Friday, June 1, 2012

The Rituals That Sustain Us

Deb: The other day as we got ready to go to our friend’s funeral I was struck by ritual. Certainly not ritual in any religious or traditional way, but the rituals in our lives that keep us from ripping and tearing in two. I’m talking about the rituals that escape our notice—the daily tasks that are like breathing to us. I thought as I stood in front of my closet, choosing shoes and a dress, “What are you doing, what does it matter!!?” As I styled my hair and put on eye-shadow, I looked into the mirror and was stopped by the ludicrous nature of the moment. I couldn’t help but ask myself, “Why the hell am I putting makeup on? Why in hell am I reaching for earrings?”

Dressing for a friend’s funeral... I cannot conceive of a sadder thought. As my husband and I walked back and forth silently in our bedroom as we prepared ourselves to leave, it seemed like a most bizarre empty exercise. And then I thought, “What is the alternative? Do we wake up on the day of a loved one’s funeral and go out the door, unfed and unclothed?” Of course not. But still it felt banal.

And afterwards as we piled into the car, the lumps returning to our stomachs in anticipation of what lay ahead, I realized that the ritual of getting ready to go was a kind of glue that was holding us together. There for a few minutes, in a painful world full of minutes, the ritual was our friend. We were making choices and as a result we were grounding ourselves in our lives, the only lives we know, the lives we can be sure of at this nanosecond in time. We were clinging to the normalcy, grateful for the silent comfort in each other’s eyes in this specific second in time. 

In the last days we have been reminded once again that it is only in the seconds of now that we can find any sure peace. It is only in the very moment of a glance into your loved ones eyes that you know you have each other. That is all we ever have, and we have been reminded of that fact in our friend’s untimely death. So we hug and touch each other as we pass from shower to front door without saying a word. We are locked in the understanding of how much we appreciate this moment in time that we still have, however painful it is.

And I wondered if the ritual didn’t act as our first friend as we return gratefully and reluctantly to the land of the living. I pondered that maybe ritual is always the first step from the moment someone you love dies. You are shocked and bloody grief-stricken, but in the hours following the news, you will put on the kettle and pick up the phone and pull something out of the fridge for dinner. You will live. Your stomach will feel like lead and your head will swirl with images and memories. You will take a shower, dry off and dress, without even noticing, so far will your mind be from reality. But you will do it.

I have always observed that generally North Americans are not good at the grieving process and have acknowledged that many other countries and cultures are good at it. I have always thought how healing it must be to be able to weep and wail and scream with fellow mourners and to do little else in the way of functioning. But then I got to thinking. When the weeping and wailing is over, aren’t we all the same? Don’t we all go into that place of great void. Doesn’t our emptiness consume us as we realize finally after the formal mourning period that our loved one is not coming back? We go through the shock, the pain, the divulging, the guilt, the regret and the agony of it. We’re tossed like empty shells washed up on the shore, into the funeral and reception where we have scraps of well-meaning but empty forgotten conversation with each other. We search each other’s eyes for meaning and for explanation, and then we go home saddened at finding none. And we put on the kettle and make tea and toast and we find ourselves comforted whether we want to be or not. And in those moments we are back to living. We are reminded again that life is so very fragile.

But we are also reminded that life is in these moments.

Barbara: Deb, it’s funny that you should speak of this. Because I totally remember thinking the same thing when I was getting ready for Paul’s funeral. It felt so bizarre and weird and wrong. And yet, I did find some solace in it—which then made me feel guilty!

You have expressed this process with such beauty and eloquence it actually hurts my heart. And then you take it one step further and find the grace in it. The imperative necessity to the living. I want to thank you for that. So utterly breathtaking, I want to weep and wail and then laugh and cheer. Just … thank you.

64 comments:

  1. Thankyou for sharing those beautiful wise words.
    I went to a funeral a few months ago for my friend's husband, quite similar circumstances to your friend- he died very suddenly and left two young children. I remember putting eyeliner on while getting ready and thinking "why the hell do I care if my eyes look nice, someone just lost their father/son/husband!?". When I saw my friend at the funeral, made up and looking beautiful and very composed, I told her I couldn't believe how strong she was being, and how lovely she looked. She said that she was just going by the saying "fake it til you make it". That was such a lesson for me- the importance of getting dressed and keeping going and not checking out of life just because it's been turned upside down. I hope I could be as brave.
    On a happier note, I found out I'm pregnant :). I'm not planning on telling anyone for a while because im only 6 weeks but I had to tell someone, somewhere.

