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December 30, 2015

Death & celebration: strange partners for inspiring the living

by Richard Bellars
I wrote this at the start of December, as I reflected back on November as a month of death and, in both parallel and contrast, of celebration and gratitude for both the past and for ‘what is’ in the present.


Three friends have lost a parent in sudden and unexpected circumstances, Remembrance Day was marked on 11/11, appalling terrorist attacks took place in Paris, Lebanon and Kenya…and even the opening scene of the latest James Bond film being set in Mexico City on 1st November – the celebrated ‘Day of the Dead’.  In different circumstances rise so many deep and visceral emotions of grief, sorrow, anger, confusion, upset, overwhelm and disorientation in the wake of those lost…and at the same time love, honour, respect, warmth, humour, gratitude and celebration for those same ones lost that lived.


Valuing the past without staying in it


I have felt rewarded again to be involved in two more humbling, inspiring, expanding experiences at Help For Heroes. Each time I have been involved in facilitating the Pathfinder Experience (their core 3-phase programme to ‘Inspire’, ‘Enable’ and ‘Support’ the wound, injured or sick through transition into), it is a new brand new opportunity in supporting and learning from those with the courage and perseverance to acknowledge their past, let it ‘die’, and set themselves to move beyond it. Each group and each phase is unique and I also always learn something new or again about myself through the mirror of others. One week seemed to be particularly about patience for those with anger and, in particular, the frustration of brain injury. (There’s another blog in this somewhere…) The other week was more about recognising the value of one’s past without having to let it define and constrict oneself now and into the future. (There’s another blog in that one too…)


“Grief is woven into the fabric of the human experience”


As we came up to Remembrance Day, I remember finding the following timely, interesting, relevant, provocative, authentic and helpful when it comes to ‘what to do’ with grief – I recommend you pause for a few minutes and have a read: Everything Doesn’t Happen For A Reason by Tim Lawrence. “Grief is woven into the fabric of the human experience” is a line that stands out, not “a problem to be solved”. It is something to be acknowledged as a part of who and how we are.


When I look back on my own moments of loss and mourning in my life, the peak ones have obviously been for people – and also for pets (absolutely!!). However, they have also been for relationships, holidays, places I’ve lived, people I’ve worked with, missed opportunities and disappointments, episodes and phases of life that have ended… and yet, in each ending there has always been, as I now see it, a new colour in the full spectrum of human emotions and ongoing cycle of experiences. What is more, endings have created space and inspiration for beginnings – new levels of inspiration and determination to make more out the life I am living!


Out of the dark


Mostly, such perspectives and positive outlooks only come with hindsight and the healing of time for the anguish to dissipate…as much as is possible, at any rate. When they do, I find that grief is able to turn me towards an unlikely partner in celebration. I find I (eventually) come to a place of feeling grateful for what I experienced (warts and all!), what I learned and how it changed me, and what good and optimism I subsequently felt resolved to seek and recognise out of the dark and misery.


When we recognise and acknowledge death and grief – and other mini-death(s) we experience – I believe we are richer, stronger and more compassionate in our lives and relationships. I also believe we move several steps closer to an even more profound and expanded experience of life unlimited by our fears of death. (Now that is definitely for another blog…!)
Now, nearing the end of the year, I reflect again on the year past with joy, some sadness, and mainly gratitude, while also clearing space in me and around me to allow in a new year of promise and potential.
November 30, 2015

Living backwards

by Richard Bellars

Life can only be understood backwards; but must be lived forwards” ~ Soren Kierkegaardtime ripples

What if we could project forwards in our lives, to imagine a time of peaceful fulfillment and gratitude, looking back on the range of rich experiences that got us there, and then return to the present to step forward in every moment of ‘now’ to live that life with clarity and confidence?

In The Future – Looking Back

It was Midwinter and midnight.
The fire burned with an eerie light.
He sat with thoughtful pipe
and saw the future looking back.

He listened when I spoke
and comforted when I sighed.
Together we watched
that ice-borne morning tide.

Our eyes were heavy, staring wide
as we looked beyond that morning tide
to a world not yet seen not laughed nor cried
to the future looking back.

The hands of the clock held breath
pausing, fearing the death of day
and morning came with the wind
to steal today away.

The future had been planned and cast
laughter echoed and tears hung fast
and morning came with future’s bless
to wipe our fears away.

And that howling wind and cackling sleet
meant years would pass before we meet
to another dawn of gentler mood
– in the future looking back.

Owed to Peter Hooper by Bob Whitlock