Andrea J. Weisbond is the founder of The Compelling Company and creator of Ritual in a Box. Motivated by unimaginable loss, Andrea moved from a place of hurting and despair into her next happiness. Here, she shares the genesis of Ritual in a Box and her own story of healing through ritual.
Q: You describe where you were at before as “meh.” Can you tell us about “meh?” It’s such an awful feeling in such a short word!
In January 2013, one of my girlfriends invited me to attend a book signing. She excitedly told me about this amazing new author, and healer, who she had personally met several months earlier. Despite her obvious enthusiasm, my initial response to her was, “Meh.” I told her my attendance would depend on how well I felt the day of the book signing.
At that time, everything I did was dependent on how I felt. And I usually felt “meh.” I lacked energy and enthusiasm to muster anything more than the most minimal of responses. I was divested and disengaged from my life and most everything happening around me.
Q: Did you get an official explanation for meh?
I did! The official diagnosis was a health issue called adrenal fatigue. I was extremely tired, often crabby, my hormones were all over the place, and it was difficult for me to concentrate on much of anything. I had gained a significant amount of weight, approximately 35-ish pounds, and my general outlook on life was “whatever.” I was too tired to be concerned about much of anything.
One of the factors contributing to adrenal fatigue is extreme emotional stress.
Q: Emotional stress. Was that something that resonated with you?
Hmmm. Extreme. Emotional. Stress. Let’s just say I took extreme to the extreme.
Both of my parents, and my husband Brad, died over a short two-and-a-half years. During that same period of time my husband and I both lost our jobs.
Soon after our dual job loss, my husband and I hired highly skilled attorneys who carefully crafted a plan to keep us afloat financially. My husband filed for bankruptcy—fueled primarily by his enormous medical expenses. And then I reluctantly, and tearfully, filed for dissolution of marriage. That tricky, but effective, strategy protected me from his bankruptcy and I was able to continue to care for and financially support all of us.
My husband passed away before we had to make any court appearances regarding the legal dissolution, so we remained married to one another until his death. That was incredibly important to both of us.
That would be enough, wouldn’t it? More than enough to qualify for the platinum level of Extreme Emotional Distress. Perhaps to become the poster child?
We’re not done yet, folks. The night after my husband died, my house was broken into and burglarized. That was a tangible, physical experience that symbolized years of emotional and legal turmoil I had experienced at the hands of someone who had been close to my husband. We’re talking restraining orders and terrible accusations and slander, harassment and threats to my family, identity theft, stalking, and just plain bullying that started before Brad’s cancer diagnosis and didn’t stop for nearly a year after his death. I could barely manage to process and grieve with the near constant external messiness.
And, let’s not forget the three estates to settle: my father’s, mother’s, and husband’s. And by settle, I mean to fight over. Any one who’s dealt with estate stuff knows it brings out the awful in almost everyone.
Q: That sounds devastating. All of it. What happened at the reading?
Right. Back to that day of “meh.” I felt unusually energetic the day of the book signing. The event was close to my home and I would only be gone for a few hours, so I decided to go to it.
The event started with the author reading several passages from his book and then he opened the floor to see if anyone had any questions. Towards the end of the event, I talked with the author/healer and he mentioned to me that he had several private sessions available the following week.
Talking with him had sparked my interest, so I took the opportunity to book a private appointment. It had been a while since anything had sparked anything.
Q: So you’ve got the spark. What did you think would happen during your session with the healer?
Before I arrived at the session, I’d anticipated that we would talk about what I thought my primary issues were at the time: unemployment and how to get a new job.
The healer took one look at me and said, “My Dear, you are very stuck. Your life is not moving forward. I can help you to get unstuck. The question I have for you is, “Are you open to moving forward?”
I sheepishly answered, “Well, Yeah. I guess. I guess that’s why I’m here.” Still, I thought we were talking employment.
And then, something bigger happened.
Q: Meaning more than job stuff?
Much more. The healer was clairvoyant and went on to say that I had promised my husband that I would be ok after he died, but I wasn’t ok. I had not let go of him after he died, so I was still tethered to him in many ways. I frequently told people stories about Brad and then I would realize how much I missed him and his sense of humor. And, I often picked up the phone to call him and then I would stop and remember that he was gone. I missed how he would snort when he laughed really hard. I missed his voice and how he would shout, “Yeah Baby!” whenever he loved something I did or something that I said. I had continued to hold on to him as though he was still alive. My connection to what was, to the past, was preventing me from moving forward and creating a new life—a new path and a new happiness—for myself.
The healer asked me if I was open to letting go of my Brad. Through my tears, I softly said, “Yes.” Holding on was clearly not helping.
Q: Moving on and letting go is easier said than done. How’d the healer help?
