Ask Ted: Ritual and ceremony


Dear Ted: A couple of weeks ago, there was an article about Tim Rivera and Rivera Family Funeral Services mentioning their ritual and ceremony along with working with you and Golden Willow Retreat in helping with healing from loss. I was hoping you would expand on the concept of ritual and ceremony and how it plays in the healing process from loss. Thank you, Sue

Dear Sue: I see rituals as the cadence within your life. Everyday activities allow a level of homeostasis or commonality for the brain to feel there is enough normality in order to walk through the chaos of a day. This may be as simple as getting out of bed, brushing your teeth and getting dressed for your day. There might be other levels of rituals, such as prayer, meditation, recovery meetings, church, a bath, hiking, resting, exercise, sitting down for a meal, a kiss good morning or good night or whatever may be on your list.

When there is loss, these daily rituals may be disrupted and scrambled because the routine has been shattered. If the person you usually kiss good night is no longer there, the ritual of kissing good night has been disrupted and you have to adjust your cadence in life, which may take time and cause a level of imbalance within your psyche. Rituals allow the drumbeat in which you are able to walk your path one day at a time. They are benchmarks as you move forward through your day and they allow the brain a certain level of ease.

A confusing piece of the human dilemma is that it seems most people will dismiss these rituals during the times they are most needed. They seem to fall low on the priority list, even if they happen to be such an important part of self-care. When we are stressed, it is easy to forget to open the toolbox of resiliency and forge forward without having protection from what may be waiting on our path. This leads to unhealthy isolation, depression and anxiety as your self-care tools are not implemented. It is almost like you know you have a tire out of alignment, but instead of going in and being realigned, you continue to drive on until there is a blowout, which leads to a worsened condition.

Ceremonies refer to when we actually stop or pause in our daily activities and focus on a certain focal point, such as a funeral, wedding, baptism, memorial, graduation, quinceañera, bar/bat mitzvah or any other event that allows communion with others to honor a rite of passage in one form or another. The communion may happen without other people, such as a spiritual ceremony where you commune with God or a higher power of your understanding.

Rituals and ceremony are a time to honor and glean wisdom from the past in order to make decisions in the present, while manifesting a prosperous future. Rituals and ceremonies allow you the opportunity to have a certain level of normalcy in your day-to-day life so that your brain can navigate the many different stimuli during your day, while allowing you to grow, heal and evolve to your fullest potential.

This column seeks to help educate our community about emotional healing through grief. People may write questions to Golden Willow Retreat and they will be answered privately to you and possibly as a future article for others. Please list a first name that grants permission for printing.