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When Time Stops – The Value of Ritual in a Time of COVID

Ritual, Evan Imber Black writes, ‘hold us, shape us, sustain us, and connect us’. Through the pandemic many of our traditions and ways of marking time have become impossible. No leaving the house, no gatherings of more than 10 people, no hugging, no singing, no way to mark the annual and extraordinary transitions of our lives in the ways that we have traditionally done.

Rituals connect us, from the incidental greetings of leaving and returning to the once in a lifetime events of 18th birthdays, weddings, and funerals. In her paper ‘Rituals in the Time of COVID-19: Imagination, Responsiveness, and the Human Spirit’, Imber Black details the ways we have found to continue to mark time and retain connection from the reinvention of major holidays, Easter, Ramadan, Nowrus and Passover to the major life cycle transitions of graduation, weddings, funerals and protests. She urges us as family therapists to address this with our clients to encourage creative construction of new ways to retain relationship and embed memory. In conclusion she writes ‘Rituals bent but did not break during COVID-19. New rituals were created, designed, and invented that captured and expressed the current moment. When the shutdown finally becomes a memory and some of the newly invented rituals slip away, I predict that many will maintain as discoveries of our creativities, our capacities, and our requirement for the human connections rituals provide.’ A joyful addition to our practice in a dark time.

Imber-Black,E. ‘Rituals in the Time of COVID-19: Imagination, Responsiveness, and the Human Spirit’ Family process x:1–10, 2020

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