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Rituals of Remembrance

The anniversary of Lauren's funeral did not have the same impact on me as the anniversary of her death. When I look back on her funeral, it is with a sense of sadness, but peace.

Before the funeral I was dreading it. We had spent the previous two weeks hidden away, cocooned by the love of family & close friends. The wonder of technology had meant that most people could pass on condolences without having to do it face to face.

Before the funeral I'm pretty sure we would have leapt at any valid reason not to go through with it. Such was our dread of being there, on show, surrounded by all the pity. No parent should have to sit through their child's funeral.

But the reality, as I've written previously, was the opposite. The thing I dreaded actually helped. Funerals have a purpose in the grieving process. The fact that funerals carry on being important, even in our increasingly secular society, is proof that I am not alone in this thought. We may not have the more extreme rituals of some countries, like exhuming the mummified remains at regular intervals to re-dress them, but funerals are still important to us. Hence why now, in Covid lockdown, five times as many people can attend a funeral as a wedding.

It isn't just thecfuneral that helped us, but other observed practices that we now have:-

  • Lauren's Birthday we held a garden party (Loz fest!) - only a small affair due to the covid rules of the time, but something that Lauren would have loved. It definitely helped us get through the day.

  • The anniversary of Lauren's death is the date the Christmas tree goes up. An idea given to us by a good friend. We have a new angel for the top of the tree, and numerous new lovely baubles from friends and family. The colour scheme is blue (obviously). We also let off fireworks - rockets with a message written on them to Lauren from each of us.

  • The anniversary of Lauren's funeral. This is Christmas Eve so we have the option of doing something "Christmassy". I've decided to start a new tradition of Christmas Eve boxes for her siblings. I've avoided this in the past as its the price or another Christmas present! But now it feels fitting for Lauren to gift her younger siblings on this day.

  • Christmas day all stockings are now opened in Lauren's room. We do a family Secret Santa, something that Lauren had suggested we start in the months before her death. We now do a separate one for Lauren, so that someone buys things for her stocking. This year it was chocolate and a personalised Lego figure. I'm sure she'd approve.

  • Yoga - not exactly a ritual but something I've taken up recently to find some calm. I try to practice it in Lauren's room at least a couple of times a week. It's our quiet time.

I think of these things and they appear, on the face of it, a little bit ridiculous. My daughter is dead and I'm inventing new family traditions to deal with it. But they work.

It made me curious as to why. There is some part of these rituals that involve bringing Lauren into the present, making sure she is still a part of our lives, and I would definitely recommend that to anyone. But I think psychologically there is more to it that that. The best explanation I can verbalise would be involving chaos and order and our innate responses to them Death, even one that is expected, brings with it untold chaos. We want to add some order, regain some control. This is being pro-active with our grief. This is where funerals help. Even if we don't know how to handle death, we know what is expected at a funeral, the traditions our society observes. We are not just allowing death to control us, not passive in its clutches. Funerals, rituals, traditions, they all add order. They all bring control back to the grief. They are something we can do, as what we really want is not possible to us.

As I so often find myself doing, when I'm drawn to an idea, I researched it. It was apparent I was not the only one interested in how these rituals help. There are many studies by scientist on the topic. One such study, by Norton and Gino, discovered that

“engaging in rituals mitigates grief by restoring the feelings of control.”

Scientist by studying bereaved people had come to the same conclusions I had by living through it. Surely proof, if any were needed, that in discussing our emotions surrounding death we can help, not only ourselves, but those around us.

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Thinking of you Sarah xxx

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