Local communities: Memorial rituals

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Memorial rituals for local communities in Sint-Truiden and Alken

The past (Covid) period leaves traces

For those who had to say goodbye to a loved one during the corona period, the consequences of the pandemic were particularly severe. After all, farewells took place in challenging, alienating, and restrictive circumstances. That leaves traces.

During that period, some badly affected municipalities took steps to help relatives cope by setting up a memorial ceremony. The circumstances in which people died – often without the physical presence of their loved ones – can no longer be changed. It remains a wound that needs healing. It is a personal process, but community support can play an important role. After all, an appropriate communal ritual is healing and binding. It helps people process by acknowledging the sadness and pain, sharing the memory, and thus bearing the loss together. At the same time, a ritual also offers space for connection, new hope, and confidence in the future. It marks the transition to a new beginning together, in which the loss gets a place.

These memorial rituals are meaningful not only to the people directly affected by the loss of a loved one but also to the rest of the community. After all, this crisis affects everyone in their own way. Each ceremony – and the preparation for it – creates a space to open your heart to your pain and that of others. Entering into the heart connection that becomes possible in such a special moment can become the basis for deep healing and enlightenment. It takes courage but is also a special opportunity for a closer, more human-driven community.

Memorial ceremonies and rituals make the community’s support palpable.

We were allowed to assist the city of Sint-Truiden in developing a public commemoration ceremony, which could be followed live by all Limburgers via regional TV.

We also assisted the municipality of Alken in creating a memorial ritual, a memorial monument, and the design of three places of comfort.

We are ready to guide any municipality, organisation, or other community that feels the need to give a shared ritual foundation to dealing with loss in the current crisis.

Farewell rituals are of all cultures and all times. They belong to humans. They help us cope with one of the most traumatic events in our lives, the loss of a loved one. In these moments, we share memories, joys, and sorrows with each other and with the community to be able to continue afterward. A nice farewell gives comfort. A beautiful funeral ritual offers strength and recognition. It hurts if this cannot be done appropriately, as there is no final closure.

Forget-me-nots as a permanent symbol of remembrance

In Sint Truiden, the communication department had already laid a good foundation for the event. Our guidance was to add the ritual and ceremonial focus. We chose the forget-me-not as a permanent symbol of commemoration. And we guided the city in building the program, selecting the forms, the general tone, and writing texts.

In Alken, the original goal was to organise a large live ceremony for all relatives of people who had died from Covid during this period. Alken also chose a flower as a symbol: the yellow dandelion represents the sun, the full life that always goes on, and the white ball for the moon, the farewell, the sadness, and the hope.

Ceremony in Sint-Truiden and Alken Commemorates

Sint Truiden. People who had lost a loved one during Covid had received a beautiful invitation with a golden forget-me-not. The ceremony took place in the Speelhof, a beautiful, green location on the edge of Sint Truiden. The atmosphere was subdued in the presence of relatives, regional TV, and many politicians. Beautiful live music was interspersed with testimonials from family members and caregivers and words from the mayor and governor. Finally, ceramic forget-me-nots were placed in a new place of silence, where a poem engraved in Corten steel was already present.
For Alken, the plan was to go on a co-creative trajectory, resulting in a major ceremony. However, the Covid situation meant plans had to be adjusted. Conversations with relatives made us more aware of what had happened (about 40 people in the village had died in a short time). In collaboration with a local artist and the local Ferm departments, a place of silence was set up with dandelion artworks in each sub-municipality/parish. The municipality communicated on the theme of ‘Alken Commemorates’ to involve the entire community at the moment when the mayor, always in the presence of a few relative representatives, opened the silence. The moment was captured on video and shared on the local website.
More on www.alken.be/alkenherdenkt

The collaboration with Corporate Rituals ensured that a ceremony, a process, and places were created where both present and remote viewers found recognition, comfort, and peace. Rituals acknowledged the grief of many and mitigated the lack of a normal communal burial that many had experienced.