What? You don’t want a funeral?
Recently, a friend returned from the funeral of a dearly loved grandmother. “I know it may sound strange,” she told me, “but I really had a good time!”
It didn’t sound strange to me at all. Funerals can be wonderful times for remembering and cherishing relationships. I suspect my friend experienced that special bond that our grieving often forges.
Funerals serve an important function in our society. They allow a public forum for our grief. They can provide guidance as we seek to express our loss.
I am always a bit stunned and saddened when someone tells me that they don’t want a funeral. I suspect such a directive has something to do with their denial of death but I know it has enormous ramifications for those left behind.
We need to grieve. More and more studies are showing that grief is a therapeutic response to loss. The foregoing of the grief experience can cause both emotional and physical harm. Medical research indicates serious physical ramifications for those with unresolved grief.
The ritual of the funeral is an important way of restoring us to health and well-being.
But there are other rituals equally important – the little rituals that surround us daily and too often we ignore.
The ritual of the family dinner, for instance. The pressures on the family have grown enormously in recent years. With both parents working or with a single parent having to hold down two jobs, time together with family is minimized.
Too often the important ritual of sitting down together over dinner to discuss the day’s events and to share each other’s triumphs and tragedies is ignored. The bonding that is so essential for the family’s health is neglected and the ramifications can be deadly.
Committing to this ritual is one way of contributing to the family’s well-being. To be extremely selective in what you will allow to disrupt this ritual is to make a powerful statement as to the value you place on your family.
I love the ritual of hugging! To open your arms inviting embrace is to say more than words can. The ritual of hugging proclaims acceptance, love, forgiveness and more. It speaks with our bodies when our words often fail. Performing this little ritual frequently provides a large dose of good health and happiness.
In working with families whose relationships are struggling, I often discover how these little rituals are neglected. “Of course I love you!” the husband says. “Then why don’t you show me?” cries the wife. Rituals provide a powerful avenue for expressing our feelings.
Now, the fact that I am in the ritual business does, of course, contribute to my bias but experience has shown me again and again the therapeutic aspects of understanding and participating in ritual.
For thousands of years, we have had the tradition of Sabbath. The ritual of setting aside one day a week, whatever day it may be, for renewal and refreshment has been a sacred event for centuries. Some of us formalize this ritual with corporate worship but even for those who don’t, Sabbath is a vital element in our well-being.
Just look at what has happened. In recent decades, we have chosen to ignore this important ritual. We have decided to keep our businesses going, our stores open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Our weekends are filled with frenetic activities. The ritual of Sabbath is ignored and the result is a communal exhaustion that has our society crumbling at the edges.
What’s the point? Where’s the joy? Keep it up and the only ritual we’ll be a part of will be our own funerals!
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, is the ritual of a daily quiet time. Some of us may use it for prayer, others to meditate or muse but all of us need it.
To set aside time each day to simply be is to provide the opportunity for integrating the many aspects of our lives into a healthy wholeness. Like all rituals, this takes discipline. Like most rituals, it holds the potential for healthy rewards.
Rich Mayfield, a Lutheran minister, writes a regular Saturday column for the Summit Daily News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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