Around the world, different cultures and faiths have ways to remember the dead. At the end of October and early November, we have Halloween - or Samhain leading to All Souls Day and Mexico’s Day of the Dead - Día de los Muertos. We tend to associate these with a lot of fun things – spooky stories and trick or treat for Halloween, skull masks and parties for Day of the Dead. Moreover, we associate both with a lot of dressing up, for both adults and children.
“Our dead are never dead to us until we have forgotten them: they can be injured by us, they can be wounded; they know all our penitence, all our aching sense that their place is empty, all the kisses we bestow on the smallest relic of their presence.”
In the Pixar film Coco the problem to overcome is not death, which is seen as natural and inevitable, but being forgotten.
As Halloween and Day of the Dead approach, let’s look beyond the fun aspect and the dressing up. Who do we want to remember? Which of our friends and relatives do we want to bring to mind, so that they are not forgotten? Who is it that you want to say “I Remember….”?
We’re asking people to share a short remembrance of someone they know who has died, and use the hashtag #IRemember. Tag in @DyingMatters and include a photo as well. By sharing our memories of our dead friends and family, we’re getting back to the heart of what Day of the Dead and Halloween are about. Afterwards, we can dress up and go out for fun, but let’s take a moment to share something about someone important to us.
We don’t have to pretend the dead were saints or that they were perfect. We can remember the foibles or frustrations as well as the times they made us laugh, or feel safe, happy, or loved. It’s important to remember them, and to share these.
Remembering the dead can also bring new feelings of bereavement. If you need help with this you can get help from:
The campaign will run in England, Wales and Northern Ireland from 28th October - 2nd November. If you’re in Scotland, the To Absent Friends festival of storytelling and remembrance run by the Scottish Partnership for Palliative Care is happening from 1-7 November – more details here: www.toabsentfriends.org.uk
If you work for a hospice, care home or hospital then this publication from Hospice UK is an excellent guide to helping families process grief through remembrance and memorialisation.