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  • Writer's pictureMelanie Ward

Why we need to mark our rites of passage (and what happens when we don't)

Updated: Apr 27, 2022

The Oxford English Dictionary defines a rite of passage as: "a ceremony or event that marks an important stage or occasion in a person's life, especially birth, the transition from childhood to adulthood, marriage, and death." My understanding is that rites of passage can mean any event in our lives that has an effect on our sense of identity, that causes us to re-evaluate who we are...

As well as birth, adulthood, marriage and death, Rites of Passage can also include (but are not limited to):

Pregnancy, giving birth, becoming a parent or step-parent

Divorce or relationship breakdown

Life changing illness, injury or other health crisis

Retirement, job loss or career changes

Children leaving home

Moving house

Bereavement, loss, miscarriage, abortion

Menopause and aging

Rites of Passage come in different forms: Sometimes we choose our rites of passge and step into them (more or less!) conciously... And sometimes our rites of passge choose us and we are dragged into them kicking and screaming...! Either way we are being asked to step up, grow, spread our wings. Our soul is calling us to reclaim forgotten aspects of ourselves, to expand our territory, to dare to be more than we thought we could be...

I am a firm believer that all challenging times can be embraced as 'Rites of Passage' - an opportunity to be re-born with a deeper understanding of ourselves and a new sense of purpose, passion and appetite for life. But in order to be truly transformational, rites of passage need the holding of a container. That is why human beings throughout time have held rituals such as weddings, funerals, coming of age ceremonies, and naming ceremonies. Sadly, I believe our modern Western culture doesn't have anywhere enough holding for the rites of passage that we need, and most of the ceremonies that we do have lack the depth to honour our life transitions in a meaningful way. And if we go through a big transition in our lives without honouring it properly, we may find ourselves unable to truly transition into the new chapter in our lives, and we can end up feeling stuck, lost, flat, incomplete in some way.

So I encourage you wherever you can, to honour the transitions that are important in your life (and only you get to decide which those are!). You can mark these rites of passage with a simple ceremony or ritual, in whatever way you like - ask yourself what you need and seek that out any way that you can. And it is even more powerful if you can mark your rites of passage with a friend, loved one or community who can hold, support and witness you.

And if you feel called, I offer a deeply held space, in person and online, in which to honour life's big transitions and work through any feelings and issues that may come up on the way. Please get in touch to find out how I can support you through your own times of transition, so that you come out the other side feeling empowered, alive and aligned with who you really are.

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