Does it help to talk about the death of a loved one?

Does it help to talk about the death of a loved one?
4 Responses
  • Anonymous User
    July 12th, 2020

    For lots of people who come to The Dinner Party, having a community of peers who they can talk openly about the death of a loved one is a big game changer. Oftentimes our conversations aren't just about the death itself, but about all of the nuances of life after. Having friends who get that part of your story, and don't just smile and change the conversation, doesn't take the grief away, but it does make us feel way less isolated.

  • Anonymous User
    July 14th, 2020

    It's very important to talk about the death of your loved one, and to talk about how you feel. People have different levels of comfort with that, of course. Some people are very private and don't want to talk to everybody. But it is really helpful to talk about how you're feeling, to tell the story of their life, to tell the story of the event, but also to talk about the relationship and how you have been changed by being in relationship with that person. 

    This idea that you should just get on with your life is sort of a stiff upper lip, stoic version of grief. This version has been perpetuated over the years. It's really actually very unhealthy to stuff your emotions, to pretend they don't exist, brush your grief under the rug. It's not gonna stay there. It's going to come up and bite you. So you might as well let it out and have a conversation.

  • Anonymous User
    July 15th, 2020

    It's impossible to "get on" with one's life. Often, people say they feel out of sorts after someone dies. Many have used metaphors describing feeling "unmoored" or "lost at sea." Consider this a beacon trying to get your attention. It means something's out of joint, which is to be expected. You have a relationship with someone, and if you are grieving, that relationship more than likely involves love. Love comes in many forms, not just romantic. For me, the deepest expression of love is actually grief. When someone you love has died, it requires allowing the new expression of that love in the form of grief to integrate into your life. I really balk at the idea of closure, or moving on from relationships. 

    These relationships are meaningful to us. I propose the relationships we love endure. We never leave. Instead, we evolve. So while you may not have this person's physical presence in your life now, if you think about it, you probably experienced their physical absence many times before they died because we're mobile creatures. It's the permanence of their physical absence or finality that is different. If you consider the times when people are not physically present, they're still very much a part of our lives. So why would we expect that to change in death? For me, since my father died, my relationship with him has only intensified. My experience of him in my life has absolutely magnified. And that certainly does not mean he had a minimal impression on my life before death. What gives me the experience of having someone I love in my life is actually getting to talk about them. 

    People who have lost someone they love dearly, all they want to do is talk about them. They're not not thinking about them. And the greatest gift you can give is actually permission to name them, to name that relationship, because they are very much still a part of our lives. I heard an interview with Lucy Kalanithi as she was on book tour on behalf of her husband, Paul, author of When Breath Becomes Air. It was the year after he died and she shared how lucky she felt getting to be invited to talk about Paul nearly every day if not multiple times a day. She got to say and hear his name over and over again. Most people don't get such an audience. 

    Permission to speak so openly about grief is rarely invited. For me, any opportunity to get to talk about my dad is the greatest treasure. And yet we have a funny culture that suggests we shouldn't bring it up. That it would cause upset. The truth is, you can't upset me around this. The upset has happened. The greatest kindness you can do for me is to allow me to revel in the love and the relationship that very much still exists in my life. It just has transformed and continues to transform, as all relationships do.

  • Anonymous User
    July 21st, 2020

    I think that talking about the death of a loved one is part of getting on with one's life. It's so important for us to find ways to honor the continuity of a relationship, even when there is a profound rupture, that the loved one is no longer physically present. We are here because of the way our ancestors conducted themselves and when one of our loved ones passes into the ancestral realm, however it is that you understand that, finding ways to continue to recognize their presence whether on the metaphysical level of understanding dust becomes dust or in the realm of memory and story. 

    It's unusual that someone would not find benefit from continuing to talk about a loved one, both as they were, the way that they live their lives, but also the manner of their death. We have become accustom in our dominant culture to thinking of death as somehow contagious. If we talk about it, we're going to catch it. But the silence that accompanies dying and death, the cultural prescription that one must get on with it, can be very difficult for people who do need support to continue to simply process and incorporate some of the details around the the death or the dying itself. 

    We have a sense now that a good death is something that everyone should be able to obtain or that we even have a right to a good death, but the fact is, dying is often a very messy process. It can be a very hard labor and most of us don't grow up in multigenerational households with grandma dying in the front parlor room to understand what death actually looks like. So, when we are confronted with death, it may be very unfamiliar. 

    Talking about death, talking about dying, talking about our loved ones, can be very beneficial. That doesn't always have to be verbal and interpersonal. There may be other ways of honoring and processing the death or memories of a loved one that don't take the form of a standard conversation, ways that can also help expand our collective imagination about what it can look like to engage in a healthy way with the cycle of life and death as it moves through the people that we love.