Webster's Dictionary defines:
Rite - A prescribed form or manner governing the words or actions for a ceremony. A ceremonial act or action; an initiation.
Ritual - Relating to rites or ritual,: according to a religious law or social custom; the established form for a ceremony; a ceremonial act of action; any formal and customarily repeated act or series of acts.
There are many types of rituals other than purely religious. Taking a daily morning walk or meditating can be considered a ritual. For most, the term "ritual" represents an extended meaning to a set of actions. Many think of funeral memorials, deaths and rites of passage as rituals.
Creating rituals during the holidays is a way to give special meaning to those for whom you are caring as well as those for whom you are grieving. Creating a sacred ritual can offer a tremendous sense of honoring for the loved one you are missing. It also offers balance, comfort and support for you. The overall effect of creating rituals can assist you in coping with the coming holidays.
In continuing with your healing over your loss, you might also design rituals for anniversaries, birthdays and other events that were symbolic for you and your loved one. Rituals can help you to establish the spiritual meaning and understanding of your loss.
The ritual becomes an ongoing memorial or representation that you can respond to and absorb the significant changes that have taken place. When you create a ritual from your heart, special meaning will fill you with purpose and most of all love.
Suggestions for filling your holiday loss and tears with celebration and love:
Express yourself through artwork.
Begin your holiday dinner with a minute of silent prayer and a toast in their honor
Send up a balloon(s) with messages and prayers to your loved one.
Plant a tree or a special plant in their honor in your garden or in your home.
Create special Christmas ornaments for your tree and hang a stocking in their honor.
Write a letter or even keep a journal of your thoughts.
Light a candle(s) in their memory.
Place a single flower or bouquet of flowers that your loved one cherished as the centerpiece.
The "Shames" or head candle in the Hanukah celebration can be in honor of your loved one
Look at pictures (or display pictures) from past holidays shared with your loved one. View videos, audiotapes and any remembrances, which reflect on the wonderful times you experienced together.
Design a quilt with the memories you have
Write a brief history of the ups and downs you have experienced in the past year and place it into a Christmas stocking or some memorable cache that you can add to yearly.
Play a favorite song
If you vacation in a special area that you used to go to with your loved one, do something special in honor of them.
Consider volunteering for an organization affiliated with your loved one;s illness, hospice or a caregiving program to help others through your own experiences.
Vounteer to help feed the homeless over Thanksgiving & Christmas.
Volunteer to read or spend time with the elderly in nursing homes, hospitals or to read and spend time with children who have terminal illnesses in hospitals.
Donate gifts in your loved one's name. This is even more special when you donate in memory at their birthday, a special anniversary, etc.
Offer a scholarship in a loved one's name.
Rituals empower people emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Caregivers in all countries who create rituals through customs, traditions, and their own desire to invent a new ritual that provides meaning in their life, have the opportunity to extend a person's presence beyond death.
While our society encourages us to mourn quickly and return to our normal lives, it is particularly difficult for former caregivers who have experienced so much loss in their roles. The death of a loved one after a long period of caring leaves the caregiver without motivation, a sense of place, self confidence, a network of friends and socialization challenges to actually make the return to our own lives once again. It is not just the loss of a loved one you experience; it is the loss of many things that were put on hold.
As you move through your grief, remember that there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Each person grieves in his or her own way and in his or her own time. It is a wonderful opportunity to reach out to support groups and learn how others are healing from their own personal losses. This gives you additional support and understanding. It also gives you reason to understand that you will move through your grief, just as others have.
With understanding and healing, you will find that you may not return to your life as it was before you became a caregiver. You may find that you have grown in ways you could not have imagined, thus creating a newer more fulfilling life; perhaps even a new identity based on the transformational experiences you have gone through in your role as a Caregiver.