Loss is real and it hurts.  When we experience loss of any kind, we grieve and that grief expresses itself differently for different people.  Some grieve privately. Some grieve publicly. Some grieve when, and where, they need to.  Some have short moments when they allow themselves to grieve.  Some shove their grief down deep inside them and carry on only to find the grief erupting later in unexpected ways.

When we don’t find ways to name our grief, to face our grief, to deal with our grief, the next time something comes along that represents ‘loss’ to us, we find that the building blocks that could help us deal with grief are missing.  As a result, our experience of healing can be more difficult than it might have been, had we dealt with each moment of loss as it happened.

Loss of any kind: … a loved one … independence … employment … housing … financial security … family pet … limb … eyesight … income … mobility … freedom … hearing … intellect … relationship … ability to communicate … chronic illness of a partner, spouse, child … freedom … each loss affects us, whether we acknowledge it or not.  Sadly,  we seldom give ourselves time to do healthy grieving when we encounter loss.  Being gentle with ourselves is vital whenever we encounter stress.  And loss (of any kind) causes us distress … aka ‘stressful.’  In the spirit of gift-giving, I hope you will receive this Healthy Grieving Ritual as gift, with much love.

The Healthy Grieving Ritual can be done at any time … soon after a loss
… long after a loss … once … multiple times. It involves the lighting of 4 candles, quiet reflection, inspiring quotations to ponder, and the option of quiet music in the background.

* As each of four candles is lit (hopefully in a darkened or semi-darkened room to get the full effect of light emanating from the candle), it might be helpful to have some quiet music in the background or simply be in silence.
* Turn off the tv/loud music/cell phone and try not to begin this ritual when others might make demands on you.
* This is your time. As you speak/think each phrase, do it slowly, reflectively. There is no need to hurry.
* You might choose the same colour for each of the four candles, or mix and match your candles.  You could choose the colours of the candles based on you/your loved one’s favourite colour … randomly … symbolism associated with specific colours: blue – the colour of hope; white – the colour of wholeness; red – the colour of love; green – the colour of growth; purple – the colour of spirituality. The words you say can be spoken aloud or silently in your heart.

To begin the Healthy Grieving Ritual, take a few slow, deep breaths … inhaling a sense of peace … exhaling that which brings anxiety.  When your breathing has slowed down, light the first candle then say … aloud or silently in your heart (speaking/thinking the name of the individual who is on your heart): “I light this first candle to remember those persons who have been loved and are no longer are part of my life in any tangible way.  I pause to remember ____.”  (Give yourself time to remember and name him/her/them.)  Then say or think:  “I give thanks for a memory that connects ______ to me.”  (Give yourself time to do this).  Conclude by saying: “May Eternal Love surround him/her/them.”

 [Silent time for reflection and some gentle, deep breathing]

Light the second candle then say … aloud or silently in your heart “I light this second candle to redeem the pain of loss.”  (Give yourself time to think of what loss you are experiencing and however you are feeling at this time). Then say or think: “As I gather up the pain of the past, I offer it, asking that the gift of peace, of shalom, of wholeness be placed into my heart and open hands.”  (Give yourself time to do this)  Conclude by saying: “May I be refreshed, restored and renewed.”

[Silent time for reflection and some gentle, deep breathing.]

Light the third candle and say … aloud or silently in your heart “I light this third candle to remember myself.  … I pause and remember the past days, weeks, months (years): the down times, the poignancy of memories, the grief, the sadness, the hurts, the anger, the pain of reflecting on my own mortality. If there is need for forgiveness – I offer it now, knowing that forgiveness is not forgetting, but it is letting go of whatever binds me to negative thought.  I choose to forgive the other (s) <option: add name(s) here>.  I choose to forgive myself. (If this is appropriate to your belief: I choose to forgive God / Creator / Holy One (whatever term is most comfortable for you).   (Give yourself time to do this.)  Conclude by saying: “May I remember that dawn defeats darkness.”

Take some time to reflect (in your Journal, in your thoughts) on these words: “Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail” (first attributed to Confucius who wrote  “Our greatest glory is not in never falling down, but in getting up every time we do.”  (Ralph Waldo Emerson.

“You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”  (ascribed to Buddha) 

“It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief.  Once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.”   (Claude Bristol)

[Give yourself a silent time of reflection and some gentle, deep breathing]

Light the fourth candle and say …
aloud or silently in your heart: 
“I light this fourth candle to remember the gift of hope. I give thanks for that which is good in my life and name those people, situations, abilities, gifts, strengths / etc. for which I am grateful.”  (Give yourself time to do this)

Take some time to reflect in your Journal, in your thoughts) on these words:… “The stars are constantly shining, but often we do not see them until the dark hours.”  (Earl Riney)
“If the only prayer you utter is ‘thank-you’, that would be sufficient”
(Pierre Teilhard de Chardin)
… “I believe in the sun even when it’s not shining; I believe in the stars even when I see them not; I believe in God even when I don’t see God.”  (written on a wall in Dachau prison) (Give yourself time to do this.  Then give yourself a silent time of reflection and some gentle, deep breathing)

Bring this ritual to a conclusion by saying:  “So be it – Amen. (“Amen” simply means “So be it.”)  Btw, there is no religious connection unless the speaker has such an intention.

If prayer is something that brings you comfort, you might want to say the following aloud (or in the silence of your heart) at times when the darkness that comes with grief or the darkness you experience while others are celebrating at a particular time of the year (Hanukkah, Christmas, Winter Solstice, Kwaanza) is difficult to bear (if not, skip to the bottom):

“God / Creator / Holy One / Compassionate One / Great Healer (whatever is most appropriate for you to use), I come to you at this time, with the pain inside me.  As the nights grow longer, so has the darkness wrapped itself around my heart. I offer you the pain in my heart, the trauma of loss that I cannot put into words.

Death has changed my experience of this time of the year / this personal celebration (birthday/anniversary).  Once it was a special day for me, but someone special has died.  This Special Occasion/Day/Season seems to bring forth a grieving over what might have been and it is hard to bear it – hard to move through this time without that person.  M
emories of what once was, the fears of what may be, bring a sense of disquiet / dis-ease to my soul. Please be near me at this time.  And, even if I do not believe / no longer believe / or my belief is fragile, I offer this prayer “Help my unbelief … and bring healing to my soul.”  Amen.  So be it.   Amen.

With the saying of “So be it – Amen,” it is time to do something for yourself: … a long, leisurely hot bath … a steaming hot cup of tea/hot chocolate … time spent writing in your Journal … a walk in the outdoors … some quiet time in the darkness looking at the lit candles … listening to some gentle music.

© June Maffin