Grief & Ritual
A presentation of the mural included a discussion on grief and rituals with the Heraklion community. We also invite you to share your own experiences on this site. This is an ongoing archive of experiences of loss and the rituals that have provided solace. Grief is perhaps the most universal yet most isolating of emotions, and we hope sharing our experiences might offer reassurance or at least help others feel less alone.
I have lost my sweetheart and my health. I keep trying to let go, but memories overwhelm me like an ocean wave crashing over me. Moments of tenderness from memories of loving and being loved help me treasure what was.
I was at home in Iceland when my daughter rang me with the news that my son died in Australia. I am forever changed. I see my life as before and after the event, a greyer lens on my existence. He was a musician and I listen to his voice whenever I need to.
I lost a close friend and mentor, my fairy godmother. I was on the other side of the world when I got the call. It still feels raw, and I often pretend the loss isn’t real—that shell be there when I get back home. I wore heavy liquid eyeliner in mourning—she always wore a full face with sixties sex-kitten eyes. She gave me a $100 note with good luck messages written on it before I went away traveling, saying it would help bring me home. I’ll never spend it. I’m making a performance piece about her, probably for closure, about the places we used to go. It is here that her absence is most palpable—and the places we are going. Changing, becoming voids as well.
I lost my first born son to the needle just over a year ago—and yes, grief is a beast that will never be tamed. Feathers, he gives me feathers.
My uncle died by suicide. My mom told us he was missing when she was sure he was dead. She told me on the way home from my dancing lesson, and I burrowed my head a little lower in my scarf and asked if there was anything to eat at home—to break the tension of my brothers standing around the table. He wasn’t in my life enough to really miss him, but I think I’m scared of what we have in common.
I dedicated my degree to him because was very intelligent but never got the chance to pursue academia in working class England in the 1950s. I told him this at his grave.
I lost my mom on May 5 of 2015. After a long battle with cancer, she died in a hospice room. We watched her take her last breath. She seemed to fight the end—until it seemed her body reminded her there was no other way out. Grief feels heavy. It broke apart a family that, in my eyes, wasn’t entirely together. I try so hard to forgive others because she was so giving. It has proven to be very hard to do. Cancer and the cost of fighting it—plus being let go from a job she had worked at since before my birth in 2005 just a handful of months from lung surgery to remove a tumor—robbed her of the chance to retire in peace.
Grief feels heavy and dark. I try to eat many of her favorite foods, recreate some of her favorite meals (perfect homemade flour tortillas elude me still), visit the library (she loved James Patterson novels), wear her grey turtleneck sweater, keep in touch with my sister and send her texts my mother might send—though she was terrible at texting. 🙂 I kept her last voicemail to me that she sent one week before she died. I spend time in the house she tried so hard to save.
I’ve lost dear pets. I’ve lost my grandmother. But the grief that has stayed with me the longest is losing my father. We found out he had stage 4 cancer in July and he was in a hospital every day until September. I became engaged less than a week after we found out. I was married the year after. A year after that, I bought a house. I was promoted at work. All big changes that he would have been so proud to see me accomplish. All moments that I would have loved to share with him. The grief still comes around, nudging me at times while I’m driving. Nudging me at times when I’m alone at home.
I find solace when I react, do, or say things that remind me that I am indeed my father’s daughter. I am glad that I get to carry that with me, and I hope he is aware of the impression he made on me. He helped me become the strong and independent woman that I am. I am part of his lasting mark on this earth. This keeps me going.
My wife died in the summer of 2011. Her last words to me were help me die. Not in an assisted suicide way, but rather to help her on her way. Her body was full of cancer and she was trying so hard to die that the adrenaline was keeping her body going. I spoke to her, encouraging her to relax and let go, to not fight it. After about twenty minutes she gently drew her last breath. I don’t remember most of the next two and a half years. Grief is still my constant companion. I don’t cry much anymore. I walk around with what I can only describe as an emptiness. I enjoy many things today and the emptiness is still there lurking in the background. I was never angry about her death. The emptiness swallows the sadness, anger, and all the other feelings that could have resulted from her death. There is nothing to strike back at and alone at night is still difficult.
Comfort is a funny word. There is nothing that comforts me. Friends help. I used to say that I hoped I would die first. After living through her death, I am glad I didn’t die first because she didn’t have to go through what I did. I’m old enough now to know that more of life is behind me than ahead of me and I hold fast in the belief that there is an afterlife and we will be reunited. In some way still unknown to me, we will be together again. I have learned not to fear death because I watched the grace and dignity with which she faced hers. This is my solace.
I lost my mother one week ago. She suffered from cancer but died from bacterial meningitis. I feel sad but also very angry about her loss; I cry and still have not realized that she’s gone. I feel angry about the injustice of losing good people who have things to offer for more years but for some reason they have to go. I need to protect my father who lost his wife. My mother said this saying about the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
Grief is not something that I have entirely felt in my life, but something for which I am getting prepared, for months now. Due to the bad condition of a beloved person, I feel that I grieve every day more or less. I grieve for the moments I can’t share with her anymore, for the moments I can’t help but missing her. Sometimes I grieve for the person I have become without her and at the same time I feel blessed for the time she dedicated to me to become the person I am today.
I watched my dad die. He was only 58. Then cancer took my mum and two sisters. My mum was old but it was hard to see her deteriorate in such an unkind way. My sisters died within nine months of each other, a few years ago. Being far from home, I always hear the news by phone or internet. Today grief feels like a huge part of my life. I deal with it because I must. Photographic memories are comforting. Remember the good times.
My Dad loved the movie Casablanca. He introduced it to me when I was little and I remember watching it for the first time together. Now I watch it every year as a way to spend time with him.
My partner just lost his aunt. She was like a mother and best friend to him. We’re in a different city so there has been lots of traveling before and after the death. As it only just happened, we are in shock and survival mode. Finding comfort is tricky as I was not close to her but he was. I guess it’s a mixture of trying to distract from the pain yet also offering comfort and remembrance—very difficult in a world where you don’t get much time to reflect.
I carry a stone from Rockaway Beach, where he taught me how to surf. No matter how bad I was at it, he was always so encouraging. It reminds me of him and to be brave like he was.
In Taiwan my uncle took me to a Taoist temple to burn “ghost money” (symbolic paper money) to honor and send prosperity to my elder uncle, grandparents, and older ancestors. It helped me feel connected to them and to the local community as we expressed our grief and devotion in this beautiful space together.
I found out my grandfather was dying while I was standing in the parking lot of a fast food restaurant somewhere in Utah. I drove two thousand miles to reach him before he died. I did not make it. My grandfather had a peculiar old brass lamp shaped like a pirate that used to frighten me as a child. Now I keep it on my desk and each time I switch it on, I think of him.