A Field Manual
from New York State Office of Mental Health
Susan Wheeler-Roy, Ed.D.
Bernard A. Amyot, M.S., M.A.
This resource has lots of helpful tips for the beginner, and aid for the rusty professional
- Tell me about...
- What works for you...
- How do you react when...
- I’m wondering...
- Have your feelings changed?
- What are your most difficult times?
- Could you be more specific?
- Do you feel like talking about it today?
- I encourage you to...
Verbal Behaviors: Rituals provide us with acts to engage in for the purpose of meaning-making (Neimeyer). Dr. Kenneth Doka discusses ritual as giving extraordinary meaning to the commonplace. Ritual provides symbolic connection to the lost persons. For example, on Thanksgiving a woman makes her deceased mother’s recipe for cranberry relish. Only a few people in the family enjoy this dish but she continues to prepare it because during the preparation she feels connected to her mother and feels her mother is within her and thus, present at the holiday.
Dr. Kenneth Doka has identified four functions of ritual that may help in a variety of situations:
- Rituals of Continuity – This type of ritual implies that the person is still part of my life and there exists a continuing bond. The Thanksgiving ritual described above is an example of this.
- Rituals of Transition – This marks that a change has taken place in the grief response. For example, parents who have lost a child marked a transition in their mourning by cleaning out their deceased child’s room after a period of time acceptable to them.
- Rituals of Affirmation – This is a ritual act whereby one writes a letter or poem to the deceased thanking the person for the caring, love, help and support. This is especially useful for those who never said “thank you.”
- Rituals of Intensification – This type of ritual intensifies connection among group members and reinforces their common identity. For example, the AIDS Quilt, the Vietnam War Memorial, the Oklahoma City Memorial Park.
Rituals must fit the story. They must be planned ahead and thoroughly processed after completion.
Certain dates are particularly troubling and anxiety producing for the bereaved. These include birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, religious celebrations, Valentines Day, anniversary of the death and other specific family markers.
The goal is to plan ahead a remembrance ritual in order to acknowledge the day both cognitively and symbolically. Utilizing any of the above mentioned rituals will help acknowledge in some personal way the relationship and life that was shared. The day is best confronted and dealt with through ritual rather than avoided. Following is a list of rituals...
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