healing rituals for those who have lost a loved one

this small booklet was created for those who are experiencing the loss of someone they have loved. some of these small grief rituals are based on Native and indigenous traditions and are spiritual rather than religious, offering an opportunity to share sacred moments cross culturally in an appropriate and respectful way.

this small booklet was created for those who are experiencing the loss of someone they have loved. some of these small grief rituals are based on Native and indigenous traditions and are spiritual rather than religious, offering an opportunity to share sacred moments cross culturally in an appropriate and respectful way.


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written & illustrated by gemma b benton

Losing someone we love is often the most painful and difficult thing we will

experience in life. Even when death marks the end of a long period of

suffering for our loved one, the actual weight of the loss can be

overwhelming and confusing.

Over the three decades that I've worked in and around Native American

and indigenous communities as a substance abuse counselor and as part of

traditional healing teams, I've been honored to be part of many traditional

Native American burials and healing ceremonies. Traditional Native

American and indigenous practices are varied and complex, but one of the

things they often have in common is an emphasis on community support of

those who have survived and reconnecting them with healing power of

nature, the earth, and a spiritual path in life.

In this small booklet, I've tried to share some of these ideas and concepts in

a few simple, practical rituals that can be done alone or with an entire

community as a way of drawing together and moving through the grief

process in meaningful ways.

My prayer and intent is that you will find some comfort in these healing

rituals and practices and that it draw you closer to those that you love

- both living and on the other side.

Gemma B. Benton

Spiritual Activist & Healing Ritual Specialist

Write about those special moments before, during or after the passing of

your loved one and share them with someone who is sharing your loss

Like birth, these places of crossing between thresholds are full of precious

and extraordinary moments. These experiences break us open and in the

breaking we find we are changed, maybe we find that we are able to be

more compassionate to those suffering or maybe we become better


This ritual creates the opportunity for both.


Think back to those moments, what do you remember? Their hands in

yours. Laughter that cleared the sadness in the room. The quality of air in a

particular moment. Maybe there was a conversation you had with your

loved one before their passing that you'd like to remember and honor, or

maybe you experienced a special “visit” from them days after. These are

important experiences to remember and honor. By writing them down,

recalling and recording them on your phone or on video you're not only

doing important grief work for yourself, you are honoring these special

moments for your loved one and may be helping others find meaning out of

this difficult time as well. Here are a few writing suggestions you might find


I'll never forget the way you held my hand ..

At your funeral, they played your favorite song ...

The morning after you crossed...


Stack rocks, plant a memorial garden or create an outdoor sanctuary

In older times, indigenous peoples used to stack rocks as a way of pointing

out a “turn in the road” or a particularly special place. And there's

something especially soothing about holding a smooth, river rock in your

hand. This ritual is intended to help you ground and connect with the

healing of the earth as well as the strength of the stones themselves.

Pick a spot in nature where you can watch the sunrise or sunset and

remember your loved one throughout the seasons. Gather up a few stones

from within the landscape. Feel their shape and texture.

As you begin to stack the stones, ask the stones to share the burden of this

loss with you – to mark this “turn in the road” and to be a place of

remembering with you.


I heard your voice in the wind today

and I turned to see your face;

The warmth of the wind caressed me

as I stood silently in place.

I felt your touch in the sun today

as its warmth filled the sky;

I closed my eyes for your embrace

and my spirit soared high

I saw your eyes in the window pane

as I watched the falling rain;

It seemed as each raindrop fell

it quietly said your name.


I held you close in my heart today

it made me feel complete;

You may have died...but you are not gone

you will always be a part of me.

As long as the sun shines...

the wind blows...

the rain falls...

You will live on inside of me forever

for that is all my heart knows.

- Unknown


Visit places in nature where you've shared memories with your

loved one.

Nature invites us into spaces where time dissolves and we can heal

our wounds. The wind blows away the grief and helps us to feel

connected with life again.

Where did you and your loved one enjoy spending time together?

At the beach? The park?

Picking fruit in the summer?

Perhaps you could invite others to join you in a game of “cloud

busting”, imagining the clouds as messages from your angels,

ancestors or loved one. Write poetry or learn to take nature photos

with your phone. Walk a labyrinth and invite your loved one to walk

beside you on the other side.


Make new daily rituals and self care practices.

There is some science that points to ritual as a critical element in the grief

or trauma recovery process.

Grief rituals can be very simple such as pouring a cup of tea or be more

extensive such as collective grief rituals that are facilitated by a ritual

specialist and often involve entire families or communities.

Grief rituals are especially important when there has been a sudden or

tragic death or when a there is a painful loss that affects the larger

community such as when a young person or important community member



This is a simple grief ritual that is inspired by indigenous practices. You can

do this alone or invite a few friends to join you;

Gather up items from around the house belonging to your loved one. Look

for items that trigger a memory or a story. Like a favorite fall t-shirt, or

garden gloves, or a favorite mug.

Gather up all the items and speak to each one, thanking it for the memory

and for bringing happiness into your loved ones life.

“Thank you {coffee cup} for making their morning brighter”

“Thank you {t-shirt} for the fun and laughter you shared with her”

You can then place all of these items together so that you can take them

out and repeat the ritual on special occasions and/or you can write a little

about each item and place them somewhere safe for others to enjoy in the



Honor significant moments such as memorials, anniversaries,

birthdays, and holidays

Some of us believe that life continues on the other side and that our

loved ones are not distant from us but are only different than us. Your

loved one continues to remember and share moments with you. They

grow and heal with you. Some cultures believe that it is important for

soul keeping that we continue to remember and include our loved ones

in our activities, especially at those special moments of our lives like

weddings, births, and death as welcoming ancestors. You can honor

these places in life by setting out a special place setting for them, playing

a special song at an event, ringing a bell or lighting a candle – either

quietly or with your family and loved ones as a way of remembering their

loved ones significance in their lives and continuing the relationship

beyond the illusion of death.

For additional support with soul keeping and grief rituals, please reach out to

Gemma at gbenton789@gmail.com

May the Creator Bless & Watch Over

You & Your Loved Ones always and

especially during this difficult time.

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