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Death is in the Details

In the Jewish tradition we have prayers to mark many phases of the grieving process.  We find comfort when we recite El Maley Rachamim at the funeral, kaddish throughout the mourning period, and yizkor prayers at key moments throughout the year.  

These words provide comfort as we journey along the path of mourning.  And though there are some traditions for ending periods of mourning—shivah , for example, concludes with a walk around the block—there are surprisingly few rituals marking time and calling attention to the many “firsts” a mourner experiences after the death of a loved one.

Here at Ritualwell, we are grateful to those of you who have shared rituals addressing  some of these difficult moments, such as the sight of a loved one’s empty chair at a holiday gathering or the occasion of removing a wedding ring after the death of a partner.  It is often these commonplace moments—when we simply miss our friend, relative, or companion—that are the most difficult to face.  Creative ritual can help us find meaning or comfort in these moments.

Over the years I have received inquiries from mourners searching for a variety of rituals: lighting a shivah or yahrtzeit candle, ending shloshim, and concluding the daily recitation of kaddish at the end of 11 months.  If you were to create a ritual for these or other markers along the path of mourning, what would they be?  Which moments do you long to mark with ritual?  Let us know your ideas!

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