The healer gave me an affirmation to say three times a day for 30 days. During that time, the healer also instructed me to write a letter to Brad telling him everything I ever wanted to say to him. The length of the letter didn’t matter. I just had to make sure I said everything that I needed to say to him.
Next, I was encouraged to read the letter aloud to at least one person who understood the significance of it. And then? I was to burn it. Outside. The act of burning the letter would release the tethered bond I had with Brad, so that both of us could be free.
Q: Did you follow the healer’s rules?
For the next 30 days, I did exactly what the healer had told me to do. Little by little, I noticed that my energy level was gradually improving and I didn’t feel so blah and “meh” anymore.
Q: What about the letter? Did you write it? Who’d you read it to?
On the 25th day of the ritual, I stood near a frozen pond and read my letter aloud to my therapist and my sweet dog, Schmoopy, as a blustery, cold wind blew into our faces. I could feel my throat closing up as I read the letter while sniffling and wiping away the tears falling down my face. I realized in that moment that this really would be the last letter, the last acknowledgement, I would make to my Brad. I hated going through the process of letting go, but I knew I had to do it. I was so tired of being so tired and sad.
After I finished reading the letter out loud, all 15 pages of it, my therapist and I wrapped it in a paper bag so it would burn easily. We set it on fire and watched as it turned to ash. My therapist and I hugged each other and agreed we would talk about it during my next session with her.
Q: Did you notice a difference after you burned the letter?
Yes. That very evening! I felt amazing! My energy returned and for the first time in a long time I wanted to go out and do something, anything, everything! In that moment, I wished that my close friends would have been with me at my ‘burning ceremony’ and we could have celebrated together afterwards.
Over the following weeks, I continued to feel better and my health improved. My energy gradually increased and I started becoming interested in my life again. I slowly started working out and I became excited about creating my next happiness.
Q: Ok, so you felt better. But the ritual you just described was for a beloved husband and your first Ritual in a Box is for ex-boyfriends. What connected those very different things?
It’s all about losing a relationship. I lost a relationship; actually, quite a few, and was lost in the grief. I learned that we label our relationships and often times we’ll tell ourselves a particular one is more or less significant, but the heart can’t discern loss. It simply feels what it feels.
It was during that time of healing that I remembered my “Boyfriend Bonfires” from my pre-Brad days. These were these quirky little rituals I did every time I broke up with a boyfriend. It was my way to acknowledge my feelings and cut the cord between an ex-boyfriend and me. They always helped me to move on. I realized that my ritual for Brad was weirdly similar to those bonfires that I used to do, a healing fire, an opportunity to rise up from the ashes (not be a part of ’em), and a chance to move forward.
Q: And that memory sparked an idea?
It did. But not at first. I was unemployed during this time, so I continued to network, interview, apply for jobs, jobs so very different from what I do now! I kept playing with a little idea I had called “The Boyfriend Bonfire Box” but just as a fun idea.
Still, I could not believe how much better I felt after I had finished my ritual for Brad. I wanted to share my story with others. I wanted to help others find their next happiness. If I could move from feeling like I had lost everything to feeling like I had found myself, maybe other people could benefit from what I learned.
I got to a point where I felt that my networking and job search and all those things I thought must be my next steps were taking me away from what would be my next step: my ritual in a box idea.
Q: So there are ritual boxes for more than just ex-boyfriends?
Yes! As I thought about the transition from loss and feeling whole again, I began to think about all of my major life transitions (and I have quite the list!). Each one began to make sense when I thought about what I had gained from each and every experience. Heck, I even felt grateful for those experiences.
Our lives are all about relationships and everyone will experience a major transition in their life. This may involve the loss of a relationship, a break-up, a divorce, a loved one, a parent, a friend, a pet, a job, a lifestyle and so on. Sometimes we can get lost or stuck in the grief – the suffering – that can come with those transitions and there are few tools available to help people step out of that.
I realized that I can bring the wisdom of all of my experiences, combined with the expertise of the incredible community supporting me, to each box, making each one an opportunity for a relatable and authentic experience. And I can help guide people out of suffering through the ritual process, encouraging them to make it personal and powerful. Moving through a transition, moving out of a dark place (what I called my “meh” place) and into a new happiness is something everyone can experience. And will experience in their own authentic manner. I’m just here to help.
Q: Any last thoughts?
I’ve been thrilled with the responses people have to Ritual in a Box. From friends and colleagues asking to be the first to participate in a Boyfriend Bonfire, to therapists and healers asking to offer the Ritual Boxes to their clients, to those people offering suggestions from their own circumstances as an opportunity for ritual—it is a process which everyone understands. I am excited to see how we all work to release, renew and restore ourselves from whatever is holding us back. So, let’s get started. Let’s find our next happiness. Let’s rock our power!