A Gag Order on Grief

 

I listened to a podcast on grief and how in this society death, dying and grief are taboo and people suffer in silence. In my own term I find that grief is silenced to death! It’s a blunt yet gentle podcast called Grief Out Loud.

In this particular episode “Inviting Grief Out Of The Whisper Corner – Megan Devine” the interviewee mentions that there’s such a “gag order on grief” in this culture, which I found a perfect description on how this society deals with grief and grieving people.

Full eposiode:

 

Another “loud” group, The Good Grief Project, was started by grieving couple Jane Harris and Jimmy Edmonds, who lost their 22 year old son Josh in a road accident on his trip in Vietnam. They interviewed other grieving parents and in making documentaries toured UK cinemas last year. In a London cinema they had a Q&A they do at the end of the screening, and Jimmy Edmonds said something striking after an audience member mentioned their struggle with loneliness in their grieving process. Jimmy said that in Victorian times it was common and completely normal to talk about death, dying and grief, but it was taboo to talk about sex, and how today it is the complete opposite.

I personally am tired of being swamped with sex images, sex talk, sex this, sex that… and THE inevitable that WILL come to ALL of us, Death, dying and grief is avoided like the pest! And when a loss finally hits us, we hang on a string fighting for life itself as we can’t cope with the onslaught of grief and shock! We were never taught about death and grief being PART of LIFE! We avoided it, we silence it to death, we treat it as if it is an evil to be shunned!

My own grief was very loud from the get go because of how my brother’s death was communicated, was unclear and was handled! Within weeks and after his funeral, flying back and forth, running errands, taking care of family, but still forced to work, I very quickly went to my doctor. I ask for help early on with referral to counseling, as I knew immediately this was too much to handle on my own or just with friends. It was too big for friends as well of course who soon withdrew. I had to hold it up for my family, remained strong until I broke. And we all went lost, each in our journey. And as I acquainted myself to loss and shock after shock, I buried my dad 3 years after my brother.

What I went through at work in Pret A Manger, I write about extensively on this blog and don’t want to go into, except to say for any new reader that I was bullied during bereavement, which I speak about in detail in the audio player at the bottom of this page and all over my website. But I don’t want to get into this too much in this blog entry here, and want to concentrate on the “gag order on grief” that Megan Devine so poignantly describes.

With everything that unfolded with my brother’s death and the added nightmare at work, my grief was 95% pure anger! I went into a mix of autopilot, functioning like a machine I was conditioned in for so long, the anger turned inward as I felt a huge burden of guilt to have let my brother down. And yet I was crying out for help in all the places from mental health institutions, friends, work, online bereavement groups … everywhere I went I mostly met a brick wall of silence or helplessness, and being passed on to another organization. The online bereavement groups frustrated me because all of them were widows who, many of them lost their partners 10, 20 years ago. But here I was having learned about my brother’s death weeks before and had to listen to widow’s experiences. With all the added stress at work, I went on an emailing-spree like a mad-man goes on a shooting-spree. No-one’s fault.

All the complications that grief and loss brings I went into head first, full force! I was like a headless chicken running around trying to make sense of what happened and all the added turmoil at work. A Twilight Zone opened up, like I was dropped in a land full of aliens and stumbled through a mental war zone, trying to figure out who my ally was. “Enemies” popped up at work. And in a fog I tried to navigate through a mine field where my presence became an inconvenience for my superiors. There was no friendly fire, no accidental shot, there was real ambush and the fight for survival in a toxic work environment.

Workplace bullying is already a hostile attack on ones dignity, but going through this during grief, I can only say that in the beginning ignorance was bliss! As I was in shock and turmoil, and even though I felt early on I was targeted, I kept going while mixing it up, blaming my turmoil on my grief.

My friends became overwhelmed and I don’t blame them. I worked in Pret surrounded by food with daily free food allowance, but lost 25kg in the first 6 months of bereavement. I was overweight but lost 35 – 40kg within a year, as I couldn’t eat and only forced myself half a baguette or one banana a day. I stood on my feet for 6 – 10 hours a day and went for walks hours after work. I couldn’t stop walking, like I was looking for my brother or trying to escape the mine field. I don’t know how I survived, but I felt “intoxicated” with adrenaline to get to the bottom of what happened and punished myself with questions of why I let my brother down!

