Remembering Practices

By: Corinne Carter, Registered Psychotherapist & Relationship Therapist

Today is Remembrance Day; a day when we collectively honour the lives of those who served our country during times of war, and who undeniably touched our lives through their sacrifice. The following quote by Heather Robertson beautifully illustrates the importance of Remembrance Day:

“We must remember. If we do not, the sacrifice of those one hundred thousand Canadian lives will be meaningless. They died for us, for their homes and families and friends, for a collection of traditions they cherished and a future they believed in; they died for Canada. The meaning of their sacrifice rests with our collective national consciousness; our future is their monument.”*

Today, we are invited to remember our Veterans, their tremendous service and sacrifice for our country, and their unending impact on our lives, by participating in several “remembering practices” – for example: wearing a poppy, attending a Memorial service, and observing two minutes of silence at 11 a.m. “Remembering practices” are, in essence, the things we do to honour those we’ve lost.

In the context of grief and loss in our day-to-day lives, many times people are told that, in order to properly grieve a loved one, they must learn to “let go” of the relationship and “move on” with their lives. This traditional approach to grief assumes that once a person is gone, so is the relationship. Remembering practices invite a different way of moving through the grieving process, as they encourage us to see our relationships with those we’ve lost - whether it be through a “complete loss” (e.g., a loss where there is closure, such as death) or an “ambiguous loss” (e.g., a loss without closure, such as a missing person or a loved one suffering from an illness, such as Alzheimer’s disease or addiction, which results in psychological absence but physical presence) – as ongoing. Where the traditional approach to grief and loss is about “letting go”, remembering practices are about connection and continuity - although the relationship might look different, it still very much exists and remains a part of our lives, and these practices help us to preserve connection across space and time. Remembering practices help us to find meaning in our experience, help us to reorganize our sense of identity in the context of loss, and inspire hope for our lives moving forward.

If you are experiencing grief or loss, there are many different ways to engage in remembering practices; for example, you can:

  • develop a meditation practice where you reflect on the meaning of the relationship with your loved one;
  • write letters to your loved one;
  • keep a gratitude journal;
  • speak to your loved one through quiet reflection or prayer;
  • create art to celebrate and honour your relationship;
  • continue to participate in activities that you shared with your loved one when you were together which brought you both joy – remaining open to joy is a beautiful testament to the importance of your relationship and the impact of your loved one on your life.

Remembering practices are ultimately about cherishing connection; they are about understanding the meaning of our relationships and valuing the impact that others have had on our lives.

Today, we remember our Veterans; we honour you, we celebrate you, we thank you <3

-Corinne

*Source: Heather Robertson, A Terrible Beauty, The Art of Canada at War. Toronto, Lorimer, 1977.