I know it’s not what we are supposed to talk about–death and dying–but we are. ‘Cos its all around us and death after all is a part of life!
We are told that we are fast becoming a nation that does not engage with death – so much so that now days we say ‘passed away’. Passed to where, to what? Words are used in a way that sanitise our experiences and emotions. Also I think, the term ‘passed away’ is making a huge assumption that we all believe in life after death. Surely for some of us dead is dead – gone?
We are at present running a project–Roehampton Village Green–exploring our attitudes to death, how we might deal with it as a family, a friend or a community. What do we need to know, who do we talk with – GP, social services, funeral directors, priests?
Before we started we were asked if we had any training in talking about death and bereavement. No – but we have life experience. And we work all the time with sensitive issues so why would this be any different?
Whilst socially engaging in this community project–(which was a very thoughtful, beautiful and profound experience initially aimed at older people but very quickly opened out to the wider diverse community)–I experienced several deaths in the family 2 expected 1 very unexpected.
The very unexpected turned our lives upside and was in great contrast to the expected deaths where formalized religion played a huge part and we all understood our roles and responses.
Several weeks later no amount of time talking about death and what happens afterwards was going to prepare us for what we went through and are still going through. Not only was it unexpected–it became a very public affair. When what we needed was quiet support and much privacy for mourning to occur, for rituals to unfold, for legalities to be undertaken. We needed time to take it all in, we needed time off from work and now we need time to slowly recover.
To come to terms with a death by suicide leaves you asking many questions. The tsunami of emotions it unleashed that ebb and flow is unbelievable – grief loss anger rejection sadness isolation and then again and again and again.
We have had many chats about death in the Spare Tyre office as we have all experienced several deaths over the past year. All take you by surprise and all stir your emotions. What eases the pain is a very personal journey guided by religion, faith, hope, belief and people willing to just listen.