Friends were at a loss, and all I always tried to say to people: You can’t and shan’t fix things! But please also don’t be scarce! You don’t know what to do, I don’t know what to do, so let’s do the unknown together… But neither of us could.

It’s just in other words how Megan Devine in above episode says:

»I feel like I’m more able to have no answers for things than I used to be. I like to believe that I’ve always been pretty good at holding space for whatever is going on for somebody, both as a friend and [professionally]. What’s different in my own grief [and others’] is, I’m okay to have no response at all other than my presence.«

In their own helplessness some blamed me, and I had to come up with my own empathy for my friends and understanding for a multi-million pound company! One thought always came to mind early on, when I tried to function as if nothing happened, I always thought in my utter loss and shock, “If in grief, comfort your friends”. But I still don’t know how to do that.

Death will come to all of us. Grief already has. And everyone grieves differently and in different times, length and depth, but whatever everyone’s coping mechanism or culture may be, grief cannot be silenced and my survival is to be loud.

 

»Unquiet Grief«

The wind does blow
today my bro

A few small drops
of rain

I’ll never have
such a brother again

In a cold grave
his ashes remain

I’d do as much
for my true blood
as any sibling may

I’ll sit and mourn
all at his thought
Forever and a day

The months and all these days
‘been rough
the dead began
to speak

Oh, who sits weeping
at the thought of me
and will not
let me sleep

It’s me my brother
who weeps at your fate
and will not let you sleep

I crave one hint
of what occurred to you
and that is all I seek

You crave one hint
of what occurred to me
the truth may be
hefty strong

If you’ve one hint from my
cold grave, sis
your time may not
be long

I ponder and wander to the
past so green
and go where we used to play

The finest mem’ry
that has ever been
is broken down to clay

My live has turned to dust
my kin
so will our hearts decay

So make yourself
content, little sis
till God calls you away

— poetrasblok.com

 

In memory of my big brother Thomas

Text: “Unquiet Grave” originated in the 1400s
Adapted “Unquiet Grief”: poetrasblok.com
Music: Kris Drever / LAU

 


 

Interview:

©2019 poetrasblok.com

Unless otherwise stated or linked to, this website and all writings within this site are the property of expret.org, poetrasblok.com, LateNightGirl.org and are protected by copyright and other intellectual property laws. Reproduction and distribution of my writings without written permission is prohibited.

©2017 – Present: expret.org, poetrasblok.com, LateNightGirl.org unless otherwise stated. All Rights reserved. Disclaimer.

Heavy End

 

A thought not on a Happy End, but a thought in the middle of life to feel like it’s the end.

I wonder how much anyone can take at one given time.

I wonder if when ignorance is bliss, maybe trauma has a similar effect. I remember while I was going through bullying during already traumatic bereavement, I sensed in my gut that I was targeted, but because I was so clouded in shock, grief and switched into auto-pilot, it was like “bliss”. I was stumbling around a mess I can only now put together like a puzzle.

I used to feel ashamed for having let a multi-million pound company step all over my dignity. But I should be proud for having stood up against them from within, and now from the outside. I didn’t just do extremely well under the horrific circumstances, I can be and am proud that I stand in one piece, in some way having overcome things I never thought I would see the light at the end. I walked over bridges without jumping off. I am in one piece, even if mentally in a mess.

In 4 years I lost my brother, was bullied at Pret A Manger, lost my job, my father and now am going through a new, and maybe final loss. Because after this one, I shut the door. I can’t take anymore.

Shock, grief, anger, anxiety, hopelessness, pessimism, darkness… have been my closes companions these last 4 years. I don’t know anything else anymore. I am on constant alert. I forgot some things I used to love. I am just on alert until the heavy end. And you just have to go on…

 

CarRIP

 


 

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 CEO Clive Schlee. 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 also tell my story for the first time verbally in this >>>
podcast interview based in California, and wrote a recent article in the Scottish Left Review.
Thank you for reading/listening.

