I wasn’t a fan of Ricky Gervais. I know he must be funny because he’s big in Hollywood, and I am German, I don’t have humour! I am more a Robin Williams person, or Russell Brand with his fast brain, thinking around 7 corners at the same time, and yet bringing it all together to make sense, sort of…
But what is it with comedians that portray serious and devastating life issues with such conviction?! Sure, isn’t it always the Clown who in reality suffers depression, is suicidal and may be shy in real life? It certainly takes a sensitive person who experienced life in the different facets. Or if personal loss hasn’t graced them yet, observe closely and understand pain even without having to suffer that particular pain. Clowns who can interpret life from all angles in order to be funny and believable!
And it always fascinates me how humans work. I get blocked on Twitter of course, due to my Pret rants. I do these “drive-by” Tweets where someone comments on Pret. And as fast as I drop into the conversation, I drop out again. I do this, because time is short and conversations keep going on. Silly, I know! But I’m like a politician who’s going from door to door knocking. I’m not running for an office, I run an online-marathon of raising awareness of Pret A Manger where two customer deaths were not acted upon until they became public, and where I ask for independent investigations into staff deaths including suicides. How people “vote” in their decision on what they learn, is up to them.
Sometimes the blocks are completely justified because I came across rude, certainly angry etc. Other times, actually the majority of the blocking, is due to simply how bold my Twitter profile is. At times I just “like” a Tweet and boom I get blocked, never having posted to or with the person. I bluntly mention in the few characters Twitter gives me that my brother died and I was bullied in Pret. I know, I know, a great downer from the get go!! What people don’t understand is, that I am not looking for friends or a following. I am very grateful for the support and the people who do follow, especially when they keep following even during my flip-outs! THOSE are the followers/friends/people I care to know. And the conversations that are happening in the background, positive or negative, people don’t see. Thank God!
At one time in a drunken stupor I blocked everyone, kicked all out, unblocked them again because it wasn’t against them personally, I was just overwhelmed with 30 followers that I didn’t even know! I had worse flip-out since my brother died and lost a lot of friends. But what always fascinates me is that some people who block me, because I am too blunt or loud about my story, these same “blockers” follow people like Ruby Wax, Russell Brand and famous people who have had horrific mental pain and/or a serious drug “career” behind them.
They’ve been to the bottom and back. And when they were unknown, I’m sure no-one would have wanted to be around them, let alone follow them on social media. But now, they’re millionaires and turned their trauma and healing into a career. Now they’re funny and they explain hell in a heavenly way! Death, grief, trauma, drug addiction is sanitized now. Now they are popular, it’s acceptable, even desirable to be “wacky”. We follow success. We don’t want to know the people WHILE they are in the mess! Just tell us how crazy you were in your past, we want to know once you are good again! Alright!?
So, I stumbled over this Netflix series with Ricky Gervais, who’s the brains behind, and all the main parts in it again. I saw this Tweet two days ago while I was searching hashtags. A bereaved mother mentioned Gervais’ “Afterlife” series under the #TraumaticGrief hashtag.
I don’t have Netflix anymore, as I unsubscribed from everything including Amazon. But the few snippets of this series are enough to be 1. devastated that it takes the film industry again to 2. understand what bereaved and traumatized people go through!! It takes a film again to show how torturous loss and grief is. No, it’s no excuse to be outrageously rude to people. It’s not about a license to offend, but it’s high time that the subject of grief, trauma, all the messy complications of it are talked about. People die by suicide. It’s called the “silent killer”.
“In 2017, 5,821 suicides were recorded in Great Britain. Of these, 75% were male and 25% were female.” – MentalHealth.org.uk
“Suicide is the single biggest killer of men aged under 45 in the UK.” – TheCalmZone.net
“In the UK, the highest suicide rate was for men aged 45-49.” – Samaritans
So, what does that mean, that we should go around offending people so we won’t kill ourselves? It’s not about a license, it’s about understanding how grief and trauma sometimes manifests. And even though “Afterlife” is dramatized and also polished up, the messiness isn’t as extreme as it is in real life, I understand that the subject has to be accessible for “regular” mortals. One step at a time! And even though I haven’t seen the whole season, I think Gervais succeeded here! And it took someone like Ricky Gervais to do this, so people feel “safe” to test the waters of what will come to all of us eventually.
