Grief. It is one of the most intimate experiences we face, especially when dealing with the loss of a loved one. The feelings we have for those we care about are so individualized that at times, it’s hard to describe how we feel to others when we experience the finality of death.
Like so many other things that have been desensitized in the west, grief and mourning have become nothing more than a scheduled chore. We are not allowed to fully feel our loss or to openly mourn for any real length of time. We are expected to put aside our feelings and “get on with it”. Prolonged mourning is looked upon as a mental deficiency and those around us seem to grow impatient and less uncaring the longer we struggle with the loss.
HISTORY OF GRIEF
Anastasia Philippa Scrutton tells us in her book, Continuing Bonds in Bereavement, “The decline of rituals during World War I was partly responsible for the shift towards prescriptively short periods of grief and the emphasis on severing bonds.” She goes on to state, “Because of the decline of rituals, modern western societies are sometimes regarded as having insufficient therapeutic resources for grievers.”
Daniel Wojcik and Robert Dobler of the University of Oregon and Indiana respectively, state “The mourning rituals of ancient times guided expressions of grief from the community while providing support and aid to the deceased family and loved ones. Mourning was openly shared amongst the masses through ceremonies that comforted mourners. This outpouring of emotion was performed ceremonially by various cultures. For example, the “Death Wail”, which allowed people to cry their grief aloud, has been documented among the ancient Celts.”
They further stated that “In a similar way, the traditional Irish and Scottish practices of “keening,” or loudly wailing for the dead, were vocal expressions of mourning. These emotional forms of sorrow were a powerful way to give voice to the impact of individual loss on the wider community. Mourning was shared and public.”
Keep in mind that not all rituals were of sorrow and lamenting. Most rituals were a celebration of the deceased’s life. In Roman times, death was met with lavish feasts and funeral games. In Ireland, a mixture of mourning and celebration that honors the dead is called a “Merry Wake”. New Orleans is famous for their funeral parades that turn from a solemn slow progression to a music and dance filled party-like atmosphere.
THE IMPORTANCE OF RITUAL DURING GRIEF
Returning to Anastasia Philippa Scrutton’s book, she tells us that “moving back towards the idea that continuing bonds with the dead can be healthy and even beneficial.” Ms. Scrutton understood that grief is a lengthy process, it is an individualized process and we must allow ourselves to grieve fully instead of being moved swiftly through the process as some psychologists have posited. Grief is best understood as an experience through which people need support rather than a problem to be solved or an illness to be cured. (Davies, 2002).
Finding ways to continue to relate to our lost loved one can be and often is a healthy aspect of grief. Ancient grief rituals seem to have made space for a continuing relationship with the deceased, rather than demanding that people sever ties with them in order for their grief to be healthy.
MOVING THROUGH THE GRIEF PROCESS
As a practicing witch that follows her own crooked path, I unfortunately am all too familiar with grief and the mourning process. I’ve spent countless hours researching, looking for ways to use my magic during my healing process. Here are some of the things I have gathered in my literary travels:
Crystals have been well-known for centuries to be able to sooth and calm and even heal broken hearts and troubled minds and emotions. Some of the best crystals to use for the grieving process are:
Moonstone – Moonstone will wrap you in the comforting arms of the Divine Feminine as you move through the grieving process. Known to sooth emotional instability and stress, Moonstone provides calmness and strength while helping to stabilize your emotions. Wearing the Moonstone and Labradorite Evil Eye Pendant will help connect you to the cosmic energies of the divine and your higher consciousness. You’ll come out of your suffering as a stronger and wiser version of yourself.
Amethyst – Amethyst is a potent cleansing crystal for your third-eye chakra, clearing away unnecessary anger and shadows of depression. It is the “shoulder you can lean on” stone as it provides an overall sense of spiritual balance. Amethyst also relieves insomnia and soothes troubled dreams, providing you with the rest your body will need, especially during the first few days and weeks of loss.
Black Tourmaline – Black Tourmaline is one of my favorite stones as it is a natural powerhouse of support and protection. Black Tourmaline repels negativity. It stabilizes your emotions and aids in understanding yourself and the trauma you have just gone through. It will help to promote your self-confidence by diminishing any fear you may have now that your loved one has passed.
