June is generally the month in the UK where summer starts to come into its own, the flowers are in bloom, the birds are singing their dawn chorus and the warmth of the sun glows through the clouds. Nature is doing its thing in the sunshine and there is a lot of busy life happening.
It was June that saw the arrival of my dear Mum into the world in 1940, so it is, without doubt, a month to celebrate. It is also the month in 2005 that we said an incredibly sad final goodbye to my dad. Since Mum died in 2018, we no longer celebrate her birthday with her in the same way and I am tinged with sadness when I think about the loss of my parents.
Does that mean June has become a sad month for me? No – not at all. The way I see it, there is no such thing as a ‘sad month’. Without doubt there are days, weeks, months, with times of sadness in them, but time itself is not sad. Our sadness comes from inside of us – from our thoughts of loss, from our yearning to have our loved ones beside us in more than memories.
When we experience all things, including death and loss, we experience them through the filter of our thoughts. Those thoughts will be ever changing and so, of course, our experiencing is ever changing. When we get caught in some ‘sticky’ thoughts about death our experience is ‘sticky’ – it does not move along naturally as we are designed. When we feel so much sadness, we innocently come to believe that is all that we are feeling. We believe our entire existence is shrouded by sadness because that is where our focus sits.
Can that be true for every second of every day? Even if it is true for most of those seconds, I suspect there will be moments when we speak to a friend or stroke the dog, for example, that we experience love, or joy, or gratitude, or whatever feeling arises from that experience. When we believe we are a certain way, our mind will seek out evidence to prove our beliefs. That is just how our minds are designed to work. Unfortunately, that often means we miss evidence that suggests otherwise.
I remember the deep sadness and loss I felt as I walked out of the funeral service for Mum on a cold January day in 2019. I could not imagine ever laughing again; and yet within seconds I was doing just that! For the funeral, I had asked for two floral tributes – one from us and one from the dogs who were her life. As I walked towards the flowers, I noticed the florist had woven dog biscuits between the flowers in the tribute from the dogs. In that moment I laughed with joy. Pure, honest, heart-felt joy that the flowers were so ‘dog-friendly’ This laughter did not mean there was no sadness at Mum’s death. Nor did it mean I had somehow ‘moved on’ or forgotten my grief. The laughter was simply a beautiful expression of my thinking in the moment. In the moment I was joyful at the florist’s creativity and the idea that the dogs would be extremely interested in checking out the flowers when we got home.
You see, when we allow our experiences to flow without getting so caught up in the meaning and importance of our thoughts, we naturally move from one thought and feeling to another. We do not get ‘stuck’ in a feeling, and we can trust that any feeling, no matter how painful and distressing, will pass. We can flow from grief to joy, from emptiness to fulfilment.
And through the power of thought, we can continue to remember our loved ones. We can imagine their face, dwell in precious past moments spent together and recall their voice. Our loved ones remain. Perhaps not in the same physical form we once knew, but they remain.
When I think of death now, I experience it as change rather than loss; a change in the way we are ‘with’ our loved ones. Of course, that doesn’t make it any less sad or difficult when I long for a hug with my parents or to hear their voices for real. That sadness is death’s mirror reflecting the depth of love we share with others in our lifetime. It is a feeling I am blessed to know because it is a beautiful reminder of the deep love I have for Mum and Dad.