Rituals For Grief: Temples, Therapy, and Travel, Part 1

People grieve in different ways and for different lengths of time.   It’s important to express one’s emotions surrounding loss and there are different ways to do so.   Ceremony and rituals can help people find closure, can aid in expressing grief, can help find meaning and help mark the transition of moving from one stage of life to another.  Rituals help heal.

Often there are a number of ceremonies and rituals that one participates in as one moves through the grieving process.       Dad’s memorial service was the first ritual we created which was offered and open to all of our family and friends.    It’s immediacy after dad’s death allowed our wider community to come together and surround us with their love and support as we moved through our initial stages of shock and sadness.

Mom, Joy and I also performed a private and intimate ceremony by ourselves on the day Joy left to go home to San Francisco.   We paid tribute and honor to him by sprinkling some of dad’s ashes around his rock garden at their house.   We said blessings and prayers and then went out for a cappuccino as our final celebration of dad and our family.


As time moved forward, I felt I needed to move towards solitary grieving and this, for me, was expressed through the creation of art. In one fell-swoop, over a period of a week,  I spread out my collage-making materials across the dining room table, went into my heart-space and out came a series of collages, each which told a story and incorporated a memento of  dads.


I also attended a few classes at Artful Dreamers Studio which served as great art therapy for me.  Last weeks class was on altar making and I crafted a lovely colorful traveling altar out of one of dad’s old cigar boxes.


Bruce is also tapping into his creative juices and will be building the temple at the next Kiwiburn festival (January 2013) .   Temples are sacred places of worship and the Kiwiburn temple acts as our sacred hub in the otherwise cacophonous surrounds of the festival.   Long before my dad was ill,  Bruce felt called to build the temple and now that dad has passed, the temple will be dedicated and built in his honor.

Kiwiburn’s theme is EnlighTENment, marking the ten year anniversary of Kiwiburn and also anticipating the new age we’re embarking upon with the 2012 mayan end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it prophecy.

Called the Temple of Kali (TOK), Bruce plans to build a ten-pointed star structure.  According to Bruce,  Kali is appropriate and in line with Kiwiburn’s theme for the following reasons:

  • According to Hindu cosmology, we are in the age of Earth known as the “Kali Yuga.”
  • And according to some sources, Kali has 5 heads (as in the 5 pointed star) and 10 arms (Kiwiburn’s 10th year)
  • Kali is the goddess associated with shakti, the Hindu concept of empowerment.  Empowerment strongly relates to radical self expression and radical self reliance, two central tenets of Kiwiburn.
  • Kali is the primary Hindu goddess of tantra, which is about harnessing energy for the power of transformation.  This fits in strongly with the identity of Kiwiburn, as we create art and then burn it; we also create an environment to enable people to unstick the energy of the default world and use it for personal growth.
  • Kali is the Hindu goddess of death.


Here’s a picture of Bruce’s model.  It’s really cool and I can’t wait to see it in its life-size form.  There will be an altar inside where I will build a small shrine to my dad and everyone will be invited, as is custom, to leave offerings and words to their loved ones or to themselves.   The temple will be burned on the last night of the festival and this ritual of fire allows us to release the old and welcome the new.   It is often a cathartic experience.

But that’s in a few months from now, and more immediate is my journey of travel for tomorrow I leave on an 18-day trip to Peru.   Described as an enrichment and self-discovery program, Bruce and I are going on “The Art of Being – Journey of Heart and Spirit” tour to Peru along with six other luminous souls.   While there, we’ll be heading up the Amazon for a few nights and then off to the Cusco area to see Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca and other sacred sites and to participate in workshops involving psychonavigation, shamanic journeying, and healings by shamans.

Sounds like the perfect environment for grieving, purging, and healing.   I am ready.