Death – Meeting Society’s Taboo

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I’m the mother of a dead child. I’m the daughter of a dead mother. All of which happened within the space of less than 5 months.

I shock people when I tell them what occurred in the last year. Some literally sit there, eyes and mouth wide open but no sound. Even some good friends have not contacted me since my child died.

Talking to a friend who experienced stillbirth recently she mentioned that her friends wanted to give her space. Really, we don’t need that much space. One of my friends expressed feeling conscious of not wanting to bore me with her daily life because it all seemed so trivial and non-important.

It is true: experiencing death has changed me as a person and my perspective. It has put problems into perspective, taken the seriousness out of seemingly important matters and given my life a whole different meaning. It has thought me appreciation where in the past was a sense of expectation. It has requested I look deeper into myself, open more of those hidden cupboards of my psyche and questioned the notion of taking things for granted.

I’m open to talk about death. I’m not hiding, nor trying to fix or mend the truth. Still, I find myself saying: ‘I’m sorry if I shocked you’ or ‘it might sound worse than it is’.

The truth is I have been processing this for days on end. It’s there every waking and sleeping hour. I cannot escape looking at it and into it. I have no choice but to deal with it.

Maybe I’m considered a weirdo because I’m not accepting or honoring society’s taboo. As a society we are not used to openly meeting, talking or sharing stories around death and we don’t know how to handle our own feelings in regards to other people’s trauma. I can remember just a few years ago when a distant friend of mine had a stillbirth I didn’t know what to say. I can relate.

Another truth is that each and everyone’s experience of meeting death is somewhat different. What I can tell you is only my experience. Given the feedback I have received I have to assume that those who speak are actually relieved that there is finally someone who doesn’t shy away and openly shares.

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10 comments

  1. After our son died, one person told me that people we knew (ones who had vanished into thin air) wanted to give us “family time.” Why? So we could be sure to notice the huge, gaping hole in our family? I know it’s not easy to know what to say or do…but something is better than nothing… Keep on speaking up and ignoring society’s taboos concerning talking about death!!

  2. Each and everyone of us has our own way of being with Death. It is always interesting to get a sense of where we are all coming from. After one of my dearest friends lost her (husband to be) in a rather sudden and shocking way, everyone was talking about her and not talking to her. I remember feeling drawen to her. She confided in me that she didn’t know if she wanted to live anymore. My reply was that I fully understood that and it was up to her to make that decission. We all have a chance to be more real, more open, more honest. Our friendship today is one of the most honest and real that have and its 12 years since we lost ‘Tomo’. I turst that the true friends are right beside you and even meeting you new and fresh in this courage, beauty and honesty that you are. Love you and your writing….it is a life long process and I love how you continue to share and open with us here in cyber space….blessings dearest mommy, wife daughter….you are shining in my heart… Tanya xxxx

    1. Trank you Tanya.
      Sometimes I still wonder whether those friends I still haven’t heard from are still in shock or just avoid contact because it’s been too long to just simply make contact? One day I might find out… I’m grateful for the friends that are around.
      X Nathalie

  3. Thank you Nathalie .. Very real and rawly honest .. It’s so true the silence that surrounds death. It is not something that is culturally understood by western society. I think it’s great that you can be a voice to share with others how to be around death. Its not weird its real and there’s not enough ‘real’ in the world Keep going. It is almost like a gap in our psychology as most don’t know where to place death. Like a cultural numbness. And as you know, beneath numb is a whole world of unmet feelings. Everyone takes a different amount of time to process information about death. I think really most people at heart feel compassion for the bereaved family. They just don’t know how to express it. Thank you for your honesty, Janet

    1. Thank you for your comment, Janet.
      Yes, I believe that at heart they feel compassion and don’t know how to express it. I hope that through my writings some who don’t yet know will know in future. That’s my wish. All Love, Nathalie x

  4. Hi Nathalie.
    For me your piece is both candid and informative. In the past I have sometimes found it awkward to know what to say or do when a person has had a huge loss (or multiple losses) and it is enlightening to hear very honestly how it can be from the other perspective.
    I think the only way the taboo you speak of is going to be broken is by people having the courage to speak out and be transparent, just like you are doing, and I salute you for that.
    You may be interested to know about an article and photos in the October Australian Women’s Weekly on a couple acknowledging and celebrating the life of their son Leo who died as a newborn. I hope it is an indication our society is beginning to accept that grieving is a process to be respected and supported.
    Love from Angela

    1. Hi Angela,
      Great to hear that Australian Women’s Weekly is publishing an article like that. I’ve tried finding it on google but no luck. Would love to read and post a comment. In case you’ve got it I’d love a copy via email. Yes, our society needs more support in terms of how to be with grief and grieving people.
      All Love, Nathalie

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