Ritual as Journey Toward Healing


There is no lack of tragedy in the world. Sometimes the depth of tragedy, as reported on the news, causes us to turn away, tune out, and disconnect. Today, though, I find myself thinking deeply about the recent tragedies of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 and the mass shooting in Christ Church, NZ. Most of us will never experience the horror felt by the victims of these two senseless calamities. How do those left behind cope?

A few days after the crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302, family and friends of one of the victims organized a ritual that would take place across the globe. All those who knew or were touched by Danielle Moore were invited to gather near a body of water, wear yellow, and stand in a circle. The invitation to participate in the ritual went out over social media. The ritual also included a moment of silence and the creation of art. Those organizing this ritual were clear to say that it was not a funeral or memorial service. The ritual connected those mourning the loss of Danielle all around the world.

This ritual is not the end of mourning for this young woman gone too soon, but it can be one step along the healing journey. Ritual helps us feel connected with others, invites us to honor the present moment, and gives us an opportunity to enact our grief.

Other rituals are taking place across the globe to remember the victims of these two recent tragedies. Some rituals are public, such as candlelight vigils. Other rituals are more private, as families claim and bury their dead. Ritual helps us face the truth, rather than turn away, tune out or disconnect. And, in this way, ritual can help us envision a way forward, a way that may include taking steps to lessen the possibility of similar tragedies happening in the future.