My once lovingly decorated therapy office is empty except for the circle of folding chairs that we now sit upon. Don sits to my right. Colleagues of mine fill the other chairs. We gather to formally close my psychotherapy practice. Each participant has been part of my journey from an undergrad classmate of twenty years ago, to the medical director of the psychiatric hospital where I trained and practiced. I’ve created a ceremony to bring this part of my professional life to a close, with their help.
We start by sharing memories.
Poignant and humorous energy fills their spontaneous stories of how we met and worked together. I share what this practice has meant for me: the clients who have moved me as they courageously found a way through their pain. I recall my satisfaction in helping them and my disappointment in not being able to reach others. Through our storytelling, we create a verbal timeline of my career through anecdotes and recollections.
Buddy, a longtime colleague, receives my Magic 8 Ball as I begin handing out items from my office that I will no longer need. Answers like, “The outlook is good” were quite handy when clients insisted I reply to a question about their future that was unknowable. He will keep it in his therapy office. His clients, like mine, will chuckle when he passes it to them.
Each of those gathered here will receive a gift that I have specially chosen for them. The gifts carry energy from my practice and will now find a place in their work.
My closing statement is a list of gratitude for my clients’ trust, the space that held my work, the maple tree outside my window, and it continues. My list ends with thanks for the support of those gathered here. Of course, there is a special acknowledgement of Don. He who is always at my side.
Before therapy was commonplace, people turned to ceremonies to help navigate passages. Life transitions often happen now without a ritual. Leaving your home or buying a new one is an outside change. Change is also occurring within us. Shifts within us can go unnoticed if we are not mindful of them. A ritual can honor the old house and all that happened inside its walls. We can also create a ritual that invites a fresh start as we move into a new abode. These are significant moments and are worthy of recognition.
Profound meaning is available through ceremony.
Divorce, death of a pet, a miscarriage, any life passage with emotional content can benefit from creating a ceremony. I have also wondered about a ritual to mark the end of a friendship. Rather than disappearing out of someone’s life, and praying we don’t meet our exfriend at Starbucks, could we design a ritual that honors lives that now head in different directions?
Rituals sew the events of our lives into a meaningful narrative. Acknowledging a significant life transition with a ceremony creates a conscious connects between our inner and outer worlds. Participation by others is also important. It reminds us we are not alone and strengthens the bonds of our community.
Ceremonies are important because they…
• Honor the people and the process that brought us to this point
• Bring profound meaning to life events
• Increase awareness of what is happening in our inner and outer worlds
• Help us step forward with more certainty and with support at our side
Appreciation fills me as I remember the tender words we spoke back there. Our circle in that empty office meant a lot to me. Something was over and yet I had the support of others as my new path began to form. That is what rituals do. They give us a place to heal. They give us a place to dare. They give us a place to begin again.
If you are experiencing a life passage and would like to create a ceremony let me know.
I am happy to help you.