Trish Chester: Straight Talking

Trish has written a very moving and informative piece about the way people talk about a person’s death as though trying to avoid actually talking about that person’s death. Trigger warning: references to death/bereavement

I want to talk to you about death. I know and understand that it’s a subject many people are very uncomfortable with. That’s understandable really, very few of us want to consider our own mortality or the death of someone we love.

My grandparents died when I was in my teens, and I don’t recall much about those times. I went to the funerals and then just got on with my life. I remember my mother being incredibly ill after her mother died, but I didn’t make the connection. I don’t think I even knew what the word grief meant.

Fast forward into my forties. I had just been married to Paul for seven months when he died. He wasn’t ill, he didn’t commit suicide, he just literally sat down on the floor and died. He had epilepsy, and there was talk about an accidental overdose of his epileptic medication, but the coroner recorded an open verdict at his inquest.

I had a breakdown and was admitted to a psychiatric ward as I was regularly self -harming and experiencing suicidal ideation. Grief became my life, my passion, my motivation. It was all consuming, but it was right for me. A few years later I trained as a counsellor and specialised in bereavement counselling for fifteen years.

There are many things I could write about on this subject. But the one thing that really stands out for me is the way many people talk about death. I don’t know what causes it – embarrassment, superstition, awkwardness – but I found a lot of people’s words really upsetting and often quite annoying.

Straight talking

You say you’re ‘sorry for my loss’
I haven’t misplaced or lost him

You state ‘he’s in a better place’
He was quite happy here with me

You say that ‘he’s with God now’
He had no religious belief

You tell people that ‘he’s passed’
I wish he’d pass this way again

You say that ‘he is peaceful now’
He was a calm and gentle soul

You claim ‘the good die young’
But can’t explain why that should be

You say that he is ‘resting now’
So when will he wake up?

And if he’s only ‘gone away’
Can you tell me when he’ll be back?

I wish you’d just be honest
I wish you’d say the words

I know they’re scary and final
But they’re also real and true

If you make it sound all right
It hurts me even more

Because I have to accept it
My husband died. He is dead.

There is something that you can do
That will help me so much more

Use his name, remember him
Talk about his life

Death hasn’t stopped me loving him
I’ll always be his wife

Trish Chester
2018

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