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    1. Oh my god, Samara!!!!!!!! I am so so so happy for you. Keeping you in a super-special place in my heart. xoxo Barbara

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    2. Samara this is WONDERFUL news! Congratulations!!!! On another note, I can relate to your friend, faking it till she makes it.

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    3. AWWW THAT IS SO SO WONDERFUL !!!! Great News Samara. Hey if you need someone to paint the nursery, You can call all of us !!! :D
      xoxoxoxo

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    4. Congratulations Samara!!! Best wishes to you and yours!

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    5. Thanks so so much everyone xx And Shalaka that sounds good- when I decide on a colour for the nursery I'll get everyone to fly over :)

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  2. I lost my best friend of 42 years 13 years ago and I remember it like it was yesterday. I had been with her everyday for the 5 months from diagnosis to death. We made ever yday count as she refused to believe she was dying. No one wanted to believe it. We cried, we laughed and we talked all about the silly things we had done and the things we would do. Not a day goes by that I don't have her in my heart. It is also the remembering of the rituals we shared together and the stories we had to tell. This will be with you forever and will bring Paul back anytime you want him with you. Rituals hold us together as you so clearly stated in today's lovely post.

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    1. Thank you Madge. You were a good friend to her and I have no doubt that she is in your heart and thoughts every single day as you continue the rituals of life.

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  3. Thank you for sharing this lovely post. I lost my boyfriend in college 23 years ago. It was devastating. Once I got back to my daily rituals, I slowly started moving forward. Each day, each class, each meal was a small step forward.

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    1. Shawn that is so sad. I am sorry you had this awful loss at such a young age. But yes, the rituals were your friends weren't they?

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  4. I remember what I was doing when I found out my friend was killed. I had just come home from band practice when my best friend called me with the news. At first I didn't believe it, so my dad called the police to see if there was anything reported. There wasn't. That night when I went to bed I prayed it was a mistake.

    Woke up the next morning to find out the rumors were indeed, true. I don't remember crying; I just remember turning everything off though, mentally. Then the funeral. Held my composure until the viewing. That's when it hit me.

    "The lessons we learn from pain are the ones that make us the strongest."

    This is a good reminder, this post; the quote I posted. Once the initial shock is over, it's easier to move on. You don't know how, but each morning you wake up and it's a new day. And each day gets a little bit easier.

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    1. Yes Kelly, it is and it does. Thank you.

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  5. You are welcome John. Thanks for reading it.

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  6. Wonderful Topic Deb. Its exactly what Ive been thinking about for a while. I dont ever attend funerals or cremation ceremonies coz It just reminds me of all the people Ive lost and reminds me of standing innocently besides my father's body having no idea I am never gonna see him again. and Maybe everyone will call me heartless But I DONT WANNA GO THERE...in that dark place that feels numb and painful. And here people are serious about mourning I cannot deal with screams and crying and the negative energy. It reminds me how numb my mom was when my dad died. And the other reason is He is not coming back..I faced it and I made my peace with it over the years.... And Honestly I dont blame that period between the funeral and moving on... that uncomfortable, confusing period where you dont have idea idea how to react, you do your chores like always yet keep calling your loved ones to make sure their fine(Ive done that A LOT).

    But Deb you know what I think NOW? I think when we decided to be born in our body we knew what we signed up for, we knew it was all gonna end one day and we came anyway. It was for the Life... for the journey. Because this is a glorious experience. And I know its hard when someone you love leaves so suddenly. But when we move on... when we forget about it. We start remembering them in their happy times. And thats the best way to remember someone. I am sure Paul lived an Incredible life no matter the time. And in the end its all that matters.
    Life goes on. I can't tell you how long before you guys can be ok with this but when He'll start showing up again in your smiles and laughter and reminiscing. And You'll know yourself!!

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    1. Thanks Shalaka, He already is showing up in my smiles, it's true. And I agree that somewhere in our hearts and minds we know it is going to end and we know we are going to go through terrible sadness but there will also be great reward. Which is why I do go to funerals as I feel it is our loving duty to each other to be there to say goodbye and to be there for those who are left behind. I attended my first painful funeral at 10 and have been going ever since. As awful as they ALL are, I have never regretted being there for a single one.