Aquamarine – When dealing with pain and loss, your energy becomes much more vulnerable to negativity and low vibes. Aquamarine encourages positive energy and restores balance to your chakras. Wearing Aquamarine will bring you peace and quiet as it works to heal your emotions.
The Power of Incense
Nothing can be more soothing that the sweet aroma of incense. Used for thousands of years, incense helps cleanse your sacred space of negative energy. It can also be used to cleanse the body of stress and anxiety that may be weighing you down. Here are some great herbs and resins to use for mourning.
Frankincense – You will find this magical resin on the top of many lists when it comes to grief and mourning. By soothing overwhelming thoughts, it promotes a sense of peace and calmness that is necessary for emotional processing of our loss.
Myrrh – The resin of tranquility, Myrrh promotes a sense of inner stillness where you may feel rejected or isolated after the lost of a loved one. It helps to reconnect physical and emotional bodies after the shock of terrible news has created a separation.
Together, Frankincense and Myrrh has been a partnership in emotional support for thousands of years. Blend the two to create a powerful platform of emotional stability as you heal.
Rosemary – Lemon – Vanilla
When all seems lost, rosemary is there to strengthen your willpower and clear your third-eye chakra. Just like Rosemary, lemon is a cleanser. It gives you focus while lifting you up mentally and emotionally. Lastly, vanilla washes away fear and doubt leaving behind feelings of comfort and inner peace.
Use this combination to clear your space of heavy energy. Our Loss and Grief Ritual Spray is hand-crafted to aid in your healing.
There are many rituals that can aid you while mourning. Because grief is such a personal experience, there is no “one-size fits all” ceremony to use. Trust your magic and your intuition. Here are some examples of rituals I have performed myself. I hope you find some inspiration.
Create a Memory Altar or Box – I did this once after the passing of a dear friend of mine. I simply gathered things that I knew he liked or things that were his that I was able to procure. Every evening I lit a blue and a white candle. The blue candle represented my healing and understanding of his loss. The white candle was to help light his path as he traveled through the veil. My incense of choice was Dragon’s blood as it helps to amplify magic workings. I would often talk to him and tell him how my day went. In all actuality I am still performing this ritual and it has helped ease the loss of his passing by helping me continue my friendship with him.
Letters to your Lost Loved One – Writing has been a natural form of stress relief since man first put pen to paper. Writing your lost loved one letters is the perfect way to keep that bond alive. The most important thing is that you are honest in your feelings and you say everything you need to say. At the next new moon and for as many new moons as you need, make a small sacred space outside, if you can, with a candle of your choice and a drink to make a toast with. Be sure to bring something you can burn your letter in safely. Light your candle and focus on your loved one.
Place your letter in your fire-safe bowl and set in on fire. Watch as the smoke drifts up and out into the universe. Visualize the smoke carrying your words up and out to your loved one. Once the letter is done burning, raise your glass to your loved one and offer them a toast of friendship and remembrance.
Some other forms of ritual you can perform include:
Plant a tree or memorial garden.
Set your dining table with a place for your deceased loved one.
Travel to their favorite places and perform a remembrance spell.
*Update: In some societies it is said that the souls of our loved ones travel to visit us along the wings of a Cardinal. We have lived in our home for close to five years now and only in the last couple of weeks have I been visited by the most beautiful and majestic Cardinal I've ever seen. I have also been greeted in the mornings at my work by a very brave and bold Cardinal that comes closer to me than a regular bird would. Do I think it is it the spirit of the friend I lost? Absolutely. These visits occur at the exact moments I need them. Coincidence? I think not.
*Shameless Promotion: If you are feeling as if you are all alone in your struggle to process your grief, check out my friend Luge Hardman's book "Life After Loss". The accounts she has gathered from people of different walks of life are truely inspiring and uplifting.
Davies, Douglas. 2002. Death, Rituals and Belief (2nd ed.). New York: Continuum
Klass, Dennis, Silverman, Phyllis, and Nickman, Steven (eds.). 1996. Continuing Bonds:
New Understandings of Grief. New York: Routledge