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Healing – more than empty words and slogans
17 Dec, 2019

We know Jo Pye as London4Europe’s Volunteer Coordinator, who energetically manages our Volunteer Support Group. But one of her other many hats is a Bereavement Counsellor for women and families who suffer Early Pregnancy Loss. In this remarkable contribution, she applies what she has learned in that field, to handling the latest outcome of Brexit.

If you are reading this today, you are probably experiencing symptoms of mourning. Following the General Election, you are also probably feeling a rising negative response to the PM when he uses phrases such as “healing the nation”. Mine run along the lines of “impossible”, “humiliating” “demeaning”, “not a chance” - and heaps of others which are less printable.

Johnson is currently peddling this “healing” slogan in complete ignorance of what it means and how to accomplish it. It is just as vacuous to talk of “uniting and healing the country” as to talk of those miraculous “healing” jobs that are going to be created out of thin air in places like Blythe Valley, once we have left our largest trading market.

According to standard grieving process models, at the end of every mourning period there is acceptance. And acceptance requires acknowledgment (of what has been lost). Remainers sussed immediately what Leavers felt they had lost and why they voted Leave. But rarely do they feel that the reverse is the case.

Johnson’s statements offer nothing of acknowledgement. They are just empty, meaningless slogans - such as “Get Brexit Done.”

Importantly, what happened to the word “Sorry”? When have you ever heard that used sincerely by a Leaver – for example, “I’m sorry my vote has trashed your ideals while it’s sorted mine.” Or “I’m sorry my vote is going to mean you risk losing your job and then your home if you can’t find new work” Or “I’m sorry my ideals mean that 45 million of my compatriots will lose freedom of movement and healthcare benefits abroad.” Not even “We’re sorry for the distress caused to those adversely affected by our decisions.” You will have your own list and it will be a long one. More of that later.

Any form of Brexit is seriously life changing for some people in their own individual experience. You do not even have to be pro-EU, or pro-European. But the changes affect a startling number of things – social, cultural, humane, practical, judicial, economical. financial, security, national/international credibility and many more.

There are three really useful understandings that underlie grieving/mourning and that can be constructive for us right now:

  • How we grieve depends crucially on our past, our current and our future expectations. Too few people actually understand this concept. Without this understanding, our thoughts get jumbled up and misaligned. Confusion abounds, leading to exhaustion, breakdowns in erstwhile good relationships and other, more serious, clinical outcomes.
  • Mourning is essentially any loss of expectation. As we know today, it’s not just limited to death of a loved one.
  • Time does not heal. Acceptance appears over time when what has been lost has been processed by the mourner him/herself.

With these points in focus, how does the PM hope to achieve “healing the nation”?  The only healing he’s offered, so far, is to fill (belatedly) those gaps (fears and experiences) in those Leave areas that led to the Leave Vote in the first place! For the rest of us, there are nothing but “red lines”.

In truth, Johnson has no plans to heal Remainers: we are collateral damage. We lost in June 2016. If we did not “suck it up” that was our look-out.

The positive news is that we do not need to rely on the PM’s weasel words and morsels. We can help ourselves right now and, in acknowledging and accepting our losses, individually and communally, we can “heal” parts of ourselves. This will be good for us and, as a golden lining, can help form appropriate avenues to pursue fresh approaches - where our ideals don’t need to be surrendered and, better still, can be put to good use. In life, there are few things more satisfying than putting bad experience to good use.

All the pro-Remain and other related campaigning bodies are at a fork in the road. What are their priorities, realities, opportunities, their continuances? At all levels, re-assessments are being considered and draft plans made. EM, for example, could revert to a cultural body, exploring modern Europe in all its contexts. Or it could become a hub for monitoring facts and consequences of Brexit and how we could eventually mitigate some of the worst effects and achieve a working/workable re-alignment with our closest neighbours. It could even dedicate itself to rejoining the EU in the future.

In my practice as a bereavement supporter, I’ve often used listings to help supportees acknowledge “the whats” they have lost. Contrary to being a negative exercise, it helps them see exactly what they are dealing with and how and why it matters to them so deeply. Acknowledging these goes a long way to accepting realities, re-arranging priorities and pursuing new opportunities and…living on. We can even contemplate smiling again when we realise the intensity of what we’re coping with and how well we’re actually doing. Yes, we’re exhausted and suffering and have a way to go, yet we’re still here and we still care. Plus, we now have the most impressive network of like-minded people across Grassroot Groups and political parties who really care about the outcomes.

To this end, I’m organising a series of “loss-assessing” conference calls (via Zoom) over the next few weeks, starting in mid-January. The first will be on Tuesday 7 January at 19.30 UK time. (I’ll also be happy to talk individually and in confidence to anyone who would feel more comfortable in that space). If you would like to participate in either way, please email me in advance without obligation at l4evolunteers@gmail.com.

For now, the conference calls will be an opportunity for Remainers (anywhere) to let off steam, scream, blub, praise, even rejoice, at what we’ve lost, what we’ve learnt and who we’ve met, in a safe space in the company of empathetic ears. But in time, Leave voters may be those most in need of this service, as their expectations, too, fail to materialise.

And the golden lining is that, in doing this, we shall also be able to assemble extensive (anonimised) key information to feed through to continuing bodies. The next EM National Council meeting is on 11 January 2020. As Members’ Representative for Greater London, I shall be able to feed through initial findings; knowing what we’ve lost, will help us know what we want to save and promote and how.

Here’s to greater understanding, humanity and sanity.

My love and deep respect to you all


Jo Pye
L4E Volunteer Coordinator and EM Greater London Members’ Representative

London4Europe blogs are edited by Nick Hopkinson, Vice-Chair. Articles on this page reflect the views of the author and not necessarily of London4Europe.