Recently a friend commented that even though she was busy and loved her work, she had a nagging emptiness. This was due to her son now being at ‘varsity and she felt as if her purpose in life had been taken away. This is a common complaint and the “empty nest” syndrome is very real. When the best part of your adult life has been consumed with caring for a child, it can feel like your purpose has ended when they essentially no longer need you. (Although my hubby says there is no such thing as the empty nest – he maintains that they just fly around the periphery and plop back in whenever they are in need!)
Whether it’s that empty nest, caring for an elderly parent or a sick relative who dies, the end of school years, moving to a new home or country, getting divorced, relationships ending, selling or closing a business, or retiring, life is a series of endings and we don’t always take the time to acknowledge them properly.
Endings can bring a sense of limbo as we perceive that the purpose of our life has been taken away, what is familiar and known is no longer there, this sometimes happening suddenly, sometimes gradually.
Rituals are an important part of life’s journey but the way we live now, we tend to hurtle from one experience to the next, forgetting to be present to the emotions these experiences may bring up. Creating a ritual around a specific event or situation can be a powerful way to move on and let go, bringing a sense of peace and closure.
Forget for now the major familiar rituals – engagements, weddings, births, funerals, graduations. I suggested to my friend that a chapter, an important chapter in her life, had ended. She would still be her son’s Mother, but in a different way and it was important to acknowledge the sadness she felt at no longer having to be responsible on a daily basis for his wants and needs. There needed to be an acknowledgement of the loss she was feeling. Maybe a letter of gratitude, written with deep love for their time together, for having the material means to provide for him, the highs and the lows of their life together.
Writing is a powerful form of ritual and helps to clarify and clear the emotions. But a ritual can be as simple or as complicated as you need it to be. Candles, flowers, pen and paper, shells, rocks, crystals, photographs, whatever you are drawn to using. It is the intention behind the ritual that is more important. Spending a few moments walking around the home you are leaving, saying a quiet “thank you” for all the memories and experiences, can bring a sense of peace and closure. This in itself is a ritual.
Rituals allow us to pause and embrace the significant moments in our lives and their importance should not be under-estimated. They allow us to breathe, reflect, reminisce and remember the milestones and the journey taken thus far.