The Rites are all Wrong
With two of our lovely colleagues leaving recently, I have been prompted to think about the way we tend to mark key events in our lives, and how they have been altered by covid restrictions over the past year.
In more usual times, the team here at Valleys Steps would most likely have gathered for a drink and a meal, enjoying the opportunity to exchange stories, give gifts and have a laugh with our colleagues as they moved on. We would have appreciated the chance to wish Clare and Beth farewell . As yet, this has not happened, despite the fact we would like it to.
You may have a similar story to tell. As a nation, we have been under restrictions of one form or another for over a year now, so by this point no-one will have escaped a lockdown birthday, at least. Some Spring-born people have had the misfortune of two! How did you manage? Were you tempted to ignore the whole thing, or perhaps you adapted? Held a socially distanced garden party perhaps, bundled up against the unpredictable Welsh weather, or maybe you opted to meet over Zoom (other online platforms are available).
Personally, I not only had to leave a job in 2020, but also moved house and experienced a bereavement. In each case, the usual markers – leaving do, housewarming and funeral – were altered, or absent altogether. This past year has thus made me keenly aware of the need for gathering together, and how this need can be even more marked at times of change and especially of loss.
When my dear aunt passed away unexpectedly in the Summer of 2020, my cousins shared details of her funeral service with those of us who would usually have been there to say goodbye. Consequently, when the time of the ceremony came, I took a break from my work. I sat with my husband, we said a prayer for the family and I then planted some sunflower seeds in her memory. I later presented the resultant plants to my cousins and to my uncle, as a further act of remembrance. I needed to do something and – not having the usual ritual to rely upon – I created one of my own.
Whatever our experience, one thing is apparent. We need these rituals. I was talking about this over our virtual team chat recently, and Paul – our Lead Practitioner – said something very wise (he does, sometimes): “These rituals are of great importance in our culture, and culture is what we rely on.” Another colleague, Sue, commented “So many things we previously took for granted have not been possible.” There is a great deal of truth in both of these statements, and I feel we need to learn from them..
What have you done in this past year to mark the changing seasons and situations of this life, both good and bad? What do you plan to do in the future? I hope you have found – and will continue to discover – your own ways to both celebrate and to mourn, until this time has passed and we can laugh, hug and cry together again.
Judith Parry is a Wellbeing Course Practitioner with Valleys Steps, working on the Rural Wellbeing Outreach Project. She has experience of setting up and running a community allotment and a keen interest in the links between outdoor activity and emotional wellbeing. Judith lives in Pontypool with her husband and a constantly fluctuating number of cats, who have been supervising their work during lockdown.
By Judith Parry
Wellbeing Course Practitioner