Personal Grief Ritual

How to Have a Personal Grief Retreat

Hello dear ones,

Thanks for being here and welcome to those of you who are new.

I’m writing this one on National Grief Awareness Day, 8/30/21.

And when I think about grief awareness it comes down to this:

Grief is more than death loss; it never goes away, we learn to live with it; and we need to keep it moving.

One of the best ways to keep grief moving is to devote time and space to it; to have a personal or communal grief ritual. So this blog post is all about how to have your very own grief retreat.

I recently had a beautiful session with a client who was grieving multiple losses. 

I told them about having tea with grief—to befriend it, as it looms around anyways.

And I’ll let you in on a secret- if you befriend grief, you may come to know great joy. 

It doesn’t make sense, and I think that’s why so many are afraid to get intimate with it.

But if you do what my client did, you may discover this untapped secret to joy.

Here’s what they did:

They decided to hunker down. They allowed themself to cry for two days, they stayed in their bed tucked under the covers holding them. They let their housemate know that they didn’t want to be disturbed or interrupted and that they were okay regardless of the noise they might hear. And they started proudly saying to others, “I’m grieving.”

This act of grief feels so rebellious in this culture of quick fixes and focus on the positive. 

So a joy practice actually starts with owning and befriending your grief. 

Oh, how I long for the days of gathering with others to grieve together in grief ritual…the one taught to me by the blessed memory, Sobonfu Somé from West Africa.

But until then, here’s how to do your own mini grief ritual, inspired by my client:

  • Block off a few days-two maybe three. Or you could even just block off a few hours if you don’t have the luxury of time.
  • If you live with others, let them know you’ll be entering into a grief practice in case they hear you crying, moaning, keening, and/or yelling.
  • Have water to drink and a few things to eat that are simple and easy. This is not the time to cook an extravagant meal. (That’s for after when I invite you to celebrate with yummy take out or precook a favorite meal to heat up quickly.) 

Here are some additional suggestions for you:

  • Set up an area in your space that represents your grief.
  • Burn a white pillar candle that can burn safely for many hours.
  • Before entering your grief time, go gather dried leaves, twigs or other natural items that represent what you lost. Gather a few items if you have more than one loss, and then choose one other thing that represents the grief that you don’t know and that may show up. Place these items on your grief area.
  • You may also write or draw your loss and place that in your grief area or altar.
  • Begin by calling in your ancestors, a higher power, or other allies for support. Then just be present to what’s showing up, allow yourself to feel your grief and then let yourself cry, sob, or keen. Make grief noises. Ask why as many times as you need to in whatever way feels good to you-be it a yell or a whisper.  
  • Lay down and cry. 
  • Cry with the blanket wrapped around you.
  • Rest and nap in-between grief bursts.
  • Write in your journal if writing is your jam. 
  • Capture those grief nuggets or ah-has if they arrive.  
  • Or you could draw your grief. What color is it, what shape is it? Make it messy, or make it clean. Whatever feels right to you.
  • Drink water and have a bowl of water near you to hold your grief. 
  • Let your tears fall into this bowl of water.
  • Put on the sound of water to remind you of its peaceful flow and to encourage you to grieve like water.
  • Play sad music to allow stuck emotions to flow. (If you follow me on instagram, go to my video series on how to allow stuck emotions or grief to flow for more directions, beth_erlander_grief_friend.)

And then do this for as long as you feel you need to.

When you feel finished take a long bath filled with mineral salt or take a shower and scrub your body with sea salt. Salts help cleanse the toxic energy of grief.

Then go celebrate by eating your meal that is waiting for you and notice how you feel.

I’d be curious to hear how this goes for you if you try it. Send me an email as another aspect of moving our grief is sharing it and letting it be witnessed by others. 

I was so proud of my client for doing this and it inspired me to write this to you.

And the next day they had the most amazing day they’d had in a very long time. And I told them,

“You see, the thing is, if we allow ourselves to fully grieve, we come to know great joy.”

So my dears, this is what I wish for you…to keep your grief moving so you also know great joy. And in these times we need to keep all this grief moving. 

Need help? Reach out to me, I’m an expert at moving grief.

Beth, your grief friend. 

These are still grief-full times. Apply compassion and curiosity and keep grief moving. Be kind to yourself and all others-human and non-human. And remember to grieve well, so we can be well.


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