This post was inspired by a quite beautiful conversation that I overheard on a public bus last night. A young girl was asking her mother about a friend of the family who had just died. The girl was confused as to what had happened and the mother was gently explaining how the friend had been ill for some time and that her dying was actually a relief for her.
The girl piped up: “So death is a good thing then?”
Her older sister interjected: “Not always…”
The mother settled things: “Sometimes it is the best thing, especially if someone is suffering. Someone dying can be a good thing and death isn’t always sad”
I’m paraphrasing a lot but in her wonderful education of her children, the mother used “death”, “dying” and “dead” multiple times, never relying on less clear words such as “passed on” or other euphemisms. Her young daughters listened in rapt attention and the younger sister seemed relieved and happy with the outcome of the family friend’s death. She obviously knew her well and her mother’s frank and simple explanation helped with clearing up what could have been a very confusing and scary time.
This whole conversation made me think of recent events and the people that have died in recent months. Whether that is the awful events in Sydney, Glasgow or France, or simply the loss of family members such as Ryan’s mother back in September. We will all be touched by loss in our lives and this time of year can often open old wounds and remind us of those who are no longer in our lives.
Christmas, Yule, Hanukkah, or whatever other festivals (if any at all) that folk celebrate during the winter months are designed to bring people together. Yet the emphasis on family and close bonds can be distressing for those who do not have that idealised life. Religion, grief and trauma can make this time of year one of the hardest for many so spare a thought for them if you are fortunate enough to be spending a few days with your loved ones.
One positive death activity that can be carried out at this time of year is remembering our loved ones. Many more pagan practices focus on ancestor worship, and while Halloween is a great time for this sort of thing, winter holidays can also be a useful time to think back to those who have come before us. So rather than being overcome with sorrow and loss (even though these are important emotions and should never be hidden for the sake of others), think of those who are no longer around. Think of the good times that you have had together and when you are having your Christmas meal (or other appropriate feast), have a place set out with a photograph of your loved one(s) nearby so that they can celebrate with you, even if in your memory.
Everyone has different traditions and associations with this time of year, and I can only wish you a happy and peaceful time, whatever you’re doing. Keep being death positive and we thank you for your fantastic support over the past year!
Here’s to a good and productive new year!