Dying Matters Week - rituals for remembering: interview with Support Services Manager Debbie Hastings - Nottinghamshire Hospice
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29th October 2020

Dying Matters Week – rituals for remembering: interview with Support Services Manager Debbie Hastings

For Dying Matters week this year the theme is ‘I remember’, and we are focusing on ways we can celebrate our loved ones memory. In this interview, Debbie, our Support Services Manager, explains how rituals to remember are important for processing grief and outlines how grieving people can access support in times of Coronavirus restrictions.


How do rituals help people process their grief?

As humans, we like things to stay the same, so change can be very difficult. There is nothing more disruptive than the death of someone you love. When this happens you experience deep, soul-wrenching pain. Your life changes. You change. Everything changes. Grief is a normal part of life, a very hurtful and difficult part of life.  There are things you can do to help grief along its way; one thing I believe can be helpful is to engage in ritual.

Here are some of the things you can do which you might find helpful:

  • Lighting a candle at certain, special times of the day or week to remind you of your loved one (for example, at dinner time to represent sharing meals with them)
  • Creating a memory scrapbook and filling it with photographs, letters, postcards, notes, or other significant memorabilia from your life together
  • Listening to your loved one’s favourite music or creating a playlist that reminds you of that person
  • Watching his or her favourite movie
  • Planting a tree or flowers in your loved one’s memory
  • Making a donation to a charity that your loved one supported
  • Visiting your loved one’s burial site
  • Carrying something special that reminds you of your loved one that you can hold when you feel the need
  • Creating a work of art in your loved one’s memory
  • Preparing and eating a special meal in honour of your loved one
  • Developing a memorial ritual for your loved one on special days or whenever you wish.

In any normal year Nottinghamshire Hospice puts on events such as our Forget-Me-Not Day and Light up a Life which are designed to help people remember. Why are events like this important?

These events give people the opportunity to take time away from their busy lives to remember their loved ones. This becomes a tradition and people will come year on year. They find it helps to connect with other families also experiencing loss. It also gives them a chance to reflect on the people who cared for their loved ones at the hospice and show warmth and gratitude. At forget me not day they will have a living memory – a plant or seed to take home or to be planted in the hospice garden – which helps create a legacy of their loved one.

Our Light Up a Life event brings people together at what can be a very difficult time of year – Christmas – when people often feel alone and isolated in their grief. The event normalises that it is ok to grieve and gives a safe environment to do so. People feel warmth through coming together, lighting a candle or writing something in our book of remembrance to celebrate the life and memory of their loved ones.

What can people do to remember loved ones at a time like now when they can’t get together due to Covid restrictions?

This is a very difficult and challenging time for everyone, even more so for someone who has lost a loved one. We encourage individuals to create a social bubble following the government guidelines and to stay connected by telephone or over the internet and reach out for help. There are lots of organisations available to help through the unprecedented times that we are experiencing. At the hospice we hold monthly bereavement support groups via Zoom where participants have the chance to talk and share their stories. We have emotional support volunteers and counsellors who give support over the phone or online. Some of the rituals mentioned earlier can help, too.

How can activities such as making a memory box help prepare loved ones for a relative’s death?

Preparing a memory box helps to preserve the person’s story and gives an insight to their life; its contents will encourage special memories and help to form stories for the future – retaining a connection to that person. They allow for the memories to continue for generations and give the person a reassurance that they will not be forgotten.

Nottinghamshire Hospice provides a range of support services for those experiencing grief and bereavement. Find out how we can help here: