In September, I helped a friend build a toolkit to prepare for the death of a family member that they wouldn’t be able to be physically present for. That toolkit included a prayer to offer upon first learning of the death. In this time when so many of us will experience that same physically isolated loss, I thought it might be helpful to others, and my friend graciously agreed to let me share it.
In a time when we are barred from many of the conventional rituals of death, spontaneity and organic growth of ritual can be the best way to go – individualized rituals of the heart that truly reflect who your beloved was and who you are. But I find that in that moment when you first hear that someone close to you has died, a shocked numbness often descends. You know you want to do something, but your brain can’t quite get together the what. Having a set prayer or action you can call on every time helps your voice and body keep moving while your brain catches up. If your religion or culture doesn’t have something like this, I humbly invite you to use these words.
A Prayer Upon Learning of a Death
[NAME], I honor the body that you were
The words you spoke
The passions that moved you
The love you shared
The life you lived.
These were not always easy to live
Or to live with
But they were always you,
And I honor you in that wholeness.
I grieve that you are no longer a living presence in my life
I regret that I could not be with you at the end
I allow myself to hurt and to heal
Whatever form that takes
However long it takes
Whole and holy Earth, take back the body of [NAME] that was formed from you
Make new forms and lives from it
May a piece of [NAME]’s life infuse the new lives that grow from it.
May the passing forms of this life and the tears of our grief sustain the web of your creation.