Poppies - Remembrance Day 2018
100 years on and many remember the dead – it's almost expected.
It can be good to remember, reflect and explore what endings mean, individually to you. Sometimes linking the past to the present is helpful, but not always; there can be shame and guilt if you're relieved that some part of your life has grown wings and flown away. That's ok too.
Sometimes, the deep love and connection you had with the dead brings tears, laughter and a sense of belonging to your world. Shock and isolation are the comfort blankets. Perhaps you experience and believe this or any death was your fault, hence the guilty feelings of how you should've done better. The bargaining begins with thoughts of “if only I had...”.
Depression can set in, and what is a natural phenomena usually lasts the longest when there is no light, or perhaps too many lights with bangs and booms which sound like a battle on the Somme, and how we can “go over the top” with regret and guilt.
It's a time to remember or forget lost ones who are dear to us, and that a part of our own identity is lost too; the home nest is emptier – young people at university, doing a gap year, etc – perhaps children have left. The future looks insecure, vulnerable and isolated. It may be a time where, at Christmas, families are split between in-laws, step families. Perhaps parents and grandparents are taking the cruise to escape the pain of Christmases past, to create a different Christmas, perhaps solo; where couples ponder future Christmases and try not to think about how different this time of year can be.
Whilst there are endings everywhere, there are also beginnings and hope. Renewal and emotional growth go hand in hand and it's never too late to be creative, curious and emotionally repleted, unless you're dead. If you choose to look up at the sky filled with stars and our moon, rather than the ground. There is light even if you're in a car behind another on our darkening afternoons and inky mornings.
Death is around us, always. It could be a parent, spouse or partner, child or pet – indeed anyone or anything that has died. It's that time of year when “only the dead have seen the end of war” (Plato). We wear poppies, a hardy and enduring flower, to remember. It's also ok to forget. Grief is hard and this is the price we pay for loving. Initially, the waves of bereavement and loss are tidal; these waves recede in time. Now contemplate many bereavements and how they can be on different lanes of a motorway. This, in the counselling world, is called a complicated bereavement.
With Christmas, Divali and Hannaka imminent, and even if you are non-religious, there is light in the candles, the stars and the moon, even if you're blind or experiencing a different type of physical or sensory loss.
And so I wonder - what does your poppy look like? What does your poppy represent?
Perhaps now is the time for your poppy to be noticed, nurtured and enabled to grow, because “we have bodies coming home and coffins covered in flags, not just in the UK but world-wide” (Michael Morpurgo).
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