After Mount Vernon, WA cremations, the initial awareness of the deep grief from the loss of a loved one set in. Joan Didion expressed it well in her book about the year after her husband’s sudden death from a heart attack, The Year of Magical Thinking. She wrote, “Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it. We might expect if death is sudden to feel shocked. We do not expect the shock to be obliterative, dislocating to both body and mind.”
In spite of this all-consuming shock to our minds and bodies that we call grief, some people move on, while others sink into a prolonged period of depression that they can’t get past (complicated grief).
Eventually most people adjust. They settle into back into old routines or they develop new routines. Life regains some sense of order. Although they continue to miss their loved one and they still deal with the sadness of their loss, their emotions are not holding them hostage.
This ability to bounce back – emotional resilience – in spite of the deep heartbreak of loss is, in large part, due to their personal rituals. But these are not the rituals we usually associate with death and loss.
For the most part, when people think of mourning rituals, they imagine public displays of grief. These include things that are familiar: “sitting shiva” in Judaism, funerals and memorials, and wearing black clothing for some amount of time.
But for people with emotional resilience who are able to get back to living life more quickly after the death of a loved one, these rituals were nowhere to be found. Instead, these people developed unique and private personal rituals that they performed alone.
It might be something as simple as playing a favorite song and crying. Or it could be continuing something you and your loved one always did together – such as going to get a haircut together on the 15th of each month – or continuing to do something your loved one would have done if they were alive, such as washing a car weekly or going to the mailbox or post office at a certain time every day.
These are sad rituals because they are constant reminders of loss. However, instead of plunging people into debilitating depressions, these private, personal rituals give them a deep and abiding connection to the memories of their loved ones. In other words, it keeps their loved ones close in private, so they can move on with their public lives. Their loved ones are not forgotten.
Although public grieving rituals have their purpose, there is an expectation that they will be short-lived. In reality, life and people around us move back to where they were before our loss of a loved one. In a sense, the time for public grieving is over, even though our private grieving is not.
Therefore, the healthiest to bridge the gap between the expectation and the reality is find personal rituals that connect us in a very meaningful way to our love ones and perform those rituals in private and alone, while we get back to the public selves that people expect us to be. It may seem hypocritical, but it’s not. Grief, as it ages, becomes very private. You’ll never stop grieving the loss of a loved one, in a sense. But with personal rituals, you can successfully cope with and adjust to your new reality.
For additional information about grief resources in cremations, our compassionate and experienced team at Moles Farewell Tributes & Crematory – Bayview Chapel is here to help. We also serve the areas of Bellingham, Ferndale and Mount Vernon, WA. You can come to our funeral home at 2465 Lakeway Dr., Bellingham, WA 98229 or you can call us today at (360) 733-0510.