Our Tip of the Week: The experience of bereavement (literally, to be torn apart) often comes with a sense of groundlessness — like the rug has been pulled out from under your feet, throwing you into a free-fall where your sense of self and your future seems unstable and uncertain. Creating an altar — also known as a shrine or, simply, a meditation space — proves to be a useful tool for many individuals and communities worldwide.
An altar is a physical space that may serve as the focal point and anchor for exploring memories and meditations about your loved one. It may include photographs, things they owned, pieces of the natural world (flowers, fruit, etc.), candles, and objects that help you feel connected to yourself, your spirituality or worldview. Your altar or meditation space can include anything that is resonant for you. There are no rules!
How-to Suggestion: Altars can take several forms. They can be built in public, such as with the flowers, trinkets, pictures, or other items that are left at a roadside or other area where a loved one has died. They can also be made in a private space such as your home. You may also create a portable altar that you can travel with.
For public altars, you may choose natural items that will return to the earth over time: thus flowers, fruit, and incense are popular items across the globe. Photographs will also disintegrate over time, and can serve as a gradual process of saying goodbye to your loved one’s physical presence.
For private altars, choose a place in your home where you can rest, reset and have some quiet time. You may choose a surface like a desk or dresser, or a low table or bench to hold the items you wish to include. Additionally, you may consider incorporating other items that help you focus inward. You might choose to keep some items on your altar, such as instruments, that you remove and use elsewhere, and then return to the altar space. This space can be as flexible or stable as you like.
For portable altars, you may use a matchbox, dresser drawer, keepsake box, or shoebox to hold your items. These items are often more symbolic than the items included in a more permanent altar in a private space, serving as touchstones for reflection. You may choose to decorate the container itself as well.
For more insight and ideas about making your own altar, check this out