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Pain and grief are multifaceted experiences. No two people experience them in exactly the same ways. Sometimes, it can be helpful to compare spiritual and emotional wounds to physical wounds. You wouldn’t expect a doctor to suture two different cuts in the exact same way - the sutures need to match the pattern of the cut. Rituals and traditions can be used to help us heal emotional pain. Much like a wound that’s sutured, we may never be exactly the same again - a scar may be left behind. Though we have been negatively affected, we can still begin to heal. In this piece, we’ll look at why rituals and traditions can help us heal. Then, we’ll talk about the kinds of rituals that can help with our healing.
Rituals are, in their simplest form, a series of actions that a person decides to undertake. These actions may take place in a particular sequence, or at a particular time. Traditions can be thought of as rituals that are passed down through generations - a person or group shares their rituals with those younger than them to pass down their traditional, accumulated wisdom.
Grief can be a time of chaos and confusion. Death has a brutal way of showing us the limits of our control. Someone was there, and now they’re not, and nothing can be done to bring them back. Rituals can help us heal because they are the opposite of death. They are action. They are creation. You have control over rituals - you choose to do them, and what steps to take, and what to think about or intend during the ritual. Rituals are manifestations of our agency - while we can’t control much, we can control our actions. Rituals reaffirm this control.
Wakes, funerals, and other traditional, group-based grieving ceremonies can be very cathartic. They are often a physical manifestation of a person’s support network - when you’re grieving, it can be helpful to know that others are grieving too. It’s important to realize that there are people you can relate with, and that you are not alone in your pain. Studies have found that the most effective rituals are personal. When you’re planning a funeral or another traditional event, it may feel like a whirlwind. There are so many decisions
to make, and so many factors to consider - it can be overwhelming. And while these events are powerful tools for healing, it can be helpful to have something more intimate, as well.
Personal rituals are just that - personal. They can be as simple as sitting down every week to watch the television show you used to watch with your loved one. Going to the restaurant and sitting in the booth you both used to sit in.We could go on listing examples, but these rituals completely vary from person to person. If you’re having trouble creating your own ritual, consider talking to your friends and family, a spiritual advisor, a mental health professional, or another member of your support network. You can even go to one of the funeral homes in Winnipeg and talk to a funeral director. They may be able to help you create a ritual that means something special for you.