Interview:

 

©2019 expret.org

Unless otherwise stated or linked to, this website and all writings within this site are the property of expret.org, poetrasblok.com, LateNightGirl.org and are protected by copyright and other intellectual property laws. Reproduction and distribution of my writings without written permission is prohibited.

©2017 – Present: expret.org, poetrasblok.com, LateNightGirl.org unless otherwise stated. All Rights reserved. Disclaimer.

DeadDotCommunication

 

12.01.2015

Dear Ms. Sister,
unfortunately I have to bring you sad news.
Mr. Thomas Brother was found dead in his apartment in X-City on 15.12.2014.
From his paper work no next of kin could be determined so that I was appointed as curator for your deceased brother’s estate. …
Your brother has been cremated under order of the city council. Copy of order attached.
His urn has not been buried yet and you can decide where to bury the urn.
Unfortunately I have to also inform you that his estate is in debt and have to therefore advise you to reject the inheritance.
Please inform me of any other family and addresses.
The contact details of the morgue are…
With kind regards,
Mrs. Ice Cold Curator
….

 

 

2017-01-31 Th Kerzen3

 

 

Dear Thomas,

I’m sorry I didn’t reply to your last email, I don’t even know why I didn’t reply. Maybe I expected to see you, but then life just keeps happening and we always assume next time, next time… And maybe I was upset that you couldn’t come to the concert I invited you to. Apart from being busy you were also honest enough to say that this wasn’t your type of music. But I got us on the guest list, with backstage meeting the artist I worked with. I wanted you to be proud of me.

But I have no right to be cross. I didn’t pay much attention to your 20 page business plan you sent me, maybe you wanted me to be proud of you. And I was, but it didn’t cross my mind to say something. I just replied that your business plan looks impressive but reads like Chinese to me as I don’t understand business language. I’m sorry I never told you how impressed I was, how proud that you had the courage to start a business. I could never do that, I’m too cowardly to start something like that. It takes a lot of courage, strength and determination to start a business. I always played it safe, just being employed and do my real passions and hobbies in my private life. You went further and gave it a go. But being employed did me no good after all. And now I don’t even have the courage for regular employment.

Can you believe the email this woman sent? She didn’t try to find out my phone number or mum’s address she lived at for 30+ years, in a country with a high sophisticated ID system where everyone is registered under law. She didn’t email and ask me to phone her or give my phone number and warn or prepare me that I urgently need to get in contact as she had to inform me about you. She just wrote a few sentences in a typical German efficient and straightforward way. No-nonsense, not wasting time, tell it like it is, no mercy. And she made sure she covered everything in one email. I cannot describe the hell, I cannot describe it. A huge hand of a monster thrust inside my gut and ripped it out in one fast move.

Do you know that the next day when I flew over to tell mum that you were gone, I called this woman but she didn’t want to give any more info. She sounded nervous, was upset that I called her at 9pm and said that she had no further information and that her husband is getting impatient in the background.

Do you know why? Why was she so short-cut and angry that I called? I kept calling the police, but they had no answer either. I am still confused. Why did the police handle this so poorly, why could they not give me a clear cause of death and couldn’t answer my list of questions? The only explanation the police guy gave me of why they didn’t do an autopsy was that they ruled out fowl play and suicide, and once they ruled out especially murder, they hand the case back to the coroner and close it on their file. Just like that. They have many cases to work on. A former police detective who was a customer of mine confirmed that if they don’t find anything suspicious, they just close the case as it would otherwise involve too much paper work. He told me that deaths in flats happen more often than we think. I’m sure if one of their family members was found like this, they’d go to town to find the cause. But there weren’t able to tell me what you died of. And they frankly didn’t care.

Everyone since then keeps telling me to not pursue any legal action as this would just add to the turmoil and the police always covers themselves. I had to put puzzle pieces together, with bits and pieces of information from your neighbours, your ex-girl friend C. etc. If you could hear me, I wouldn’t tell you that they sent your urn from your city to mum’s village council via post! Via post, Thomas. I’m sorry, I didn’t know they’d do that in Germany. If I’d knew they send urns via post, I’d made arrangements with the funeral service who arranged the funeral later, to bring it over in a dignified way. No one told me they send urns via post. I didn’t know so many things they’d do. I’m sorry, everything was a mess. Everything. Your three cats survived and they were able to catch two, but the third slipped through the door. I don’t know which one, but your neighbour said that she sees the cat outside sometimes, but it won’t let anyone catch it. I’m sorry your cats went through the six days seeing you lie there.

