Monthly Archives: May 2013

The One About Death

I had intended to write about something light-hearted and fluffy today. But this week somebody died. Somebody who had absolutely no business dying yet.

I’ve talked before about how awkward I feel when someone reports a death on social media, about not knowing how to respond without looking like I’m just jumping on a bandwagon. But this isn’t a sympathy post, it doesn’t demand a response. Also, this isn’t about me. There’s a family somewhere whose lives will never be the same again, whose whole future will now have to be re-imagined and I feel a bit helpless, I can’t make things better for anyone, but I can write about it.

Death is a funny old thing. We don’t seem to be able to talk about it properly. It’s riddled with clichés. People start talking about how short and fragile life is, about how we should live for today and stop stressing about the little things that don’t really matter.

It’s not that easy though. We fully intend to do these things, we talk about it and make plans to start just as soon as the bad stuff that made us think like that is over. Then we never do. It’s like that gym membership or The Diet or the plan to de-clutter. Real life takes over again. Also, often, those little things do matter, it’s all relative, it’s not a points system.

I’d like to think though that every time someone close to us dies we will think a little bit more about how we live. Living life ‘to the max’ isn’t always possible when we have bills to pay and jobs to do and other people relying on us, but we can still make changes.

We don’t have to stay in an unhappy relationship for the kids because one day, those kids wont be kids and we wont be here and what was all that unhappiness for anyway? Do the things you want to do, don’t put them aside for that (I hate this phrase) bucket list. Write the book, learn to play the cello, start wearing hats, tell that person you love them. Just do it.

We talk about birth all the time. We celebrate it and make TV programmes about it. There’s a whole industry of magazines and gifts and blogs out there, all concentrating on the start of life. Women sit in dusty church halls while their toddlers play and tell strangers the minute details of when they gave birth. Pregnant women and new mothers are drawn towards each other like iron filings, yet when it comes to death we hide away. People actually cross the road to avoid having to talk to someone who’s just lost someone.

Lost someone. There’s a phrase. It sounds like you left somebody outside the shop while you went in for a paper, and then just walked straight home without thinking. The kind of thing that used to happen in the ‘70s with babies in big-wheeled, old fashioned prams outside the greengrocer’s shop. But ‘lost someone’ is better than ‘they passed’ or ‘they went over to the other side’ (a phrase that always reminds me of Star Wars). We seem to feel the need to soften the blow. It’s almost as though the person who is left behind has a duty to make everyone else feel better by not mentioning ‘death/died/dead’, they are supposed to dilute it somehow. If they don’t say death we can almost pretend it didn’t happen and everyone can carry on with their day without having to do or say anything too uncomfortable. We are rubbish at this, really rubbish.

Of course, birth is the start of life and death is the end and that’s not something we can be happy about, especially if that person is younger and hasn’t even got going yet. Yet while it’s terribly sad that the person isn’t around any more, it almost feels selfish to be upset. It’s not about us, the ones left behind. We still have our lives and, depending on what your beliefs are, the dead person has either gone to a better place or has no awareness of what’s happened. But the very fact that people are upset about it means that they affected our lives in some way, they made a difference, and I think that is something to be celebrated.

So talk to that person who’s just lost someone, it’s much better to say the wrong thing than not talk to them at all. Or give them a hug, listen to them, let them talk. There’s a huge gap in their lives that you can never fill so don’t even try, but you can fill some of it up with love and memories.

P.S. I tried really hard to make sure this wasn’t a sympathy post and I think my friend would be shaking his head at me and laughing and calling me an idiot (basically 80% of my memories of him) because it took me the best part of a day to try to avoid saying it wrong.


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Ten Things I Have Learnt in my Mad Month of Crazy Everyday Blogging.


  1. Other bloggers are really nice.

    Not that I thought they wouldn’t be of course, I wasn’t imagining a group of nasty old bitter bloggers, giving me bad advice on purpose, telling me to make sure I made fun of Americans in my first post and making comments like ‘you’re crap’ on every post. But I’ve had so much support and encouragement in the last month from people I’ve never met, or even chatted to before. They’ve given me advice, suggestions for blog posts and have taken the time to read and comment.

  1. I can find the time to write every day if I make the effort.

    Up until a month ago I complained that I didn’t have enough time to write as much as I wanted to. I’m working and have two children and responsibilities and family stuff going on. But doing this has shown me that I can make the time, even if it’s just half an hour every evening, ten minutes in my lunch break. If I can come up with a blog post every day from scratch, then I can certainly write down some of the words that are constantly in my head, which is good. I once likened my thoughts to noisy puppies, if I don’t let them out regularly they start charging around my head and peeing on the furniture.

  2. I can be a little bit grumpy.

    I find lots of things really annoying. Who knew?

  3. Having people disagree with me is good.

    A writer I know has a regular blog. He recently wrote a blog that caused a bit of controversy, while a lot of people agreed with him, a lot of people also disagreed. He got upset and claimed to have been misunderstood and when he wrote his next post he said that he wasn’t going to read the comments. Apart from that being the bloggy equivalent of putting your fingers in your ears in an argument and singing loudly that you can’t hear, it’s also incredibly arrogant. I can’t imagine writing something and being so 100% certain that I am correct that I’m surprised when people take a different view. I might think I believe one thing, but then hear another point of view that changes that belief, it’s what discussion is all about. This is why I like having so many friends with such a variety of views. Unless people are rude, which is a different issue, I welcome people challenging what I think, I don’t want a group of people around me nodding and reaching for the ‘like’ button before I’ve even finished my sentence, that would just annoy me. Possibly. That’s never happened.

  4. I’m maybe not as much of a weirdo as I thought I was.

    Or rather, I am, but there are plenty of you out there to keep me company. It seems I’m not the only one who’s sat and read the back of shampoo bottles. I’m not the only one who’s rehearsed imaginary Oscar speeches in their head and I’m not the only one with a stationery obsession. Thank you. Freaks.

  5. It’s not always the people you expect to support you who do.

    But this is just life.

  6. The people who really need to read your blog are the people who never will.

    The hassling of agents, the retweeting of compliments, the smug tweeting about knowing exactly who has unfollowed them that very day; these are all things that are happening right now on my timeline, live! Stop it.

  7. I can maybe be a little bit more than a little bit grumpy.

    Deal with it…

  8. My husband is pretty fantastic.

    I knew this before of course, I wouldn’t have married him otherwise. But in the past month he has put up with me waking him up just as he’s falling asleep to tell him that I have thought of a ‘W’. I have interrupted conversations to rush off and scribble something down. He has washed up and made lunch boxes and stopped fist fights and sorted children out for bed and still been patient as I say yet again that I am coming to bed I just need to read/write something. He’s always supportive and even though he’s had a book published himself recently he always has time to listen and give me advice. Having said that, me blogging/ranting to you means that I don’t rant as much to him. Hmm…

  9. I still really like using an ellipsis…


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