Thursday 12 July 2007


Two interesting articles in last weekend's Guardian (the weekend before, now I'm finally finishing this). One is by a woman who got amicably divorced and found that all her friends expected her to be rather more devastated than she was. "Someone writes [to me]: 'There are no words for a catastrophe of this magnitude. I am thinking of you.' And it begins to seem as if my husband has, in fact, not moved five minutes away but died." In many ways she's enjoying her newfound freedom, and is coping just fine, but people just won't accept this. "At no other point in my life have so many people tried so hard to convince me of how miserable I am," she says.

The other is by a woman who gave birth to a stillborn baby. Gut-wrenching. But in stark contrast, she found that her friends were mostly embarrassed, and desperate for her to 'get over it' and get back to normal. They advised her to take anti-depressants, but she wasn't depressed: she was grieving. I wonder why that's something that's not allowed any more?

Maybe we can cope with divorce because it's comprehensible: anyone who's even been dumped can empathise to a certain extent. We all know about rejection. But death is the great mystery, and getting more mysterious all the time. I watched both my father and my grandmother die, in their own homes. It wasn't terrifying in any of the ways you might think, and both of them had huge reserves of courage and dignity. Especially with my father, who I'd been very close to, I really believe that seeing it happen made it easier to cope with. If I hadn't been there, I'd have found it difficult to believe that it had really happened; that he'd really gone. But the number of people allowed to die at home must be getting less and less. I proselytise for home birth whenever I can, but I begin to think we need a campaign for home death too. Maybe if death was closer, and in a familiar place, we'd cope with it better?

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