Ritual and ceremony is an important way to mark milestones in life. Christmas, Thanksgiving, birthdays, weddings, and graduations are events infused with ritual and ceremony. It’s important to mark holidays and “rites of passage” with celebration by taking time from our daily routine to do things differently.
When it comes to a loved one’s death, it’s acceptable to commemorate their life with a funeral or memorial service. Within these events, families and friends gather for prayer, song, and tributes. It often follows with a tea or social where people speak with the family and share stories. Outside of the funeral, families are not usually invited to create ongoi
ng rituals or ceremonies; however, it has been my experience that people do, but opt to not say anything for fear of criticism. For example, a dear friend of mine makes barbecue ribs on Christmas Eve as a way to pay tribute to her mom who passed away a number of years ago. It has become her simple, but loving ritual every year that helps her face the holidays without her mother.
When both my daughters married, it was important to me to include their father in some way. They have a wonderful relationship with their stepfather and he escorted each of them down the aisle. To bring their father into the ceremony, the girls handpicked fellow officers he had worked with to attend in their dress uniforms. My eldest daughter had her father’s Royal Canadian Mounted Police dress Stetson on display, and my younger daughter had his dress high-top boots and spurs on display. We didn’t have to explain to the near two hundred guests at each of their weddings what this meant- they knew. It was moving. It was precious. And it helped us to face the day without him.
I am not promoting that people memorialize the deceased at every event. While I can’t generalize the situation for everyone, people can become stuck in their grief and create shrines or leave belongings untouched for years. For some, intervention and/or counselling may be of help. What I am encouraging is that people listen to their heart, and if a family feels that including the memory of a loved one in a special event enriches it and helps to heal their loss, then they should do it. It doesn’t matter what others think – they haven’t walked in your shoes.
How have you included the memory of a loved one in a special event?