Tuesday, November 17, 2009


We hope you find this article, written by Candice Courtney in the Forum, October-December 2005, helpful in dealing with the holidays..

Incorporating loss into our lives requires that we also incorporate the loss into our rituals. Because ritual is often done in a more conscious and focused way, incorporating the loss into our rituals can help us to incorporate the loss into our lives. Whether rituals are simple or elaborate, practiced alone or in community, they serve a multitude of purposes in our lives. In grief, they can help us move toward acceptance, and they can help us to create a place in our life for the one(s) we have lost. They can also provide us with space to honor our sorrow, and to express our love.

Special times usually accentuate our sense of loss, and it is often suggested that we change how we normally do our holiday rituals to help make them less traumatic, such as having Thanksgiving dinner at a new location. But changing things just to change is not enough of a solution.

Often we need to change the rituals so that they address the needs we have in grief. As I worked my way through the difficult years that followed my husband’s death, I learned how to change life’s rituals to fit where I was in my grief.

For those struggling through this holiday season, I offer two simple rituals that may help as they make their way through the darkest season of the year, in the midst of what may be the darkest season of all their years.

One of the reasons some people choose to have Thanksgiving dinner in a new location is to avoid “the empty chair.” If yours is a family where everyone has their own place at the table, you might have everyone sit in a different place to avoid the stark reminder of the empty place. Some though, might choose to leave the chair empty, and place a candle in front of it to signify that the spirit of this person is still present. Just before the meal the candle can be lit with words such as:

We light this candle in memory of Tony. His spirit still is a part of our lives. His love still shines onto us, and our love for him still glows in our hearts. As we share this feast of Thanksgiving, let us talk about those things for which we are most thankful to Tony — the things we learned from him, and the times that we laughed with him. In doing so, we affirm that he lives on in all of us.

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