A way to honor your loved one

Many of my clients find comfort during bereavement in setting up a simple yet meaningful altar. Altars don’t have to be complicated structures, or take up a lot of space—a few framed photos, a candle, fresh flowers, or small mementos that represent something meaningful. The ritual of lighting a candle, maintaining flowers, and simply spending time tending the altar is a way to honor a loved one, and also mark time along the grief journey. One of my clients gathers up the fallen petals and at the end of the month makes a ritual of throwing them off the pier.

Altars can be especially important if you don’t have a gravesite to visit. They can provide a fixed location to visit when you want to remember your loved one, or a way of honoring them and the memories you shared.

The purpose of an altar is to provide comfort while you’re grieving, as and when you need it. If you miss a day lighting the candle, or if the flower petals fall before you replace them, then so be it. Constructing an altar is not about guilt or more guilt. It is a simple way of honoring your loved one.

Initially, you will probably pay careful attention to the altar. Inevitably, as time passes, you may find yourself skipping a day or two. This is normal and completely okay, and marks a healthy healing path. It doesn’t mean you are forgetting your loved one, nor that you love them less. It means life goes on, and you’ve taken another step towards recovery.

Posted on April 18, 2016 and filed under Grief.