The police said that they rampaged your apartment. I know how clean you liked it, we had to take our shoes off, like in my place as well. But after you died, the cats just rampaged. They must have been distressed, the mum and her two kitties. The mum-cat in this picture you sent me before she had kittens, I wish I knew where she is. I’m sorry.

 

DSC00221

 

I dislike this country of ours. And if it wasn’t for mum, I’d never return. I buried dad in March, near you.

I saw an amazing play yesterday, Bury the Dead in which six soldiers who fell in a war refused to be buried. They got up from the ground where soldiers were digging out graves, but they just stood up and refused to be buried because they died too young. They died under the lies of the leaders who brainwashed them to fight and die for “honour”.

But they were too young to die and haven’t seen the world yet, or haven’t had the chance to start a family, or couldn’t finish that university degree they started before getting drafted. I wept through half the play and imagined you to refuse to be cremated until we got the news that your corpse was in the cold chamber. But then I thought if they would have found us before cremating you, mum may have wanted to see you. But what does a six day old corpse look like? Once an image is ingrained in the mind, it will never leave.

I wanted her to keep you in memory of this last photo she took of you a year before you died.

 

18 TK ca 2012

 

You look annoyed as usual of her taking photos all the time. I had to forbid mum to go to the police station as they spoke about photos they took when they found you. The way they handled your death and case, I panicked they would show her the photos. Mum was extremely angry that you didn’t have her address and phone number in your flat. I had to explain to her that I don’t have that either as we live in the Internet age and we know her address and number by heart, as she lives there since over 30 years. She slowly accepted that.

I’ve written you many emails since until your account was shut for lack of you logging in and sending emails. I kept writing though and my emails bounced back as if you replied. But getting “Mailer-Daemon” responses wore me out.

Remember when you visited me in London and I showed you around? We took the tube to Tower Bridge and as we walked towards the bridge that was hidden behind the trees you asked me what “castle” this was. I said that this is the Tower Bridge. You asked, “Yes, but what castle is this?” It is the Tower Bridge I repeated. “Yeah, but what’s that castle?” Thomas, this is the Tower Bridge!!! And as we came closer where you could see the full bridge you laughed and looked at me embarrassed “Ah, yeah!”

It was one of the rare occasions that I knew something more than you did, as you were always too smart for me! I beat you on this one! Stupid, I know. I have to think of this every time I am at the Bridge.

 

tower_bridge_tower_garden_moat_view

 

And remember when we sat in the café by Piccadilly Circus and you called mum from your mobile pretending to be in your home? You chatted for a while with her and then just handed the phone over to me to say hi to mum! That surprise surely worked! I asked her several times since you’re gone if she can remember you calling her from London to prank her to think you were calling from your home, but she can’t remember. I don’t know if she blocked it out or if her dementia is getting worse. She’s more forgetful now, you know? But she’s doing okay. We went through rough waters these last four years. It’s normal they say.

All I know now is that I let you down.

And I don’t know how to forgive myself.

Knowing you, I know you’d forgive me, but I can’t forgive myself, Thomas.

I made this silly “video” for you, one of many, but this is the only one with a German artist. He sings about his best friend, Michael, who was like a brother to him. But his friend died. I mixed in another song of a Swiss artist and wrote my text to it. I’m not sure if these would be your taste of music, as our tastes was often very different. I am not into German much but I wanted to use German speaking artists. But you can’t see it, I know. I did it to cope. I messed up in so many ways, Thomas. I can’t forgive myself.

 

 

 

 

3 Months That Are Supposed to be Good

 

November, December, January have become months I’ve come to dislike.

