Today, 23 March 2023, marks the third anniversary of the first COVID-19 lockdown. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, too many lives have been cut short and millions have been bereaved. The National Day for Reflection was put in place to show support to people who were bereaved during the pandemic – but it is also an opportunity for us to pause and reflect on how we can show support for our families, friends and colleagues who are grieving.
Carol Gully, Spiritual Care Chaplain at Rowans Hospice Charity, shares a message of empathy and kindness:
“There are many ways to remember loved ones who have died. And each one of us remembers them in different ways.
I remember my Dad because I’ve got his compass. I’ve also got his ‘Wainwright’ walking books. I remember my Mum through my sewing box, which was a gift for my seventh birthday. Despite it being old, I use it and don’t want a replacement. It’s got a plethora of things in it, some new, some old; things that belonged to my Mum: buttons, old-fashioned fasteners and pins that bring back happy memories because of the personal and unique connections between me and my Mum.
As the Spiritual Care Chaplain, I feel I am the custodian of the Quiet Space room at the Rowans, which is at the heart of the Hospice. It holds the Books of Memories, containing the names of those who have died within our care. People visit on an anniversary, a birthday, Mothering Sunday, Father’s Day, or on significant dates. Some people stop by when they want to come in and sit, look at the name of their loved one, light a candle, hang a heart or butterfly on the tree, or write a note in the Thoughts & Memories book – whatever they wish. Each one of us is different and we remember in different ways.
Recently I held a ‘Time to Remember’ event in the Rowans Living Well Centre. For each one of us present, whether recently bereaved or not, it was a time to hold the space together, for each other and ourselves to remember.
What makes a difference when we pause to remember, is in knowing that others appreciate something of what we are going through. There is an acknowledgement that we have lost somebody, that we’re bereaved and it is normal to grieve.
It is not helpful when we are ignored in our grief. When someone you know catches sight of you, but decides to avoid the opportunity to say something and walks in a different direction because it’s too uncomfortable for them to speak to us. Well-meaning people may say crass things like ‘Time will heal’ or ‘You’ll get over it’. Those phrases are not helpful. But people often don’t have the ‘right’ words to say.
There are times when I feel uncomfortable and I don’t have the language to express what I really want to say, when I’m clumsy, open my mouth and put my foot in it. If the intention is to say something that acknowledges the loss, the pain of grief that someone else is experiencing and we allow others to feel that it’s okay to express their grief and be heard, it is appreciated.
In the same way, having a National Day of Reflection where we are all invited to pause and remember, makes a difference.”