How Personal Rituals Can Help You Deal With Grief

How Personal Rituals Can Help You Deal with Grief

Grief is a complicated emotion. While we all tend to deal with loss in different ways, an article by The Atlantic points to research that shows just how much personal rituals can help you deal with your grief.

Picture: NatalieMaynor/Flickr

Coping with grief is tough, and most of us tend to turn to rituals to deal with it. These rituals could be something as simple as listening to a specific song in the morning or going to a hairdresser at a scheduled time each month. After a series of different studies and questionnaires, researchers think that these rituals return a sense of control:

One of the most common responses to loss is feeling like the world is out of control. Day to day, most people go about their lives thinking they are in command. They decide what they do, whom they see, and where they go. And death -- a familiar part of life in the past, when diseases were untreatable and public parks were cemeteries -- is now remote, for the most part unseen, and often unthought of. So the sudden death of a loved one can shock and stun. The bereaved can be overcome by a helplessness that is otherwise foreign to their lives. As Didion writes in The Year of Magical Thinking: "Everything's going along as usual and then all shit breaks loose."

When Norton and Gino probed deeper into the emotional and mental lives of their research subjects, they found that rituals help people overcome grief by counteracting the turbulence and chaos that follows loss. Rituals, which are deliberately-controlled gestures, trigger a very specific feeling in mourners -- the feeling of being in control of their lives. After people did a ritual or wrote about doing one, they were more likely to report thinking that "things were in check" and less likely to feel "helpless," "powerless," and "out of control."

We've talked about developing personal rituals before, and it's really important to keep them up in times of grief.

In Grief, Try Personal Rituals [The Atlantic]


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