The Great Storm 30 years on: Surfacing trapped memories from childhood

It’s 3:45pm on 16 October 2017, the sky is grey, the wind is really picking up and here I am back in Wealdstone, the town I grew up in, exactly 30 years on from the great storm of ’87.

I was only six, but I recall clearly how we were walking back home from school, just mum, my brother and I, and how the Great Storm of 1987 had hurricane-force winds that caused substantial damage and 18 deaths in southern England.

It was super windy and we were walking home unprotected from the elements. I was six and my brother was four and mum was there with us, so for us brothers, it was just a fun experience – what did we care?

Before we knew it, a loose roof slate flew past our heads, narrowly missing us, and smashed into pieces onto the ground in front of us. My brother and I thought it was cool but mum must have been petrified as we hurried home to get safely indoors before the weather got really bad.

So here I am back in Wealdstone, not far from the school or the route back home to our first house. I see mothers with their young children, the kids playing and skipping and their mothers encouraging them to get into the car or quickly get home.

It’s now 11 years since mum died and it fascinates me how the memories of my youth are starting to resurface, triggered by at times striking, at times mundane moments.

It’s been known that memories prior to a bereavement can sometimes get covered up, perhaps due to the mind wanting to protect me from the pain of recollection. As I continue to let go of the need for control and as the fears built up over the decades start to dissolve, the memories calmly, clearly and lovingly come to light… and they pass.

So here I am, observing these memories, these fond memories of my youth, arising and passing, arising and passing.

I observe the seemingly real protection of our parents, the subsequent realisation that there is no-one in this world who can ever truly provide protection, and the journey taken to identify and embrace the one place where solace, then calm, then stillness and then joy is progressively uncovered.

In the midst of the storm, it is this place that draws me in, humbled with the knowledge, protection and serenity that all is and will forever be well.

Ride out the storm

Written by Suraj Shah. Inspired by greatness.

With millions of people affected by super-storm Sandy on the US East Coast, President Obama declared a “major disaster” in New York state.

His advice?

“The most important message to the public I have right now is: ‘Please listen to what your state and local officials are saying. When they tell you to evacuate you need to evacuate.”

So my question to you: What does this mean for those of us who have lost a loved one and are going through a storm of our own?

What about when our emotions are turbulent and life feels like it has been turned upside down? We may feel trapped, struggling to breathe. We may feel stranded and alone. We may feel like life is not worth living, that there’s nothing more to live for. We think that perhaps the only solution is to depart.

Lets talk about our very own ‘evacuation plan’ for dealing with the loss of a loved one.

Making a departure

By ‘evacuation plan’ you may think we’re talking about departure in terms of moving out of town, or taking our own life.


That’s not what we’re talking about here.

Doing a runner, moving out of town, turning our back on the storm is not the solution.

Nor is suicide. Nomatter how much it may hurt, nomatter how alone we feel, nomatter if nothing makes sense anymore — ending our own life is not the route we’re considering.

The ultimate evacuation plan

Our evacuation plan is of a different form.
Our evacuation plan involves riding out the storm.

There’s no need to run, there’s no need to die.
It’s ok to feel sad and hurt, and it’s ok to cry.

Our evacuation plan is different to the norm.
Our evacuation plan involves riding out the storm.

Step 1: Sit

Find a place to sit.

Move some things around if you have to clear some space on the floor and then sit there. Perhaps grab hold of a cushion or a pillow. Perhaps there’s a blanket in easy reach – wrap that around yourself.

You don’t need anything else. Just sit there.

Close your eyes and breathe.

And sit. Just sit.

And breathe. Breathe gently. Breathe gradually. Just breathe.

Gradually allow yourself to move into the calm, the quiet, the peaceful centre.

Gradually move into the eye of the storm.

Now lets sit together and ride it out. Lets ride out this storm.

Step 2: Take stock

Think about what you have in your life – what you have around you, what you have within you.

Start with the cushion you’re sitting on, or the blanket wrapped around you.

Consider the clothes on your back or the shoes on your feet.

What about the phone by your side or the roof over your head.

How about the people in your life who care about you so deeply – your family and friends, your neighbours and colleagues, your local community and those in distant lands, and me. I care about you – and if I care about you, then so many others do too.

We care for your warmth. We care for your happiness. We care for your safety and we care for your comfort. We care for your freedom and we care for your heart.

What about your virtues and who you are at your core. The world around you is touched by your warmth, inspired by your strength, melted by your smile.

When you are in the same room as me and you look me directly in the eye and show me that genuine smile, you offer everything that I could ever ask for, because you let me see you, the real you.

See yourself. Your real self. Take a good look at who you are at your core. Someone with great strength, great love, great care. Someone who is naturally here to serve the world around us. Someone who is responsible for their own calm, their own happiness – and loves it!

Step 3: Awaken

Now gently open your eyes, gradually stand up and look around you.

Notice how the storm is receeding. The tides are edging away. The chaos is getting calm.

That leaves you, with who you are, where you’re at, right now.

That leaves you, with your calm, with your peace.

That leave you, with your clarity of mind and warmth of heart.

You have everything. Everything worth living for.

This is your evacuation plan – your way out of the storm.