I’m sitting listening to fireworks going off all around my home – they bang with great gusto, remembering poor old Guy Fawkes (whatever your politics, he had a grisly end) and his failure to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605. It’s typical of the Brits that one of the closest things we get to a National Holiday is the celebration of a failure to achieve revolution. But whatever its origins, the fact that this holiday comes so closely on the heels of All Hallow’s Eve, or Halloween, really emphasises that juxtaposition of darkness and light we often associate with this time of year. And this year, I’ve been especially mindful of our need to honour loss.
This year I was moved to spend some time mindfully remembering those I have loved and lost, and those lost who I wish I’d had more time to know. I reflected on those things I associate with their characters or events we shared, things I wanted to remember and continue on somehow in their memory. I wept, letting go of all that I could not keep. And I lit a candle, kindling a hope that I would make the most of the time I have with those I love.
It was wonderful to take this time. Beyond the funeral, many of us find we lack the resources or rituals to honour our losses. This can be even more so when our losses are more nebulous.
Perhaps we’ve lost countries and cultures, or language. Maybe relationships too, not through death but through conflict or ambivalence. Have you lost health, or strength, or identity? What rituals have you used to honour these losses?
One Third Culture Kid once told me that her losses through high mobility in childhood were as “losses without a corpse”. How can we recognise loss when there is no body to bury? How can we express our grief and mourn?
Honouring our Losses
First, we can name our losses. This year I gathered fallen leaves and wrote names of my lost ones before I gathered them to display for meditation. Can we give our more abstract losses names? Names gift ‘realness’ to an object or experience. Let’s name our losses.
Next, we can take time to remember. Part of what life story therapies offers its clients is the chance to remember the whole story – all the memories; the good, the bad and the ugly. In our rush to live the next moment we can miss the richness the past has to offer us. Journaling especially can help us think through our memories and express our thoughts about the past.
And then? We can set off our fireworks with a bang! Honouring the past can remind us of those experiences that mean most to us in our present. Let’s celebrate these with joy – whether that is publicly and with much fanfare, or more quietly with a candle and quiet resolution.
This Autumn (or Fall!) let’s all take some time to honour our losses. We need to acknowledge both loss and remembrance to live our fullest lives. Loss and Light; both have their place in our Story.