Mark Longley on his new podcast Death and what inspired him to tackle one of our last taboos: what we do when someone dies.
This story was first published on Newshub.
I was at a social function about three months after my daughter Emily died and I was talking to a guy I knew, but not well. He asked me how I was, so I said fine, wondering if he knew what had happened.
Emily was murdered in the UK, and the story had been big news, and so I never could tell if people knew or not. If someone who didn’t know asked how I was, and I said, “Not good, my daughter has just died,” that’s a lot to drop on someone. So I would do what many bereaved people do, and would just say “fine” instead.
The conversation meandered around a few inconsequential topics, but I could see he was trying to say something but couldn’t. So I eventually asked him if he knew Emily had died.
“I did know,” he said. “I just didn’t know what to say.”
“That’s okay, it’s not an easy thing to bring up,” I replied, trying to counter his awkwardness.
This was not an isolated affair. Lots of people who knew me and knew what had happened said nothing because they “didn’t know what to say.”
And I get that – I have been guilty in the past of the same thing. But it struck me as odd. Why are we so awkward around death? Why do we find talking about death so hard? Why are we clumsy around people who are grieving?
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