Yesterday was a different sort of day. It was Remembrance Sunday, and sitting in a building just by the park, I was able to see, and hear, what was going on there in the minutes before and after eleven a.m. A drill sergeant was bringing his troop to order as they marched in to the park. Martial music accompanied their regular footsteps. Later, clergymen and women spoke to the large crowd who were standing quietly around, many of whom wearing dark clothes. Then, after a final reveille from the trumpets, the crowd slowly dispersed. This has been a familiar scene at this time since the 1920s.
As I listened to the service, too far away to hear the words, I began to think about this annual event; what were the people here for? Who came and who did not, so long after the great wars of the 20th century that killed so many? Perhaps, among all possible reasons, people were thinking of members of their families who had lost their lives before their time. Even after all this time, for them grieving has not stopped. The loss is still felt, even as they go about their everyday lives.
This contrasts with attitudes that some seem to hold today about loss. “You will get over it”, and later “Surely you have got over it by now” may be expressed by people who are feeling the weight of the bereaved person’s grief. But we are now coming to realise that loss can take a long time to come to terms with.
Loss is not only about the death of a beloved one. It can affect people rejected in love, and indeed anyone who has been attached to whatever they feel to be important – a job, a place where people have lived for a long time.
And grieving can take many forms. The struggle to come to terms with what has happened shows itself in many ways. All sorts of feelings can come to the surface – anger, sadness, denial – and people may become restless, or listless. What is important to realise is that people have their individual way of dealing with loss, and that there is no one way that is better that another.
What has happened is that we have lost a part of ourselves, that part of the person which we were, when we were with the other, lost person. We have been cut off from those feelings that we experienced when were with the other. Those feelings are now missing, without their outlet, and it can take a long time for them to grow again.
What usually happens is that there is a gradual move towards living in the present. It is possible to take more pleasure in things happening now. There is an acceptance of what has happened, a state that can be disrupted by smells, tastes or sights that suddenly bring back memories of the beloved.
Time, of itself, does not heal. What does help is finding things in the present to engage with.