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  7. Rituals and talking are so important during the low points in life. Good to see you back on the blog Deb. Know that through your pain, and sharing it, you are helping others to understand and cope or prepare for a time when they can reflect back to what has been shared here over the past several days.

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    1. Thank you Therese, It's true isn't it? We must love our life while preparing to say goodbye.

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  8. Another timely post, today is my son's 20th birthday which came 35 days after his father died that senseless car accident. I named him Samuel Richard Jr, but never called him Sam because I didn't want him to ever think he was here to replace his father. And now even 20 yrs later I still have not figured out why Sam had to die? I can't explain it to my children nor myself. It seems we can not think of Ricky's birth without being reminded of his father at the same time. I was a zombie after Sam died, I remember being surprised that the sun came out a few days after his death. I remember feeling overwhelming guilt and shame because I laughed. That is indeed the hardest part of grief, allowing yourself to feel again without the guilt. I think however it would be a sin not to embrace life again because that is what Sam and Paul would want. Someone said to me all those years ago "Don't make his memory be about the pain, but rather about the fun, the laughter and the love." That is the legacy he would have wanted and they were right. Sam told me the most profound thing he ever heard came from a Little House on the Prairie episode-Remember me with smiles and laughter because that's how I'll remember you all. If you can only remember me with tears, then don't remember me at all.

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    1. Beautiful Mary and I know what you speak of. The guilt of laughter or a moment enjoyed is so hard to bear after losing someone you love. I know it was long ago but I am so sorry that you and your child had to lose this man you loved so much. Life it seems is random in this way. I truly believe that if we asked why every single time we experience tragedy we would lose our minds. Love the little house quote.

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    2. Thank you Deb, my daughter and I took Ricky to dinner for his birthday. After dinner he asked to go to the cemetary to "talk to his dad". This may sound strange but I rarely go there because personally for me, Sam is not there he never has been. But for my kids the ritual of visiting him is important to them so for them I go. As I watched him kneel down at his father's grave with the rain falling and his hood pulled down, I thought how people had told me that at least when he grew up he wouldn't miss what he never had. Not true, even though he never knew the man he misses him as profoundly as his sister does. I wish we learned earlier in life to cherish those we love and to tell them every chance we get that we love them. My kids and I end every conversation with those three words.

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    3. Mary I am so glad for him that there is something in his soul that makes him want to feel connected. Going to the grave is the only earthbound connection for him and he is so wise to know it. Three powerful little words indeed.

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  9. Deb, that is so true - there is a sort of solace that can be found "going through the motions". I find it goes beyond the "routine" - these rituals ground us, recharges us, mentally allows us to process our feelings, expectations, previous experiences, etc. It also helps with transitions from event to event (in your case, going from the world of the living to the world of grief). Even the biological acts of breathing, eating, heart beating, sleeping - it's a way to process life.

    It was very hard for me when my dad passed away. I interacted with my dad the same way I always did - I never really expected that Dad would lose his battle with cancer. He did better than most - survived 2 years after diagnosis. But, Odin (the slave to rituals) made sure that I kept going - he did have to go to school. Also, I had to try to explain what happened to Odin. I didn't know how to say it, but I ended up with, "Grandpa is living with the angels." Odin processed that and firmly stated, "Grandpa is in Los Angeles." Odin gave us that gift of laughter during that holiday season.

    Deb, I'm sorry for the loss of your friend. I did enjoy his work as Beverly in Getting Along Famously. My thoughts are with you, Colin, and with Paul's family during this time. *hugs* <-- offered.

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    1. "Grandpa is living with the angels." Odin processed that and firmly stated, "Grandpa is in Los Angeles."
      What a sweetheart Odin is. This really made me smile.
      He reminds me of a family member of mine that said when my grandmother passed, "Today is her birthday in heaven."

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    2. Jo that is the sweetest story about Odin. Regards what you said about the angels, I think it is perfect. They say we should tell children in a way that they can digest and you did just that-and got a laugh out of it in the process. Thanks for your kind words about Paul.

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    3. This reminds me of one flight I had last year. I was travelling from A to B (can't remember from where to where, I have a vague idea... I think from London to home). But the events goes as follows; In plaine I sat up next to the window and looked out side just waiting to get up. I noticed that there was a little kid sitting in front of me and he was a bit nervous. Didn't pay too much attention to him untill we got above the clouds and this boy says with clear voice "I can't see grandad anywhere! He must be on another cloud" :)) It really made me smile.

