In Memoriam: A Tea Ceremony

Death is the end of a life; it is not the end of a relationship.

After the loss of a dear friend, my parents called to share their thoughts on death and funerals.  As we explored what death rituals mean to us, we lamented the loss of community and tradition that had been an integral part of this aspect of life. Families frequently live hundreds, if not thousands, of miles apart and visiting the grave site of a loved one has become less of a reality, not just because of distances, but because of the pace of the world in which we live. The following Tea Ceremony was developed to honor the memory of a loved one in a way that is sacred, meaningful, positive, and accessible. It helps to create a space wherever you are to continue the relationship with the one you have lost.

In Memoriam: A Tea Ceremony:

  • Place:
    • Quiet, away from other activities
    • Preferably outdoors or with a view of nature
    • Music, if used, evoking times/places you shared with your loved one
    • Sign or notice at the entrance of the space, asking for quiet
  • Accoutrement:
    • Photo of your loved one
    • Token object (jewelry, clothing, work-related items, books, etc)
    • Scents, if applicable, that you associate with your loved one (i.e., your grandmother’s favorite perfume)
    • A candle or tea candle and matches; a candle snuffer if you have one
    • Vintage cloth, napkin, etc to set a small table or section of flooring
    • Journal and pen: when you begin, write the date, the name of the person you are remembering, the date and day of their death, and the tea you will be drinking.
    • Glass jar with lid
    • Unsealed container for drying tea leaves
    • Cup of water
    • Box of Kleenex (allow yourself to cry)
  • Tea:
    • Choose one tea or tea style that reminds you of your loved one.
    • Gaiwain set (or other tea preparation container)
    • Kettle and water
    • Tea cup
    • Additional items as needed based on the tea type and your memories (milk, sugar, honey, lemon slices, ice for iced tea, tea biscuits, etc)
  • Ceremony:
    • Place items in the designated area
    • Wash you hands and arms (to above your elbows)
    • Set out the cloth to designate your sacred area. Place the following items on the cloth:
      • Teaware
      • Cup of water
      • Candle and matches
      • the glass jar
      • the drying container.
      • Photos, tokens, scents
      • Journal and pen
    • Take a sip of the water and say your loved one’s name.
    • Light the candle
    • Take a sip of the water and say your loved one’s name.
    • Prepare the tea
    • While the tea is steeping, take another sip of the water and say your loved one’s name.
    • Pour the tea in your tea cup. Close your eyes and while holding a loving memory of the deceased in your mind, smell the tea liquor aroma. Take a sip.
    • Call up and explore memories of your loved one while you enjoy the tea, the music (if playing), the scents, photos and tokens.
    • If a particularly lovely or a new memory comes to you, write a brief description in your journal.
    • When you finish drinking the tea, select a tea leaf from the infused leaves and place the tea leaf in the drying container. Take the previous (now dry) tea leaf out of the drying container and place it in the glass jar.
    • Close your eyes and say good-bye to your loved one
    • Blow out the candle.
    • Take another sip of the water.
    • Clean up the area and put the items away for the next time.
  • On the anniversary of your loved one’s death, take the dried, used tea leaves to the grave site and scatter them over the grave. If there is no grave or you cannot visit the site, go outdoors and scatter the dried leaves in your yard or other location that has meaning for you.



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