Death and Bereavement
We may mark joyfully milestones of pregnancy, births, birthdays, engagements and weddings or partnerships but rarely do we think of death as a time of celebration. Once over the initial shock of losing a family member, friend, colleague, acquaintance or pet we are sometimes overwhelmed by grief that can sink us into despair and even hopelessness. We may go through phases of feeling numb, expressing disbelief or even being angry that our loved one has left us. Our separation anxiety being intense or leaving us with apathy and lacking interest to engage in life. Yet no matter how long nor short our lives may be we know that death is there for all of us. The full stop to our current situation. It may be a spiritual start to a journey or reflection time but death highlights experiences that we may take for granted in everyday life.
For all of us left behind, bereaved of part of our life circle, there is a missing piece. Expectations unfulfilled. It may also be the start of readjustment and rearranging life patterns, thoughts and behaviours to continue our life in a new way that takes a variable amount of time and stress for all of us. Marking this moment is therefore very important as it highlights how essential it is to cherish the present and to value those around us. Equally important is to cherish the anniversary of those who have died and instead of despair to rejoice that we were so lucky to have loved them so much.
While we often associate death with loss, sadness, hurt, trauma, grief even guilt and may want to shy away from these thoughts yet the power of these emotions often highlights our true feelings. If we contrast our feelings of bereavement when recalling the life of the loved one with memories of joy, warmth, fun and contentment then we help ourselves to accept death and find peace. If we let ourselves focus on these positive emotions and memories while also acknowledging our sadness then perhaps it is right that we should celebrate each life that we encounter for the gift it is to us? Increasingly colours and happy songs are included in funerals. Seeds are often given out or firework displays organised for celebrations. The traditional get together after the service may be marked by happy stories or jokes as we remember those who have left us. This does not undermine our grief but reminds us how lucky we are to have had such love in our lives.
“What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.”
Thucydides, classical author