Death is an odd thing. We, British, tend to shy away from saying “X has died”, and not always because of the person affected.
I often tell people we ‘lost’ my dad (a sign of ageing is that this is no longer greeted with the shock it once was). But we didn’t did we? We knew where he was, but using the word ‘death’ just isn’t the done thing.
I’m just as guilty of this as others, this week at Rainbows we’re continuing the Poppy badge challenges, which means dealing with 5/6 year olds and their concepts of death… How do you explain war to a child? “some grown ups got mad at each other so the soldiers had to go fight”? Because surely the answer to that is “the grown ups who are mad should work it out, like the 5 year olds are taught to”… (this is mostly a moot point, they’re taught enough at school that they were all aware, or not speaking up, about war and remembrance day)
But it’s always bothered me that, as the person who should be grieving for a loved one, I’ve had to deal with others (unconnected to dad I hasten to add) sorrow and emotion. It may seem ungrateful, but I don’t want to have to deal with your upset at the loss of a parent. I’m unlikely to break down in tears at the mere mention of him, but that seems like that’s what’s expected… And it makes me angry… “I’m sorry”, are you? For what? I get you’re attempting to express sympathy to me, but you didn’t know him, most of the time you barely know me, and death happens… but I can’t appear ungrateful, so I have to do the ‘thanks’ mumble and look, and you get the impression that you’ve done your bit, but how is that helpful to the grieving person? They’re putting you above their own feelings here
This is much more of a ramble than a post. It’s been 20 years since dad died, but I still get the “pat on the shoulder and sad look” treatment, and as each year passes it annoys me more. It means I rarely talk about my dad (the conversation will inevitably lead to me having to tell the other person), and that itself makes me sad.
I’m a big believer in remembering the person, not the death. So, if I bring up a dead person in conversation, a much better way of showing me you care? Ask me about them, help me celebrate their life, help me smile when I think of them.