I was moving around these past days and weeks extremely down and tried to figure out why several consecutive days I am just very low. It’s not the weather, I love October and November, and fog. My heart is tight and heavy as if something is suffocating the life out of it. On the verge of a panic attack, I seek quiet places. Anytime, in random places I tear up, just out of the blue.

I realized that on 19.10.2014 I received my brother’s last email. And I never replied.

He was supposed to meet me for a concert in November. But he couldn’t make it. He wished me to have fun, till later. I didn’t see the need to respond and assumed I’d seen him anyway while I was visiting Germany. But I got distracted and as he was busy anyway, didn’t even think to call him. Maybe I was disappointed that he couldn’t make it. I don’t know.

On 12. January 2015 I learned via an email that he was found dead in his apartment on 15. December 2015, approximate day of death 09.12.2014. No clear cause of death. No autopsy. They supposedly couldn’t find us and after a while just cremated him.

And I made the biggest mistake that I can see in hindsight. After flying back and forth for funeral, errand, family, investigating… I kept working as my savings dried out and without support couldn’t afford to take off. In hindsight I should have taken off at least six months to a year instead of flying back and forth and with the horrific experience in Pret on top.

I was in a fog, on autopilot, in a Twilight Zone, like a Zombie.

Three years of emotional horror while trying to pull myself together, but falling more and more apart. Guilt, regrets, self-doubt, everything kept crushing again and again into me like a building collapsing again and again.

After my ordeal in Pret, my father was submitted into intensive care, in a three week coma in November 2017. At the end of December 2017 with my dad just woken from his coma I was fired from Pret. Autopilot again, guilt, regret, existential fears … flying back and forth again to work and be by his side, back to London to look for work, back to my dad, back to London … back to Germany to bury him as he didn’t recover.

November, December, January, February my brother’s birthday, March, my father’s death. I want to cut some months out of the calendar. I shut everything down, most things and people that meant something to me, I shut down.

My heart is tight and heavy, and I feel any moment an anxiety attack is approaching. But I have learned to not fear them so they don’t come heavy. Just ride it out, the doctor said the heart is perfectly capable to handle it. It’s not physical. If it wouldn’t have been for my mum being alive, I don’t know if I would be here right now.

To anyone reading this who knows me personally, I have said it many times, but I want to apologize again for letting people down. It’s not you, you know that.

 

 

Unquiet Grief (re-written / music: LAU)

 

 

animated-candle-gif-29

 

 

 

©2018 poetrasblok.com

Unless otherwise stated or linked to, this website and all writings within this site are the property of poetrasblok.com, LateNightGirl.org and are protected by copyright and other intellectual property laws. Reproduction and distribution of my writings without written permission are prohibited.

©2017 – 2018 poetrasblok.com, LateNightGirl.org unless otherwise stated. All Rights reserved. Disclaimer.

Before they mute my response to Pret’s CEO regarding Death…

 

Not good enough, Pret!! Not good enough!

Some of my tweets have been muted lately since the news broke of the girl who died (in 2016 already) from a Pret baguette due to allergy.

Before my response is deleted or muted again, here it is again.

Pret has absolutely NO excuse for this!

What I wrote in the tweet regarding “going the extra mile”, “striving for perfection”, “doing the right thing naturally”….

These are slogans, suggestions, requests and demands Pret has in place for staff. These always bothered me because Pret is not living up to their own demands.

Shortly after my brother’s death and mistreatment in the middle of grief, my suggestions since May 2015 to Pret’s HR department regarding staff treatment, especially of the bereaved have not only been ignored, but I have been bullied on top of it. Only when I involved Clive Schlee, CEO (who later labeled me his “late night girl”) did some support start, but a lot of it was to cover Pret’s own back. A lot was “Pret-entious”!

The bullying which became more subtle later on in the middle of my already traumatic bereavement have made me mentally ill with my emailing, which I extensively explain in other blog entries and how my ordeal started.

I still may be too naïve to have hopes that Pret TRULY can change direction if they put their priorities right. But I firmly believe Pret’s toxic and corrupt HR department needs a serious re-vamping in new leadership, as well as a new CEO who doesn’t just sweet-talk their way out of a disaster or tragedy when Pret gets caught “doing the wrong thing naturally”!

