Paul Cockayne – 07791 970406 – firstname.lastname@example.org
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Births, deaths and marriages. We have rituals to mark them all. Most cultures do, I think. They will take different forms but there is some sort of ritual, ceremony or party to mark significant events.
So too for birthdays, religious festivals, house warmings and (of recent times) stag and hen parties, and even divorce parties.
Why do we have these rituals? For various reasons, I suppose. We want to remember, to commemorate, to celebrate – or maybe we just want an excuse for a good party. Many of our rituals mark a significant change – an ending or a beginning, sometimes both.
I am put in mind of traditional New Orleans funerals. On the way to the cemetery, the marching band plays slow music followed through the streets by the coffin and mourners. After the burial, the band plays more upbeat music and there is dancing and celebration on the return journey.
Thus this sort of ritual marks a transition. The end of a life – but life continues for the rest of us. In general, transitions (not just bereavements) can be difficult, and dealing with change can be tough. A new job, the end of a relationship, a house move. We move from the familiar to the unfamiliar, from the known to the unknown, from the safe to the scary. And when they move things around in the supermarket….!
I remember talking to a client who was constantly struggling with change because her partner travelled a lot with work. So for a week or two she’d be on her own with the kids. She’d establish a routine that worked, things would settle into a pattern but then her partner would be home again, and everything would change. He’d want to be involved and to help but she’d just established, necessarily, a routine that worked without him. She and the kids were just getting settled into that routine when everything changed.
It occurs to me that establishing a mini ritual might be helpful in such a situation – to do something that marks the departure or the return of the absent partner for the whole family. Perhaps a game they play as a family, or a group hug, or a special meal might be ways to mark the change – to help everyone recognise that an adjustment is necessary.
We can make our own rituals to meet our own purposes, and indeed I think that we do so all the time, without necessarily thinking about it in that way. Most of us will follow a routine in the morning – a ritual that helps us to start a new day. Our journey to work will often mark a mental transition from private life to professional life – a ritual that helps us to adopt our “work persona”. I remember a friend, an amateur football referee, who said that in donning his referee’s uniform he went through a mental transition to become the strong, authoritarian figure that his role demanded.
But I think maybe we need to change our rituals. Repeat the same ritual too often, and it becomes mundane, its effect can start to wear off. Celebrate the ritual!