Remembrance Day has got me thinking about the value of looking back and remembering those who have died as well as the risks of dwelling too long on thoughts of the past.
There is a risk of looking back and focusing only on the negatives. Our minds tend to better remember negative incidents which caused us distressed. There is a risk of dwelling unhelpfully on things in the past which we cannot change. A risk of getting stuck on things that felt totally unfair and create within us bitterness and rage. The loss of a loved one due to war might be one such event which could be difficult to accept.
We may also become over-focused on things we regret from the past and beat ourselves up for things we wish we had done differently. These may even be things we had no control over but continue to berate ourselves for not being able to save our loved one. If you find that you tend to focus on the negatives see if you can make two lists – one with the things you regret or miss or were hurt by and one which lists things you appreciate from that time of your life and good things that came out of your losses.
There is also a risk of looking at the past with “rose tinted spectacles,” seeing only the positives and mourning for the loss of a “golden age.” It is possible to get stuck in the past, living our lives in denial of present realities. Sometimes we can idealise a loved one who has died. In this case it can be helpful to recall things about them that we found hard and don’t miss in order to create a more rounded and balanced memory of them.
It strikes me that in order to remember in a healthy way we need to be able to look back from a firm footing in the present. Yes it’s important to remember those who have died and to find ways to remain connected with our lost loved ones. And after remembrance to return to the present, to look around with eyes wide open and find things we can be grateful for here and now even while we struggle.
At the Remembrance Day service which I attended there was a focus on the need to commit to peace-making. It is so important for us to remember the great wars every year so that each generation takes up the call “never again”. Sadly there are still so many conflicts in the world today but my hope remains for peace. Remembering can help us learn from the past so that we change and do things differently.