubled over with grief anymore, but I don’t forget.
Instead of distracting myself or avoiding my sadness, I made a simple plan. I printed a poem and song lyrics and called the dogs to join me as I walked to the forest. Six things helped me feel surrounded by love. You may think of more.
1. Choose a meaningful site.
You may have a gravesite to visit or an altar in your home or a place you enjoyed with the person you miss. My sons and I built a cairn for Vic in the forest in 2008. That’s my place. This woodland sanctuary was sacred to my family long before Vic’s death.
On the way to the cairn, I picked Lupines, Iris, Dame’s Rockets, and Buttercups in the field. Near Vic’s cairn, I prayed for the well-being of my family and myself at the “family trees,” a cluster of basswood giants that sprang from a central mother tree. I left some of my flowers there.
Then I turned to Vic’s cairn, brushed leaf debris from the flat stone, and placed flowers on the rocky altar. I sat on a large round stone near the cairn to breathe and feel the silence.
3. Include meaningful music.
When my mind was quiet, I sang a familiar song I heard in a dream soon after Vic died. The dream song gave me hope and faith at the hardest time. It still did.
When I find myself in times of trouble,
Mother Mary Comes to Me,
Speaking Words of Wisdom
Let it be…
The lines, “In my hour of darkness, She is standing right in front of me,” made me cry. They always do.
I told Vic (or the Vic in me) how much I love him and how persistent my longing is. I told him I’m OK without him, but miss him every day. Then, I read this poem.
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.
Perched on the stone near Vic’s cairn with dogs bumping into me, I told Vic the family news. David and Liz have a beautiful marriage and will have their fourth anniversary in a few days. Anthony and Jenna moved here from California which is why I have two dogs today—Jenna’s dog Sami and my girl Willow. I imagined Vic’s eyes sparkling with tears as I told him about rescuing Sami, the abandoned dog. I imagined how he would love Liz and Jenna.
I told Vic his mother is still hard—not because she’s angry or hates God or me anymore, but because she’s 101. I told Vic she has a good appetite, especially for pasta and a daily glass of burgundy. I imagined his laughter and crinkling bright eyes as he shook his head in amazement.
6. Let grief out to make space for love.
When I didn’t defend my heart against the pain of grief, love poured in. When I unbandaged the wound and tended it, compassion for myself and others who grieve poured in. I didn’t say, “Grief, you’ve been around too long. You should be gone by now.” I didn’t resist. I didn’t pretend my heart didn’t hurt. Instead, I let it be. I let myself be.
Tears dampened my shirt, but instead of drowning in grief, I floated in love.
Have you created a personal ritual to honor someone you love on a difficult anniversary day such as a birthday or a death day? Was it helpful or meaningful? For other posts about rituals, see Creating a Grief Ritual. I love using poems in my blogs and in rituals. The poems in Poems to Grieve By helped me most at the hardest times. Since it has over 26,000 readers, it must be helping others, too.