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Handbook for Mortals : Enduring and Changing

Rituals to Mark Transitions

Ritual is one way for cultures and individuals to give meaning and continuity to their lives. You may want to use rituals to mark your changing body and life. If you are religious, a prayer service can allow you to acknowledge the gift of your body, offer thanks for the use of it and symbolically surrender the part(s) no longer useful. This can be healing for the body, the mind, and the spirit. If you would like help, a chaplain, member of the clergy, or other spiritual counselor could help you plan such a service.

Another ritual involves making something that is uniquely yours, to leave for your children or their children. In a simple ritual, Janie gathered all the photos of herself and, together with her family, reminisced about old times. Afterwards, she placed the photos in a small box, requesting that they be put away and not shown again until after she had died. You might go through photos and label them, especially if others will not readily recognize people from the past.

You might make gifts of items that have been special to you, or that are significant to members of your family. All of these activities are helpful ways to change focus. Physical decline is often inevitable with terminal illness, so dealing with the changes is crucial. By trying to keep a positive view of yourself, you may be better able to endure the changes you experience.

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