2020 has been challenging for nearly everyone in a multitude of ways. One of the things that we are faced with right now is grief: grief over lost friends and family who have passed, grief over a previous way of life that seems to be gone for good, grief over lost careers and uncertain futures, grief over continued suffering and uncertainty with regards to our climate and life on this planet. I have certainly been experiencing many of these things. Perhaps the two most central things that happened to me this summer was the loss of a good friend after a long and difficult battle with cancer and the destruction of a large part of our family’s property to put in a septic line. The loss of many trees that I had grown up with and a beautiful ecosystem that we had cultivated into a botanical sanctuary. These losses happened within a few weeks of each other, and they both weighed heavily on me, prompting me to work with the plants for healing and strength.
Grief is part of the letting go process. I think it’s important that, when faced with any kind of serious loss, we take the time to honor that loss, acknowledge our feelings, and work to heal. If we bury the loss within us and don’t take the necessary time to heal, it becomes like a weight holding us down and back, surfacing again and again until we are ready to deal with our feelings. Engaging in rituals to help with grief and healing is a powerful tool. This ritual, working with rosemary, sage, and thyme, is meant to help ease the spirit and begin or continue the grieving process. Perhaps you are grieving a specific person or thing, or perhaps it is simply time to let go of your grief surrounding the broader challenges we face or some spiritual work you are called to do (such as psychopomp work or palliative care for the land).
For this ritual, I’ve drawn upon three longstanding plant allies, plants that nearly everyone has had direct interaction with (even just in the food that they eat); gentle and powerful plants that can provide us healing. Rosemary is a plant tied to remembrance, a plant tied to memory and things of the past. Rosemary is also a potent plant spirit ally reminding us to hold in our hearts those things that are no longer with us but to live in the present and look towards the future. Sage is a plant with enormous spiritual power, for this ritual we are drawing upon sage’s ability to help us with grounding, clearing, and cleansing. You can use any kind of sage you want for this (garden sage, cleary sage, white sage) as all will work equally well. Thyme is another powerful plant ally that helps us hold space for our grief, remind us to make time (thyme!) for our grief, work through our feelings, and come to a place of acceptance.
Materials: For this ritual, you will need a sachet of herbs: sage, rosemary and thyme. If you have fresh or dried herbs from a garden or farmer’s market, just tie them together with a string before the ritual begins. If you have crushed culinary herbs from the supermarket instead of a sachet, you should also prepare three strips of paper. On each sheet write the name of one of the three plants.
You will also need a pair of scissors and a large bowl.
Setting: Ideally, this ritual takes place in a large bathtub. If you don’t have access to a bathtub, you can use a basin, place the herbs in the basin, and use a sponge to sponge yourself off while sitting in the shower or sitting in a natural setting. Regardless of what setting you use, make sure you will be undisturbed for the duration of the ritual.
You can also set the stage for this ritual any way you like. Candles and incense will help set the mood for a nice bath. You might choose to have objects or photos of those that you are grieving setup somewhere nearby.
The Grief Ritual
Draw your bath or fill your basin, light your candles, and set the stage for your ritual. Add your herbal sachet to the hot tub. As you add it, step into the bath and begin chanting, “sage, rosemary, and thyme, aid me in my grief.” As you chant, just be with your grief. Acknowledge and honor the feelings you are having, and let yourself experience them fully without hesitation or reservation.
When you feel ready, call to each of the three healing herbs. You can use your own words for them, themed after the bullet points above, or you can use the words that follow. For each of these, as you speak, feel the words coming from your mind, body, and spirit.
- Rosemary. “Rosemary, aid me in holding my loved one(s) in my memory. What is remembered, lives.” Speak of your loved one or that which you grieve about, and feel rosemary listening to what you share. After speaking aloud, feel the energy of the rosemary offering you gentle and kind memory of that which has been lost.
- Sage: “Sage, aid me with cleansing and grounding. With your healing energy, let my heart be brightened and made less heavy.” After speaking it aloud, feel the energy of the sage offering you grounding and peace.
- Thyme. “Thyme heals all wounds. Sacred thyme, lend me the strength to accept my grief process, to feel my way through the grief, and know that time will heal.” After speaking aloud, feel the energy of the thyme offering you a passage forward, where time heals all wounds.
After calling to the three herbs, simply be in a place of quietude for a while, letting the herbs work their magic of heart, mind, body, and spirit. Soak in your tub, feel that healing is happening both within and without.
When you feel like the work is complete (or your bath is getting cold), fill the bowl with some of your bathwater. Take the sachet and cut the sachet open, placing all of the herbs in the bowl. Close your eyes and swirl the herbs around the bowl. When you feel ready, draw one of the sprigs from the bowl. (If you are using small dried, crushed herbs, instead here, place your three pieces of paper before you in the bowl, close your eyes, and draw one).
The herb that you draw is a message for you to help you move through your grief.
Sage: Focus on your spiritual self-care, engaging in regular practices such as meditation, grounding, spending time in nature, and daily spiritual practices. Use a sage smoke cleansing stick or a sage incense regularly as part of your spiritual practices. This will be the best path through your grief.
Rosemary: Do work that honors the memory of those that are lost in any way you feel led. This might be creating a small memorial altar, planting trees in your lost one’s honor, engaging in creative work, or any other way you feel led to honor those that have passed. This will assist you through your grief. Bring rosemary into your life often through cooking, a potted plant, and more.
Thyme: Embracing the process of grief, being kind to yourself as you work through your feelings. Create space just to feel and to be as time passes. Allowing yourself time to heal and come to a place of acceptance. This message is that there is no rushing the process, and giving yourself time to work through it is best. This herb may also signal the need to reach out to others to talk through how you feel.
When you are finished, thank the spirits of the sacred plants for their assistance. Close your space by exiting the bath and blowing out the candles.