I’ve come to realise that death isn’t generally a welcomed topic of conversation in our society. Most consider it inappropriate or awkward and go out of their way to avoid eye contact, hush their voices or randomly apologise. Others avoid it entirely, almost as if it is less likely to happen to them if they just don’t bring it up. Like it’s taboo, don’t mention it or you’ll jinx yourself, or you’ll upset us, or you think once we start talking about it that we’ll suck you into our dark cloud of doom and gloom. It is completely and utterly abnormal to society, and yet death is the one absolute certainty in life.
I want to be clear that on the whole I’ve found people have good intentions, so if you find yourself thinking “oh god, I’ve said/done this” then please don’t over think it. For me this is entirely a societal flaw and not a personal one.
I talk about my parents all the time. I bring them up in conversation and relate things to them. I celebrate their birthdays, I buy their favourite flowers and cook their favourite meals. I do it because they are as much a part of my life now, as they were before. I don’t do it for sympathy. If I say “oh my mum loved those too” or “dad would do that” I’m not asking you to look at me with those sad sympathetic eyes. I certainly don’t want to hear “oh I’m so sorry” and for the conversation to abruptly end or change direction. We talk about them not because we’re sad or longing in that moment, we just want them to be a part of our daily conversations and routines. Sometimes I just want to talk about them within every day life..because they were, and still are, my “normal.”
For me, they’re still my parents. They might not physically be here right now, but their essence, their advice, their impact, will always live within me, so there will never be a time when talking about them isn’t normal. Death cannot take that away from me.
I think people panic that they’re going to make me cry, or upset me or that by mentioning them, memories will flood back to me. Trust me when I say that those memories haven’t ever left me. You aren’t reminding me of what I’ve lost, because I haven’t forgotten. By asking about them, or indulging me in two minutes of conversation, you are showing me that they still matter, that they’re still an important part of my life and my conversations. I’ll appreciate that you haven’t presumed that I’ve past that “initial phase” and must have moved on by now. Showing me that you know they’re still a part of me will bring me so much more happiness than avoiding the topic or changing the subject. Yes, there are days when just hearing their name will bring tears to my eyes and the impact of my loss hits at the wrong time. I know there are definitely others out there experiencing loss who can’t talk about it yet, maybe it’s too early or too raw, that’s okay, but at least sound it out with us. You’ll soon know where our emotional stability is at that time and we’ll appreciate you trying.
I’ve unsuccessfully tried to explain this before but I’m going to keep trying and hope it makes more sense on paper. If you were to die tomorrow, would you want to be spoken about under hushed tones and awkward silences. Would you want the world to try and blot you out of conversation as if to say “if you don’t bring it up it didn’t happen.” Or do you want people to talk about you? To keep your name alive? Surely you want people to smile when you come up in conversation, not grimace or shut down.
As a society we associate death with the elderly and we live our lives with the assumption that we have time to do all the things we want to do. We allow ourselves to procrastinate and avoid doing things because the idea that we might not have time is just too morbid to accept. This is partly to blame for the topic of death and grief being so widely avoided. By living that way, we’re essentially saying that it won’t happen to us, or at least not any time soon. Unfortunately one day you won’t be here, and unless you’ve talked about it, then it’ll be your name people are hushing under the carpet. I want to take the morbidness out of death, and live with the appreciation that life is fragile. Celebrate the people we’ve lost so that when your time comes, your loved ones will do the same. Make it normal, talk about them, talk about life, about death, and about life after death if that is something you find comfort in. For me right now, life after death is about the people left behind, the people who have to live with it. We’re all just trying to find ways to make it more bearable and this is how you’ll do it for me. Talk about them, smile about them, post their pictures, share your memories. They still exist..it’s just…different, now.