When The Center for Grief Recovery hosted its first-ever fundraiser walk to celebrate 25 years of service to the bereavement community, the day was hot, but there was a cool breeze off lake Michigan and the trees offered nice shade.

A group of 60+ people attended the walk, which began with welcoming remarks, a brief history of the Center and its mission, and an invocation by the Center’s KC Conway, LCSW.

Before the walk commenced, participants were encouraged to engage in a non-sectarian ritual (designed by The Center staff), utilizing river stones and donated by Gethsemane Gardens.  The following is the outline for the ritual:

Walking Through Grief Ritual

Emptying Your Burdens

Take one stone and hold it in your hand.  This stone is to represent your burdens.  Put into this stone all your burdens:  sadness, anger, fear, hurt, and pain that you have felt or are feeling now.  Put in all the wept and unwept tears, any shame, embarrassment, being lost, not knowing what to do, any numbness into this stone.  Empty all your burdens into this stone.  This stone can take it.  It’s a stone.  Since we are on the shores of Lake Michigan, we are going to let go of these burdens into the water.  You can release your stone into the water before the walk, or you can bring your stone with you and place it into the water along the way, letting your burdens go.

Honoring Your Grief

Now take the second stone in your hand.  Put into this stone your strength, grounding, remembrance, honoring, trust, and faith.  Use this stone to connect you with your past and give you the courage and strength to go forward.  This stone is to remember those you love and have loved and those that love and have loved you.  Walk with this stone today and feel that connection.  Let that connection help carry your through this walk.  You can keep this stone with you as long as you want.  When you feel it is time to let this stone go, go down to the lake by yourself and place this stone in the water. Give this stone the intention of going forward with all the strength, courage, and bravery that this stone has given you.  Give the stone back to the lake as an honoring for those that have loved you and love you and who you have loved and love.  You can also keep the stone in a special place so that you remember your strength, grounding, and bravery.

After taking a group picture, the walk began.  People met, talked, and shared stories with each other.  The path hugged lake Michigan and along the way, we were greeted by volunteers from Loyola University.  They were friendly and warm, and provided direction to the walkers.
Upon returning, participants were encouraged to partake in a final ritual based on the prayer flags of Tibetan Buddhists.  Pieces of colored fabric were provided for written and drawn reflections.  The flags were then strung between two trees.  Here is an outline of the Reflection Flag ritual designed by the Center’s staff.

Reflection Flags

“Upon completion of the walk, each participant is invited to create their own personal reflection flag.  This flag is derived from Tibetan prayer flags, in which blessings are blown by the wind to spread the good will and compassion into all pervading space.  The flags are thought to bring benefit to all.

They are made of torn, all cotton material and we will decorate them after we finish our journey.

You may write down any insights or experiences you may have had during the walk.  You may draw an image.  Please take your time and create your flag any way you want. When you are done, please hang it on the rope with the others.  After the walk, you may leave your flag hanging or take it home with you.”

The walk finished with a summation of the day and closing remarks.  The simple acts of walking, talking, sharing stories, taking in the sun and shoreline, lake Michigan, meeting new people, connecting to others on a healing path, all came together to make a successful event.  Thank you to all who participated.

If you have any questions about The Center’s walk please comment here or call us directly at 773/274-4600.  Our hope is to help remove the negative attitudes our society currently holds about grief and mourning (e.g., get back to business as usual without a proper period of grief and mourning; don’t express “negative emotions,” etc.) and replace them with a heightened and more compassionate awareness of our needs during difficult times. We believe our community would benefit greatly by taking the time to acknowledge and ritualize together our common humanity in the face of loss.