Simple rituals can have a HUGE impact
Over the past few years a multiple of painful losses have poured down on me. I am thankful that I was able to take some refuge from the ancient traditions I continue to use along my grief journey.
For me, I leaned into the Jewish customs provided in death and grieving. Regardless of what customs are used, there is scientific proof that these traditions are helpful.
Rituals provided structure.
Science has proven that performing rituals can be surprisingly effective during grief. Routines can be accomplished with little thought thereby providing necessary stability when we are unbalanced and lost. It also provides much needed community during a time that can feel isolating.
One of the only traditions handed down in the Jewish religion that extends beyond the initial year of grieving is Yahrzeit.
(among Jewish people) death of a parent or other close relative, marked by the
burning of a memorial candle
Definition from Oxford Languages
Yahrzeit is an annual custom that is first noted a year after death and continues throughout the lifetime of the person observing the tradition. The date is based on the Hebrew (lunisolar) calendar so it actually fluctuates from year-to-year.
Yes. That means I have 2 different days to honour the death of my loved ones!
This coming weekend marks the yahrzeit of my husband.
During this 24-hour period, I will chant traditional prayers and light a yahrzeit memorial candle (which burns for approximately 24 hours). Tradition suggests that the yahrzeit's annual commemoration is typically only observed by the spouse, parents, children and siblings of the deceased.
The flame from a candle is symbolic
We learn from the Book of Proverbs (chapter 20 verse 27) that,
“The soul of man is the candle of G-d.”
For me the candle signifies a time for reflection. The symbolism of the mesmerizing flame as it flickers and glows reminds me of my husband’s life that also shined so warm and bright. And then –- it too, extinguished.
Yahrzeit provides continuity and allows me an annual check-in on my personal mental health.
It is a paradoxical time. I grieve a lost future and find joy in the beautiful memories I was gifted during our lifetime together.
It also provides me with a feeling of connection to others who similarly share my grief. I am truly appreciative to know he was loved and continues to be missed by so many as we near 7 years of loss.
Tradition brings me structure and I am grateful for it.