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    4. Oh Kasku that is so very sweet and touching! bless his little heart.

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  10. I have tried to compose what to write for some time now. I am quite certain that I shouldn't but I will, so I better apologizes before hand from everybody, just in case. I try to censor myself with my best abilities. The one post from earlier this year would so fit well to this as to describe where I come from... I had to delete that post as I got very vivid feeling that it might have hurt some feelings (not quite like that, but it is really hard to describe it). So basically it was all about [self cencorship]. You know. That's why I [self cencorship]. [Self cencorship]. [Self cencorship]. *What a duche that censor. No good joke is coming through* (Yes I am trying to light up the mood.)

    I remember my granny telling me that when she was young (about 18 or so) her granny died in their home. This was during the time when this country was still very undeveloped. She said that she can remember taking care of the body (washing and clothing) and taking it to Sauna (with other women from the village) to wait for the burial. After the burial is a time period of six months that she couldn't remember. She was in sorrow and in "auto-pilot" for that period. When she started to feel a bit better she started to remember what she was doing.

    When she died, I was numb for weeks. I remember when we went to see her for the last time in the hospital bed (they had already called us that she is no longer with us) and I went to touch her hand, this peace just came over me. Everybody else was crying, but not me. I had to look down, just so that others wouldn't notice that I wasn't able to feel anything. Yeah the peace went away and I just stayed numb. The numbness was kind of tingly.

    I probably have gone already far and beyond the point that I had in my mind. Probably should have just followed John's foot steps and just said: Thank you for the post!

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    1. You remind me of me when my grandmother passed. When I saw her, I was numb. It hurt of course, but I was just numb. We all were. We knew it was coming, so maybe that had something to do with it, I don't know. I know that I cried a lot (and hard) before she passed and honestly, I have cried a lot since.

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    2. Kasku, I do not in ANY way feel this post is inappropriate. I actually read it twice to see what offensive thing I was missing. This was a beautiful from the heart recollection. The fact that you felt her hand and felt peace? Would that would happen to each one of us! And if I can be so bold I would like to say to you, just because you were not crying does not mean you were not hurting. Thank you for sharing this story. Steph I am sure you were numb as I think most of us are when we lose someone we love. The body is kicking in to protect us from falling apart. But when the flood gates open they cleanse us don't they? We still have another memorial for Paul in July and I think it will go a long way to starting the healing process.

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    3. Oh, Deb I did quite a bit of self cencoring there. I don't think quite many people would appreciate if I would say their greaving process is interesting and good for my learning or something similar. I really don't understand how some people do it, write hurtful things without remorse. I just need to think that someone might be hurt of what I write, and I won't write it. Well I usually act first and think second, so I am more likely to do deleting the comments part than actually not writing it. Even though I might first think that this is good, this is really opening up. After a while I might get the feeling that "o-ou, did I really write that?? Am I crazy?? " with reply of " oh YES" and continue deleting the thing/post/etc. Ok, I am going to stop now... Writing novels to other peoples blogs... What can I say, I am in sleeping department with recharge option for my laptop and free WiFi. (aka I am very tired and travelling)

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    4. Kasku I think sometimes you might not realize what your words bring to people. We would love to hear you thoughts, as you are comfortable in writing them. If you are not, we support that but if you are, please don't underestimate how helpful they are.

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  11. This is poetic. About a month ago, I got word that one of my little brothers best friends was killed in a car accident - just 16 years old, and many of the kids in the car Eeee ones I had babysat when I was home. And then, 2 weeks later, we had to say goodbye to my grandma. My grandmother struggled for many years with congestive heart failure. In her last days, I and my family did what we could, but essentially, we watched her drown on dry land. She was too young and too scared, only 68. And 15 days laters, I got word that one of my classmates, a 23 year old marine, was shot and killed in Afghanistan. He was one of my first boyfriends, a true hero and a damn good man.
    May was a hard month for me, but you are so right when you say it is all about routine. I don't want to function, i want to mourn. I want to cry and to not eat and to feel pain at the loss. But I go to work. I do my homework. I sit up and talk with my friends about the pain and the loss. But it hurts everyday. And still I wear makeup and comb my hair and leave the house, but it feels empty for a while.
    Thank you for this post - it was truly great timing.

