Rituals at Home–Remembrance and Mourning

When we suffer a loss, it’s important to recognize and honor that loss. With the current restrictions around gathering together, many are being robbed of that critical piece of the grieving process.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing ideas for rituals to remember those we have lost when we aren’t able to participate in larger ceremonies and observances. I hope you’ll share your ideas as well. Note: please take these ideas and adapt and adjust them to fit your own context. Do what works for you.

When people are part of our lives, their story becomes part of our story. When those people are gone, their story continues to live on in our story, and we get to choose what parts of to carry on and what parts we want to leave behind.

Preparing for the Ritual

What was the best part of the person you lost? Her sense of wonder? His gift of kindness? Their commitment to justice?

Write down (in a group or individually) the very best qualities of your loved one on a piece of paper. Then circle those qualities that you want to embody–the part of their story that you want to continue to tell through your own life.

There may very well be parts of this person’s story that you do not want to carry with you. There may be bad habits you have inherited or resentments you still harbor. There may be hurts that were never healed. Write those things down as well–but on a separate piece of paper from the good things.

Gather a candle, symbols of your faith tradition (a cross, Bible, objects from natures, pictures of saints, etc) and at least one picture of the person you lost.


Spoken: Today we celebrate the life of _______________________ ( list all the things this person was to those who are gathered–friend, parent, sister, brother, child, cousin, etc)

Light a candle in memory of your person.

Spoken: God, our ever-present help in times of struggle,
You are a refuge and a strength in times of distress. Dispel our fear, ease our loneliness and reignite our hope.
Hold us in the light of your peace and love while our hearts are aching and our souls are full of sorrow.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.

If several are sheltered together, invite all in to a time of story telling. Let each person gathered tell their favorite Uncle Bill or Cousin Helen story. If you are alone, still tell those stories. They are important. Say them out loud, in your head, write them down or consider making an audio or video recording.

After stories have been shared, if there are things you do not want to carry on in your story from the deceased, take out the list at this time. It is okay to be honest in your remembering.

Spoken: Today, we let go of any lingering grudges, unresolved resentments and unspoken apologies. (add whatever you need to here). We lay down these burdens, let go of the fight to carry them and leave them with Jesus whose name is love and whose way is light.

Then take the list and physically destroy it. If you have a fire pit or grill in your back yard, burning such a list can be very powerful. If you have a small cross, you might tear up the list and literally place the pieces before the cross.

Spoken: Come to me all who labour and are heavy laden
and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)

Play or sing a favorite song or hymn of your loved one.

Spoken (adding in the specific gifts of the life being celebrated): We are grateful for the life of ________________ and are humbled that we get to carry on part of their story as we live our own story. As we commit ourselves to honoring his/her/their memory,  may we increase and expand our own sense of _____________________, may we always take the time to ____________________________ and take seriously the call to ________________________________ .

We know that in life and in death, we belong to God. Romans 8:38-39 tells us: For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,  nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

We rest in the knowledge that ____________________________ is at rest with You, O God. Now give us strength and courage, to leave her/him/them in your care, confident in your promise of eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Remain in silence as long as you need. When the time is complete, blow out the candle to mark the end of the ritual.

Note: take what is helpful here and leave what is not. Add, change and adjust to fit your needs to help you in this difficult time.

Look for a post here tomorrow on more ways to grieve in this Covid-19 era.

Rev. Anne Russ is an ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA), currently based in New York City. Doubting Believer provides tools and encouragement for the rollercoaster ride of your faith journey. Follow me on Facebook , Instagram and YouTube. You can also follow on TikTok. Get emails to keep up with all that is happening.

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