by zoe bassett ~
2020 has been quite the year.
Aside from all of 2020’s antics, it’s the 20th anniversary of my dad’s death. It’s more of a celebration than a sadness feeling, but there are some things, as a society, we need to make sure we are aware of when talking about death.
Here are some of my personal favs…
1. “Oh so it’s not as bad because you don’t really remember him”
Absolutely not. Just because you were too little to remember the actual person you’re mourning, doesn’t mean you don’t mourn for the person that should’ve been there. From what I hear, my dad was a pretty cool guy… but that’s not what I miss about him. I miss him not being there for my 11th, 12th, 18th birthday, not being there at graduation, not being there to ask a second opinion and, most importantly, not being there to know what being there would’ve been like. I don’t begrudge the not being there though (that would be a pretty crap way to live), because I had a lot of people who were there.
In a nutshell, whether someone important dies when you’re 2, 12, 22, 32 or 82, it’s equi-crap. So yes, it’s as bad – a different-bad possibly – but bad nonetheless.
2. “I don’t really know what to say”
Right, well, first of all, I’m still Zoe. The same Zoe you were speaking to two minutes ago. Just treat me as Zoe.
So often when we talk about death, dying, deadness – people PaNiC. Understandably, because it’s un-understandable (does that make it overstandable? Who knows). I expect people to recoil at the phrase ‘mid-air collision’ (would be a bit weird if you didn’t) but then don’t say nothing. Say anything. Ask someone who’s grieving what they had for breakfast. Whether the grief is fresh on the block or older news, they’re still people, just without one really special person in their life now.
3. “… a normal family”
Normal. How does one even begin to define what normal is? Mum, dad, daughter, son? Two dads? Two mums? No kids? 10 kids? The best thing about ‘normal’ is that it really is anything you consider it to be. My ‘normal’ varies by the weekday. In terms of family, my normal goes something along the lines of – my mum and brother, step-sibs/parents, mum’s-boyfriend, mum’s boyfriend’s-daughter (semi-step-sib?), godparents, god-sibs, best mates….. and that is all totally my normal. Would not (nor could not) change it for the world. Not ‘standard’ (whatever that word even means) but my normal all the same.
And your normal is totally fine too.
4. “Gosh, you’re so strong”
Would I have wished for this? Probably not. Would I change it? Abso-bloody-lutely not in a million years. As cliché as it sounds, death made my life what it is today. Am I strong though? No stronger than the next guy, who is incredibly exhausted with 3 kids waking him up at omg-o’clock and still making it to work on time.
In a short-waffly way, what I’m trying to say is, I literally have to be standing before you today living with one less special person in my life. That doesn’t make me strong, it makes me able to set an alarm at 8 and make life happen every day.
I am also just blessed with good fortune. I received the most incredible help from Winston’s Wish (https://www.winstonswish.org/ – please direct grieving children and young people there – I owe them my right arm for making me who I am). But I also have the most incredible family – my mum’s an absolute legend. She’s strong. I’m lucky.
5. “You seem so fine about it”
Ah yes, I am absolutely fine about death as I write this, or talk to you. But there are moments when you least expect it, that catch you out like a mosquito in a shower. You grow and live with bereavement; you don’t ‘heal’ from it.
As weird as it sounds, there’s always a funny side…
Aged 6 I drew the most spectacular family portrait: Mum, Will and me, Dad on a cloud, and this lovely gentleman stood next to my Mum. ‘And who’s that?’, Mum asked.
‘Oh that’s David Beckham’.
It’s fair to say I had great taste from a very young age.
I could go on forever about bereavement/death/grief. But I won’t. You all have lives and I fully-expect a full living of them.