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    1. Oh Janine, why did you get so much pain at once? I am so sorry for all of those profound losses. I think you are doing what you can-routine and crying and talking-yes talking with friends about your pain is a great thing to do. The pain morphs as time goes on but it is never gone. I go each Christmas and place wreaths on Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles. Some have been gone since I was ten. My pain in time has turned into honouring the sweet fact that they were in my life at all.

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  12. This is poetic. About a month ago, I got word that one of my little brothers best friends was killed in a car accident - just 16 years old, and many of the kids in the car Eeee ones I had babysat when I was home. And then, 2 weeks later, we had to say goodbye to my grandma. My grandmother struggled for many years with congestive heart failure. In her last days, I and my family did what we could, but essentially, we watched her drown on dry land. She was too young and too scared, only 68. And 15 days laters, I got word that one of my classmates, a 23 year old marine, was shot and killed in Afghanistan. He was one of my first boyfriends, a true hero and a damn good man.
    May was a hard month for me, but you are so right when you say it is all about routine. I don't want to function, i want to mourn. I want to cry and to not eat and to feel pain at the loss. But I go to work. I do my homework. I sit up and talk with my friends about the pain and the loss. But it hurts everyday. And still I wear makeup and comb my hair and leave the house, but it feels empty for a while.
    Thank you for this post - it was truly great timing.

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  13. "In the last days we have been reminded once again that it is only in the seconds of now that we can find any sure peace. It is only in the very moment of a glance into your loved ones eyes that you know you have each other. That is all we ever have, and we have been reminded of that fact in our friend’s untimely death. So we hug and touch each other as we pass from shower to front door without saying a word. We are locked in the understanding of how much we appreciate this moment in time that we still have, however painful it is."

    I could not have said this better myself. We all deal with things differently, and sometimes we do get caught up in our "rituals". At least I know I do. I know after my friend Brian was killed in a car accident, I didn't want to do anything but be angry and pissed off and upset. But I did band, I spent time with my friends. In time I wasn't angry anymore. But it still hurts sometimes, and perhaps it always will. It will be seven years in July.

    One of my favorite episodes of ER, ironically dealing with loss, has a quote that says "You don't know how you find the strength, but somehow you do." Funny thing about life: it goes on.

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    1. Thank you Holly, I think you are right that the pain will always remain and I won't say it lessens but I do think it becomes other things-I think it turns into the moments were something lovely or funny or shocking reminds you or your friend Brian and your heart forces a smile to spread on your face.

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  14. I know from experience--and what harsh teacher--you do feel banal at times going through the motions of life. Those little rituals are the glue that keeps us together. But these daily rituals are also a lesson in some ways. Life does go on. The grieving process is much longer than the ritual of saying goodbye, and convoluted. So many holes along the way that highlight the one who is gone.

    Sia McKye OVER COFFEE

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    1. Thank you Sia, I see you can relate to this and as such I am sorry for the pain you have had to endure to learn these lessons. Yes so many holes but as time goes on, with hope the holes become whole with sweet memories.

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  15. I imagine writing about this helps to move through the pain, but it must be hard as well.

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    1. I told Barb that I re-wrote it three times as my fingers kept going off in their own direction. My mind is still scrambled with the sadness of it all.

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  16. http://thenextfamily.com/2012/06/the-cycles-of-life/
    Thought your readers might like this link. It seems cycles and rituals are being put out there today in blogs and articles. Feel free to comment as I am the marketing director for this site and this story was posted today. So interesting that two people are experiencing the same thoughts in very different ways.

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    1. Madge that was beautiful. The last few lines really stayed with me. Thanks so much for sharing. I recommend this to anyone to read. I felt peaceful after reading this.

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  17. This post really spoke to me. I remember getting ready for my grandmother's funeral and I was angry and hurting and couldn't figure out why I was getting dressed up and doing my hair and all that stuff. I went through the known motions of getting ready, but they seemed pointless in a way. I remember making the decision to not wear any makeup because that is how she was used to seeing me.
    I did the screaming and wailing and then the silent pain took over. I am very devout in my faith and beliefs, so that comforted me and still does.
    I do believe that we live in the moment. Moments make up our lives. What has passed is in the past, and what is to come will come. Now is what we need to deal with and live with. Now is important. I do believe that God has a plan for me. That is also a comfort. The moments are what keep us going at times.

