Sunday, 6 May 2018

Death, an uncomfortable conversation

This isn't going to be the happiest of posts, as the title suggests so if you are finding yourself vulnerable I would suggest clicking away. This is a post that is pretty honest as no one talks about death, at least not the reality. EVER. So I want to talk about it.

With the second series of 13 Reasons Why set to be released on Netflix on the 18th of May, I decided to rewatch the first series. Then something hit me.

6 weeks ago my great grandad passed away. This is the first human bereavement that I've gone through since my nan died when I was 6. This is the first bereavement that I remember every painful second. Before that, October/November time I was suicidal. These two different experiences merited extremely different ideas of what death is.

Let's begin chronologically with my suicidal thoughts.

 I knew full well what I was contemplating. In fact, not that I'd ever admitted it to anyone, but I spent one morning lying in bed searching the internet for the least painful ways to end my life. I was in a pit of anxiety and depression at the time and didn't see a way out. My idea of death, however, wasn't as final as it should have been, and I've finally realised why.

I was watching 13 Reasons Why and it suddenly struck me why when I was suicidal I didn't feel death was a complete full stop. Most films, including this series, which have some sort of death in the storyline portray the deceased person as still being around. They are still with their family and friends, watching over them, leaving little trails. I guess my idea of death at the time was that. It wasn't a full stop to me being around, not spiritually at least. Just in the physical form. And minus the physical form, an actual body,  I wouldn't be able to suffer the way I was/am. Win win sitation really, no pain but still around with your loved ones.

But this isn't what death is at all. It is a giant, painful full stop that is impossible to ignore.

My great grandad was a wonderful man, 89 years of age but Alzheimer's had been slowly taking his memory away over the last 5 or so years. He also had prostate cancer and something wrong with his heart. Every time we saw him there was always that voice in our heads, what if this is the last time? But every year he was still here, physically at least, mentally less so. In November, about the time of my suicidal thoughts, I went for a visit. This time was different though, as I said goodbye he held me and kissed me firmly but full of love, on my left cheek, something he had never done. To this day I can still feel it. Something niggled in my brain, this, Angela, is the last time. So I hugged him and told him I loved him and we waved goodbye. March 2018 I got a phone call to say my great grandad had had a fall and was in the hospital. 2 days later I was told his entire body, in the words of Our Fault In Our Stars, "lit up like a Christmas tree". Cancer.

I was told that by the end of the week he would be gone. It was agony. Going day to day knowing he was dying, knowing that I would go to sleep and wake up with the news he wasn't here anymore, knowing that he would never see the sun again, or hear the birds sing, or feel the love of his wife. Going through each day knowing this was going to happen yet not telling a soul and acting like it was just a normal day. On the Thursday he passed away and that was it. FULL STOP.

I managed to keep this up, my previous view of death, that he was still around, he is in a better place. I managed to block out the reality, I guess like the films do. Except you can't block it out when his body is in a coffin in front of you.

 This is where I realised what death really is. It's an empty chair. It's a pack of biscuits left uneaten. Its broken hearts and sore eyes. Its words left unsaid. It's expressions and their laugh that you'll never hear again. Its memories and that's now all they will ever be because there isn't a chance to create more. Death is a full stop. Its laying flowers down on a tombstone because that's all there is now.

But we don't ever talk about that so instead we get deluded with the version films give us, especially when it comes to mental illness and suicide we see a romanticised version of death. But death isn't romantic in the slightest, it tears people apart, its a pain that is indescribable, a pain that lingers and pops out at the most random of moments.

Sometimes, the suicidal thoughts pop up again. Sometimes it's like a dripping tap and other times its like a dam has opened up. But now I've seen how final death is. There isn't a part two. And maybe now, that's enough to anchor me to the ground whilst I get battered by the sea because with life there can be a part two, there can be a before and after. 


  1. I applaud your courage and honesty posting this particular entry, even more so than others. You are very right that death is very finite and affects us all, and too romanticized. It seems that our entire culture has built such a taboo that the topic isn't discussed properly nor openly, and is both romanticized and idealized. The former in movies and shows where once a person is dead, it's rarely affecting remaining characters, and the latter is seen for example in all the religions and pseudo-science approaches to death as only a gate to the next stage. This, again, is seen in the form of shows and movies where the deceased supervises the lives of their loves ones, or haunting them when there is "unfinished business" and "disagreement", and the same goes with the invention of many other concepts for which we can only have theories and no proofs.

    But, in the end, as you say, this life has a before and after, whilst death doesn't, and it's an important realization. Bereavement isn't deal with in universal ways, as each person is unique, and your relationship is unique. Your great grandfather seems to have been very important and caring in your life and so it's more than understandable that you'd be highly affected, seing him ill and then fearing and then hearing the confirmation that he had passed away. I cannot imagine because I'm not in your mind, but I can only suppose through my own experiences, and extend to understand and thus empathize with you on how tough and rough all this experience has been for you, and which is why I made a point to check on you regularly, when I have access, because I know precisely how tough it can be for me, and how tough it was for me not to have much support when I faced my first bereavements, so I always make the point to send support, hugs and love, as I do now my friend - and shall continue in DM

  2. Thank you for your comment Lulu and for all your support