Creative Rituals for Mourning at Home

There is never a convenient time to lose someone, but the current circumstances make a difficult situation even harder. During the holiday season, it can be even harder to cope with loss.

Grief expert David Kessler says there is no tidy “cure” for grief, but there are ways to process it. Kessler’s popup Facebook group has grown to more than 18,000 members in less than a year.

In a poignant video, psychotherapist Esther Perl urges us to live and to laugh. Perl says social connection and purpose have the healing power to help us get through this — “sharing stories and accurate information, helping each other, and lifting one anothers’ spirits — is the most powerful antidote to fear, loneliness, and isolation.”

Though many of our traditional rituals rely on our five senses, Roy Grinker, an anthropology professor at George Washington University, says people are adapting. “There’s an extraordinary resilience and creativity of people to figure out how to do what they need to do in order to mourn, in order to grieve,” Grinker said. Grinker’s study, “Rituals in the Making,” looks at how families are creating new mourning rituals this year.

With art and protests, families coping with loss from COVID-19 are also turning their grief into action in creative ways.

Grief and trauma therapist and author Ajita Robinson offers some ideas on new ways to mourn.

  • Pool money to plant a tree or make a donation.
  • Watch a loved one’s favorite movie simultaneously.
  • Create a song, journal or photo collage.
  • Light a candle every day.
  • Read poems as part of a virtual ceremony.

Anthropologist Maribel Alvarez says rituals around mourning and grief give us time to pause in moments of reflection, “We can embellish something that is ordinary … a day where you cut flowers and put them on the table and light candles and sing songs … or bring out photographs. None of these activities we are prevented from doing.” Even a daily neighborhood walk can become a reflection on the loss of someone you love, she says.

“The essence of ritual is yes, being in collectivity with others, but it’s also making it really thick and pausing in the moments to bring certain reflections … I don’t think the opportunity to do that is gone.”

Portland-based grief therapist Megan Devine offers support and resources online for those coping with grief during the pandemic. As Devine explains, “connection makes the unbearable just a little easier to bear.”

We’d love to hear about your most effective and time-honored rituals for mourning in these challenging times. You can leave us a note in the comments of our Facebook page or tag us on Twitter with the hashtag #solomourningritual.


Photo by Paul Robert

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