In our society we push people back into the grief-closet! We love to look with pity on the grieving mother, as long as she’s nice and quiet, hidden away at home. We love her few, little, quiet tears. We offer to be there for her if she needs anything. And we damn right mean it! And she must be okay, because she never calls. And if she goes around offending people, well hell yeah, she’s a bad and rude person! She’s out of line! Get back in line! Get a grip lady! How dare she dump her pain on us! We have lives to live and kids to raise. Don’t bother us with death and grief!
What hit me most from roaming through the various “Afterlife” clips is the one thing that Ricky Gervais says, which was exactly how I felt. Ricky’s character lost his wife to breast cancer. His trauma and pain is so unbearable for him. He turns to cynicism, and it leads him to lash out at anyone with the vilest, darkest, yet colourful barrage of insults. I never used the F-Word until my brother died! I can relate! He offends anyone, except a fellow widow and his dad who suffers dementia. I can also relate. One of the things he says to his therapist in a nutshell is, that when everything fails, he still has his “superpower”, the option to end his life.
When I started publicly to name Pret A Manger and how Pret, under CEO Clive Schlee and their toxic HR department has bullied me during the darkest time of my life, I did with Plan B in mind. I had nothing to lose but life itself. And life that I have is no life. It’s just a blob of existence waiting to end. My full story in the interview at the bottom of this page, but Pret gaslighting me, communicated that my emailing was wrong. Yet, they were having a laugh and stepped all over me from the very top senior leaders using even HQ personnel. When I started naming Pret I was shaking in fear, but I didn’t care anymore. What Ricky Gervais called his “superpower” was my Plan B. I can always end it all and almost did in 2015/16…
I am not advising people to have this strategy for themselves in order to cope with grief, pain and trauma. But it was just how it was for me. And in “Afterlife” Gervais portrays this brilliantly! Everything has stopped for him. Nothing matters anymore. We might as well now do whatever comes to mind.
After having followed all the rules, paid our taxes, loved our closest ones, worked hard, played by the book… with all the imperfections and failings, it all didn’t mean anything in the end… Suicide is the last Superpower and control of a broken person who’s had the foundation underneath their feet pulled away from them!
And maybe sometimes it’s better to watch a film or series like “Afterlife” and scrap all the therapy business!
For anyone who is suicidal, or knows someone who is, and doesn’t feel life is worth living, if you are in or close to London UK, please check out these two charities that support people who are suicidal. They give one-on-one sustained support:
Maytree – Brief intro on YouTube.
The Listening Place – Intro on Vimeo.
I can vouch for the Listening Place from own experience.
So, I have to find myself a way to view “Afterlife”. And I will NOT do a “viewer discretion advised” warning for the YouTube trailer here even though indirectly I just did! But we are not given permission, nor discretion advise when we are born. I had no “viewer discretion” when I received the message of my brother’s death AND cremation via email. I assume that no child under 18 is reading my blog, but if they do, welcome to my blog! Thanks for stopping by. For the rest, I know you Christians out there are big boys and girls, you can handle this.
Thank you Ricky Gervais and everyone involved in this, for your courage to take a shot at this taboo subject that is death, grief, trauma and all the mess of it.
If anyone has Netflix, please check this out. If it is as good as I subject it is, could you feedback? I won’t go back into subscribing to anything in the near future. I lean towards becoming an old woman planting trees.
I worked at Pret A Manger for almost 10 years and survived systemic workplace bullying during bereavement that involved HR, the top leadership, HQ and even the now “retired” former CEO Clive Schlee. I declined 4 settlement offers if I am silent about my ordeal. But I rather starve and speak out to help others. For an overview of important blog entries of my experience with Pret, please visit “My Ordeal with Pret A Manger”. The little arrow to the right next to each heading will lead directly to the post.
I tell my story for the first time verbally in below audio player interview on a podcast by The Adam Paradox, and wrote an article in the Scottish Left Review.
Thank you for reading/listening.
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