How ceremony brought me back to life
I didn’t always recognize the value of ceremony. I wasn’t religious and I didn’t have a strong connection with my cultural heritage, so ceremony never really played a big role in my life. Yet, all of that started to change when I realized I didn’t know how to grieve or celebrate with my community in a deep-hearted way. Looking back, I made several decisions not to embrace typical ceremony in my life – not because I didn’t need it, but because it didn’t really resonate. I didn’t attend my university graduation because it didn’t feel personal. I didn’t celebrate the launch of my first business because it didn’t feel natural. I didn’t spend the time I should have saying goodbye to friendships that ended or cities I moved away from. I just kept moving forward. Yet, somewhere along the way, that shifted. My work as a storyteller taught me the importance of honouring the chapters in my own story, so I started to look for ways to honour the big and small moments in my life…and it literally shifted the ground beneath my feet.
I started to pay attention to ceremony when my partner and I decided to get married. Instead of a big proposal, we sat down and talked about what we wanted our marriage to be like. We didn’t want a big, traditional wedding – we were both craving something more intimate and relaxed, but we didn’t know what that looked like and how to create it. We slowly honed in on the feelings we wanted to experience during our ceremony and the values we wanted to infuse into our marriage. In the end, our wedding wasn’t perfect but it represented us, just as we were, and the marriage we were stepping into. Ceremony helped us get there.
After our wedding, we decided to try and get pregnant. It happened quickly, and then I miscarried. I knew of a few friends who had miscarried, and while they talked a bit about the physical experience, no one talked about saying goodbye. I felt so alone, and I was craving something I couldn’t yet name: ceremony. I needed a way to say goodbye, not only to the life that had been growing in me, but also to the due date, the list of names, the future I had already started to paint. I went down to the ocean and wrote a wish on a stone for my baby. I sat with that stone in my hand for what seemed like forever, numb, but also feeling something powerful around me. I finally took that stone and threw it into the ocean and I started crying instantly. It was the release I needed, the feeling of saying goodbye. When I miscarried two more times, my ceremonies became a bit darker. I was angry. I felt broken. I was terrified I would never become a mother. This time, I found myself in the forest with a pen, some paper and a bucket of water. I sought out a quiet grove of majestic, old growth trees and sat in the middle of them. I wrote out three words: Perfection. Expectations. Timeline. I lit each word on fire and watched each one burn slowly before dropping them into the bucket of water. I started to feel my anger and fear living outside of me. I finally let some air out of the depression that had been building up inside.
I felt the power that ceremony and ritual were starting to have in my life, and I wanted to share that with others going through similar experiences. I hostd a motherhood circle in my home, inviting 12 women at different stages in life and with different connections to motherhood. Some were mothers or grandmothers, some were on their own complicated fertility journey, and some had chosen not to have children. We sat around and shared our struggles, our fears, our stories. That evening lifted each and every one of us up. We were all so amazed at the parallels in our paths, even when they seemed so different. We felt connected.
Ceremony and ritual started to take on a whole new meaning for me – it became my way to grieve, my way to celebrate, and my way back to who I really was. I shared my experiences publicly, both online and in person, and that led to meeting new people and becoming reacquainted with old friends who were going through their own struggles. I started to collect different ceremony ideas and I would help friends who were going through their own transitions. I hosted ceremonies for moms and babies, for friends going through divorce, for families moving out of their homes, for those grieving a death. Ceremony suddenly had a staring role in almost every part of my life, and so I decided to write it all down and put it somewhere safe.
Seeking Ceremony is that place, and I’m so excited to watch it become something different for each person who visits us.