My response to Pret’s CEO as it may be deleted or muted like it was done with some of the other tweets:

 

2018-09-28 MY Response 2 Clive BBC2

 

Link to Tweet

 

Dear Clive Schlee and Pret,

I still have hopes that you change direction regarding work conditions, true customer care, quality of training staff to assist customers… away from your well oiled PR(et) machine and truly live up to your slogans. Not just for customers, but also  for staff, as we all are human beings, sir, not staff as work-machines and robots or customers as piggy banks for your millions.

For the sake of many who suffered to the point of even becoming suicidal, as well as for the public, that is becoming aware of the negligence in Pret which is not an isolated incidence.

Selected Quotes from staff complaints.

Sincerely,

Your Late Night Girl

 

©2018 LateNightGirl.org

 

Unless otherwise stated or linked to, this website and all writings within this site are the property of poetrasblok.com, LateNightGirl.org and are protected by copyright and other intellectual property laws. Reproduction and distribution of my writings without written permission are prohibited.

©2017 – 2018 poetrasblok.com, LateNightGirl.org unless otherwise stated. All Rights reserved. Disclaimer.

 

When His Ash was Still Warm

 

I must have been asleep
or working in the heated environment
of Pret A Manger
where there is no break from
customers
or bullying managers

My brother’s ashes must have just
come out of the furnace
when I had lunch, maybe?
Or was I at a concert?

I know that I was at a gig of
Piers Faccini on the 8th Dec. 2014
in London
a day before my brother
supposedly died + – a day or so
in Germany

I got a letter from court
two days ago
from the court in the city
where my family lives
reminding me after their
initial letter from April
to inform them
of my brother’s address
to be informed
of my dad’s last will
that he made 30 years ago
when we were kids

And I’m still thinking
why I am so fooled to believe
in a German system of efficiency
and registry

And I want to burn my German ID card
as it is of no use to find next of kin
should I just be burned after leaving

I decided not to answer the court
that wasted their postage on me
because they are the Law
they are a court
that need to get up and
investigate properly

My brother’s ashes are cold now
and I have come accustomed to
the tough soil
after 3+ years
that I was burning in grief
after I heard the news
and desperately trying
to unburn him
while being chased
and shoved around
abandoned
and torched with scorn
left on the wayside
at Pret A Manger

And I have nothing to give
not even a thought

My mind is empty
of any thought

 

 
©2018 poetrasblok.com 

 

 

Bild010_Neg.Nr.11

 

 

Unless otherwise stated or linked to, this website and all writings within this site are the property of poetrasblok.com, LateNightGirl.org and are protected by copyright and other intellectual property laws. Reproduction and distribution of my writings without written permission are prohibited.

©2017 – 2019 poetrasblok.com, LateNightGirl.org unless otherwise stated. All Rights reserved. Disclaimer.

 

The Cost of Systemic Workplace Bullying – 2

 

As I tend to not want to waste time as life is short and no-one is guaranteed another second on this earth, I went straight into the ultimate cost of systemic workplace bullying in my first post, the cost of life. Death by suicide.

In this second post I want to highlight a precursor to suicide: mental health, mental illness in all its forms.

What bullying does to mental health and how I am experiencing it in my struggle to recover is very simple.

 

pexels-photo-278303

 

Systemic bullying sends a distorted and twisted message to the mind.

In a nutshell, if you are in a room with 10 people and 1 person is treating you disrespectfully or attacks you, while 9 people treat you kindly and respectfully, you think to yourself ‘What’s wrong with that person?’

If you are in a room with ten people and 1 person is treating you respectfully and kind, while 9 people treat you with contempt, disrespectfully, attack or exclude you, you think to yourself ‘What’s wrong with me?’

That is what systemic bullying does to the mind and mental health.

Systemic bullying from a group is like democracy gone wrong!

It is not always the majority that is right! It is the majority that is set up of individuals who have their own set of “values”. They have little to no values and principles that are universal and that robs them of courage, blinding them to opportunities to make a positive, and sometimes even life-saving difference.