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    1. Steph it is so wonderful that you have your faith to see you through these sad and challenging moments that life brings.

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  18. I know the feeling of having to keep going despite feeling like just drowning in your feelings. I usually just refer to this as needing to keep my mind busy. I usually refer to teaching myself some new skill when I am feeling down. It usually gives me enough to think about that I can make it through the days. When I was really having some problems with depression I ended up learning sign language.... Sometimes good things can still come out of the seemingly worst situations.

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    1. Kelly I was so stuck by the fact that you learned sign language you were struggling with depression. I think that is a fabulous choice. Yes, good thing can come out of bad, can't they?

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    2. That is really great that you learned sign language. It's fascinating. And I can relate to that. I started to sew and do gymnastics, because I felt so sad.

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  19. I know that I need people to act normally. I need to go on. I can't sit there and cry my eyes out forever.

    That's my way of dealing with pain. I weep for myself. Silently, when nobody sees / hears it.

    I sometimes can't bear people, who try to comfort me. It makes everything worse...it is as if my protected world crumbles down.

    I don't say it's the best way...but I think that these rituals, and the living on help a lot.
    You have something you can hold onto. You have something that distracts you. Something that takes the pain away. And you know - no matter what - there is always something to do.

    It's like a map, when you're lost...
    It guides you, and it will bring you to your goal.

    There must be time for weeping and crying...but there must be time to live your own life again.

    xoxoxo

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    1. Deja Vu! (Not for anyones death though, but yeah you need a map and a goal!)

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    2. Becki I truly believe that each of us must find our own way through our sadness and grief. Your way is as valid as anyone's.

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  20. What lovely comforting words Deb, and as well from all those commenting. To explore grief and it's process's actually seems to help a great deal. I too find so much peace in the day to day rituals of life and they really have been what has kept me going from time to time. It reminds me of the little engine that could "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can" and suddenly you realize that you can and have been doing what needs to be done and by doing so moving forward.

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    1. Erin what a lovely way to put it. That Little Engine has been a life lesson for all of us hasn't she?

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  21. Its sweet that you feel thats its our loving duty to say goodbyes. For me its been difficult partially because I interpret emotions. The sadness sort of pierces through my heart sharper and faster and before anyone could say a word. And Indian cremations are so filled with Tears and screaming and "STAY WITH ME..WAKE UP"s. Although thats better than keeping it inside. For me it was inside of me until I was 11. All the sadness, the making peace with it, crying your eyes out coz My mom didnt tell me that my father had transitioned until I was 11. And by the time I knew it was too late to mourn, I was numb, I thought it wasn't a big deal until someone in the building died. And IDK how I was walking down the stairwell when they were taking his body out and suddenly my father's cremation ceremony just FLASHED in front of me. Ever since I avoid going unless they were very close to me. But you are right it is our loving duty to say goodbye. IDK I guess for me I dont believe the fact that they ever leave. I always feel they are alive looking over us and when we look at something so random and remember them, I so feel they are inspiring us to think that so we'd smile. Its always better to believe No matter how big DEATH seems it cannot separate us from our loved ones who perished. :) Lots of love to you hon. And Like I said now that he's showing up in your smiles....He will make sure even now that he makes you laugh until you wanna pee !!!! xoxoxo

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  22. Shalaka I can understand that some of those particular rituals might be tough on a child and so I can see why you have grown up with this aversion. I think we all walk our own path. Like everything in life it really comes down to what works for you doesn't it?

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    1. True!! Its so different with everyone isn't it ? unique ways of life :)

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  23. It is those little rituals that remind us that life does go on, that you are among the living. Perhaps in a few months you'll be writing a check or weeding your garden, and Paul will come to mind. You'll wonder how time flew between now and then. Hopefully, the thoughts will be good and comforting, and I hope you take comfort in the fact that as you continue your rituals, you are carrying on life as he wanted you to.

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  24. Beautiful words Dawn. Thank you.

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  25. Hello all. I had a few quiet moments between performances here in Guelph and I sat with the blog and read all these amazing comments and thoughts and stories. It has really amazed me how there are so many unique and distinct rituals in the whole mourning process. We are such an interesting species, aren't we? No absolute answers, but just an infinite array of possibility. Thank you all so much for sharing these!

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  26. Thank you...for your wisdom and perspective, which I needed at this very moment.

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