Who Participates: Adoptive parents, and/or birth parents, and/or adoptee

Materials: A flower

The Ritual: Adoption can be one of life's most joyous occasions, particularly for the new adoptive parents. But adoption can have a wistful and even sad side as well. Birth parents may grieve for the child they have given up, and older adoptive children may miss birth family or foster homes. Even adoptive parents may need time to mourn fertility treatments that didn't work out, children lost to miscarriage, or previous adoption attempts that failed. "Adoption is a miracle," author and adoptive parent Mary Martin Mason notes. "But it is a miracle that is born out of loss."

To deal with those losses, Mason offers "The Sacrifice Flower," a ritual she learned about from Sister Jose Hobday, a Native American and Franciscan nun. Hobday's mother adapted the ritual from the traditions of her people, the Seneca Iroquois. She encouraged her daughter to use it to lift her burdens and give them to God. Hobday would go out and find a flower that was special to her and then lovingly bring it home. She would tell the flower what burden she wanted lifted and taken to God. "How was the flower to do this? Remember, this was a Sacrifice Flower, one that was going to die," Sister Hobday writes. "The idea was that as life went out of the flower, it would carry my prayer to God.

"This meant, of course, the flower was not to be placed in water. I had a shelf in my room that I liked to use for my Sacrifice Flower because it was sort of private, and yet I could see it as I went in and out.

"Every time I saw the flower, I could see it giving its life for me, and I could imagine my prayer being carried to the Lord.... Sometimes it took a few days, sometimes a couple of weeks. When the flower finally died, I would take it outside, say good-bye to it, and thank it for giving its life for me and for delivering my prayer. Then I would bury it so it would have a chance at a new life, and I always hoped it would come back as an even nicer flower."

The Meaning: Notes Mason: "The intent of using the Sacrifice Flower ritual is that it serves as a way to hold one's grief inside a symbol. By doing so, the person can begin to transform that grief, much like the cycles of life do. The flower represents birth, death, and rebirth."

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