Coping with the death of a loved one and the resultant grief is a difficult and often life-long process. The passing of a loved one can leave us emotionally shocked and shattered and at a loss as to how to move forward. Indeed, we will all have our own unique personal methods of effectively coping with the death of a loved one, however, by sharing the methods and practices that work individually we can help one another through this difficult process.
Despite my strong belief in life after death and the abundance of after death communication I received from my brother, Murray, following his death, I continue to strongly feel his physical absence. I’ve discovered that an effective means of coping with the death of a loved one, lies in the practice of ritual.
In the five years following Murray’s death, my family continues to observe and celebrate certain important dates. This is one method of coping with grief that really does seem to help.
Murray loved Japanese Food. A family tradition of ours involved my parents taking us out for a birthday dinner to the restaurant of our choice. This was an activity that we enjoyed from the time we were children. While alive, Murray would always choose the very same Japanese restaurant, Tokyo Garden, and would even unabashedly push this choice of restaurant upon me, when it was my birthday and my turn to choose. Although Japanese food would not have been my own personal first pick, more often than not I acquiesced to Murray’s enthusiastic urgings. Seeing him happy was always a gift in itself. Murray’s ‘good mood’ meant that I’d get to bask in his energy of over-the-top optimism, goofy humor and out and out joy. Murray exuded a powerful energy that was contagious.
Every October 16 on Murray’s Birthday, we continue to faithfully gather up the family and head out to Tokyo Garden despite the fact that Murray is no longer physically alive. We make it a point to include Murray though numerous beer and sake toasts and to remember and share the good times we shared with him in this same restaurant, years previous.
We always conclude our dinner outing with a release of a few helium balloons back at my parent’s house. We write notes to Murray on small pieces of paper which are then taped to the balloon strings. We then head out as a group onto my parent’s back balcony to release our balloons to the heavens.
When many who are coping with the death of a loved one might find it easier to try to simply 'make it through' such significant dates, I find that honoring Murray’s birthday in this way takes a day that would otherwise be extremely difficult emotionally and turns it into a celebration of Murray and his life. During this ritual, I always strongly feel Murray’s presence. I know without a doubt that we are coping with his death in a manner that he would absolutely approve of.
Coping with the death of a loved one on the anniversary of their death:
Another ritual that helps us all involves the anniversary of Murray’s death. He passed away in his sleep on the morning of Remembrance Day. This day is well marked in Canada as it is a national holiday to honor veterans. Every lapel poppy I see leading up to Remembrance Day is also a reminder of my brother. This is always a time of year where I experience an increase in life after death communication with Murray.
Every year on this difficult day, our family walks down to the expansively forested park close by our home where a tree has been planted in honor of Murray. Every year we bring down a can of beer. We gather around Murray’s tree, toasting him. We pass the beer around, each of us taking a swig as we bask in our remembrance of Murray and his favorite beverage. We always sprinkle the remaining drops from the can onto the tree.
I would highly recommend this practice of honoring the particular day of death to anyone who is coping with the death of a loved one.
With Christmas rapidly approaching, I’m once again anticipating incorporating Murray into our festivities through certain rituals that we’ve adopted since his death. It is probably not a mere coincidence that I also seem to experience an abundance of life after death communication from my brother during the Christmas season.
On Christmas Eve I will go down into the storage area in my basement. I will pull out Murray’s black dress shoes which are still kept in the plastic, drawstring hospital bag that his clothes and personal items were placed in on that fateful morning, along with his insulated insulin transporting box. Whenever Murray went anywhere to visit, this box traveled with him as he was an insulin dependent diabetic. I hadn’t realized the warm feelings I had attached to the sight of that gray and black box with a handle on top. I had come to associate it sitting next to Murray’s shoes by the door, with Murray’s presence in my home...always a wonderful thing!
I will place these items to the right of the Christmas tree and I will hang Murray’s faded black sports shirt above them. (This was a shirt that I had given him for Christmas the year before he died. It had been his favorite and he had worn it often, something that can be attested to by the fact that it is extremely worn and faded.
Throughout the night, we will frequently acknowledge the presence of Murray’s spirit through toasts and shared memories and will likely also at some point, arrange his shoes into a goofy position to reflect some of the silly dances that Murray used to entertain us with, which will undoubtedly induce giddy laughter that will bring Murray’s energy even more clearly into focus. Not only does such a ritual help us in coping with grief, but it also helps us to enjoy the festivities on a deeper level because of the fact that Murray is included.
While this ritual will not make up for the fact that I will still be missing my dear brother’s physical presence immensely, it will allow me to include his physicality in some small way into our Christmas festivities and thus feel the presence of his spirit.
Indeed, I’ve found that a very important aspect of coping with the death of a loved one involves continuing to remember, honor and celebrate the life of the person who has passed. I also personally have found that in doing so I experience the heartfelt eternal connection that I continue to have with my brother and as a result I generally also experience an abundance of after death communication with him.
Coping with the death of a loved one is never easy, but certain practices and rituals such as honoring important dates really can help.
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