What Death Has Taught Me About Living — Basically Nothing.

Death 2.0 & the mourning etiquette.

As I open my computer screen, Facebook is asking me what’s on my mind. Every year on September 1st, I promptly scroll down to avoid answering that question. The truth is I have a lot on my mind but I’m particularly careful on how I should express these thoughts both on-and-offline.I had second thoughts about whether I could talk about this to such an audience. Then I remembered the quote from Gloria Steinem which goes “The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.” With that in mind I’m going to write about dying in the 21st century. Now the first thing that will piss you off, undoubtedly, is that all of us are going to die in the 21st century. There will be no exceptions to that. There are about 1 in 8 of you who think you’re immortal and although I admire your style — it ain’t gonna happen. The second thing that will piss you off is that I am going to tackle the mourning etiquette of the 21st century.Because nobody talks about it. Because we need to talk about it.

The Mourning Etiquette:

  1. He didn’t die, he passed away

My father died of an accident that could of easily appeared in 100 dumb ways to die and left my mom widowed and mother of three at 29 years old. He didn’t pass(ed ) away, that’s just a euphemism used to make others feel better about asking a question they will very soon regret. Passed away seems more gentle, not so harsh, and less cold than died. It can be a genuine concern that people use to express for the healing and comfort of the families of the deceased. Some people say “He passed on,” or “He passed away.” Others say “He left us.” Or “He’s no longer with us.” Or “We lost him.” There’s a gentleness to those words that I really like, and a hopeful implication that the spirit of the person is in some better, beautiful place.On the other hand, the use of “passed away” instead of “died” is also an indication of the times we live in — an era when people in general tend to prolong facing up to the hard facts of difficult situations as long as possible.

For this reason, I tend toward the straight-statement: he died. Saying–and hearing–those words hurts, but it hurts in a way that I think is part of the process of wrapping my head around what happened. Someone I love was alive and now he’s not. The human brain just doesn’t compute that concept on some level, whether the person was young or old, sick or healthy. Saying “he died” is like a cognitive exercise that slowly gets me used to the idea that his life only continues in my (false) memories, in my heart.

2. The need for a heroic narrative to death for it to have a purpose.

E.g.1: oh yes it was hard but you know, it only made us THAT much stronger 
 E.g.2: It is always the good ones that leaves us first 
 E.g.3: I now know how fragile life really is

Let’s put things in perspective — I would of definitely rather be weaker and him being alive than stronger without a father. Who cares who dies first THIS ISN’T A COMPETITION PEOPLE (N.b. — I just realized I misspelled competition my entire life) , when you die shouldn’t put you on a scale of how good you are or ought to be.

And lastly, I don’t live my days as if it was my last one. I’m just a normal 20 something years old who spends way too much time scrolling down my Facebook feeds. Some may turn to God or purple elephants to find reasons as to why these things happen. Others just need to say it sucks.

3. If you knew the person who died, don’t you dare talking about his flaws.

The issue is that we try so hard to protect the life and honour of the dead that we give a false representation of who that person really was. We never knew our father, the only thing we did hear time and time again was how funny he was, how good he was and how in love he was with my mother. Nobody ever told us what flaws he had and how much of a douche he was if you took his food — giving us a beautiful but incomplete representation of who our father was.

We need to find a way to acknowledge the end but also stop death-shaming and mourning shaming. We already survived the death of a parent, a child, a sibling, a husband, we should be allowed to cope the way that best suits us despite how we think others think we should think. Stop with the big eyes, the pity, the inspirational life lessons — we survived, that’s more than enough.

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