Monthly Archive: February 2013

Decreasing anxiety: How can personal ceremony help?

How can personal ceremony help decrease anxiety? 

A dear friend of mine recently lost her best buddy, her dog Sammy.  He was her running mate and constant companion. She and Sammy would explore all the local parks and walking trails, sharing water and snacks along the way.  It was joyous.  Then Sammy ; after he died, she stopped running.  After a few months of not running, she found herself avoiding social gatherings of any kind.  She felt anxious and immivable, more and more, developing an unspecifiable dread of a lot of going out events.

This began to worry her. She knew Sammy meant a lot to her and that she missed him, but couldn’t understand how his death could result in such a feeling of general dread.

She got checked out physically by her doctor, joined her local YMCA, modified her diet eliminating sugars and wheat, visited her Naturopath. All these things helped her health, yet she still avoided nature trails and parks, and most social gatherings.

This all happened starting in the fall and through winter. When Spring came around, my friend was poignantly reminded of her joyous time with Sammy, and for whatever reason, decided to take the things of his she still had give then away to the universe. She gave away his leash, collar, bowls, and blankets to goodwill. She took any chews and treats to her neighbor’s dog. Then she gathered up all Sammy’s remaining toys and his ashes, and buried them in a spot in the back yard where he liked to sit. She sat there for a long while smelling the new plant life, appreciating the sun on her face and body, as Sammy would have.

And almost magically her dread began to fade.

It seems that in loosing the companionship of Sammy, my friend had also temporarily lost her connection with her natural world. Sammy was her link, and possibly in reconnecting naturally with his things and his essence, she re-connected with herself.

Maryanne Nicholls, a Toronto psychotherapist that combines the psychotherapeutic approach of Gestalt Therapy with the natural healing power of Native American Shamanism, offers counselling on anxiety, group work, and workshops. For more information, contact her at