 

pexels-photo-568021

 

One of my favourite poems by Emily Dickinson, which I interpret in my own way and a favourite poem in general, always reminds me to chose my crowd carefully:

 

The Soul selects her own Society —
Then — shuts the Door —
To her divine Majority —
Present no more —

Unmoved — she notes the Chariots — pausing —
At her low Gate —
Unmoved — an Emperor be kneeling
Upon her Mat —

I’ve known her — from an ample nation —
Choose One —
Then — close the Valves of her attention —
Like Stone — 

 --- Emily Dickinson

 

I choose my society based on the values that I have. And if a majority chooses to bully an individual or a certain people group, then there is something wrong at the foundation of the values and principles of that majority.

If a company does not have a clear zero tolerance on workplace bullying, than I question the foundation on which this company builds their “values” on.

Mental illness is the cost of systemic bullying and is the precursor to suicide.

Is this really the legacy and the cost a company is willing to have on their record, as I believe things will always come to light sooner or later, unless it is dealt with from the root at top levels.

 

Bullying at work

 

©2018 LateNightGirl.org

 

Unless otherwise stated or linked to, this website and all writings within this site are the property of poetrasblok.com, LateNightGirl.org and are protected by copyright and other intellectual property laws. Reproduction and distribution of my writings without written permission are prohibited.

©2017 – 2019 poetrasblok.com, LateNightGirl.org unless otherwise stated. All Rights reserved. Disclaimer.

 

Dying to a Common Veil

 

Since my brother died there is now a “before” and “after” his death. Before his death, apart from having had a normal life (whatever “normal” means, probably anything that is known and accepted by a majority as well as being familiar to us), I had a job, friends, projects, beliefs, dreams, flaws, hopes, bills, problems, ideas, family, a sense of security and belonging … I also had this subconscious assumption that things that are out of my league, be it emotional or physical, only happen to other people.

 

05 Thomas CouchBett Urlaub CROP

Yes, Thomas, make your faces. You beat me on this one!

 

Whatever we dread, that may be out of our league is different for everyone, and yet certain things are very common. I could not handle what others are able to handle, and others may not be able to cope with what I have to cope with. But whatever that monster for everyone is, we subconsciously assume that this would not, cannot, and will not happen to us. Not in our wildest dreams.

I have been to many funerals in my life, my first funeral was when I was about 10 or 11 when my paternal grandmother died. It was surreal to me of course, because I cannot remember my parents having explained to us kids why she died. But I remember having had this strong logical acceptance that this was normal, that when “people” get old, they die. That was that. No questions asked.

Apart from that, I didn’t grow up with my grandparents, neither the parents of my mother nor the parents of my father, as we lived in another state from relatives and both sets of grandparents did not approve of my parents getting married as both families had different religious denominations. At the post-war times, and certainly before that, in the 1950s / 60s and further there was this strong division and identity in the two major Christian denominations of Catholics and Protestants. And even though I was raised in the Atheist “belief” that there is no God, my grandparents on both sides just went through the religious notion, without really living any values of faith, as long as they had some kind of belonging to an institutionalized organization that brought structure, tradition and routine into everyone’s lives. It was still a no-go then for a Catholic to marry a Protestant and vice versa. So, I had no close relationship to my grandparents and their passing was “just” what happens to old people.

But my parents were true rebels ahead of their time, which when growing up frustrated me, but in hindsight I am proud of them defying stale traditions and daring to take a different route. But as a kid I felt left out because all my school friends went through their communion or confirmation, which only meant they got lots of money and presents! On our birth-certificates and passports in the section where it states our religion / denomination, it simply says: None. So, we kids hardly had contact with both our sets of grandparents, except for that last “point of contact” at funerals. Sad, but true.

My paternal grandfather died a few years later when I was around 13. Again logical. He was old, he lived his life, he died. And then when I was 15 a friend from school died when he was hit by a car while riding his bicycle. That was my first shock encounter of premature death, but again, he wasn’t that close of a friend, even though we hung out with a group of friends on the day he lost his life. He died shortly before midnight on the eve of his 15th birthday on the operating table in A&E.

I remember the next day when we heard the news from our teachers in every classroom, my brother and I later at home were wondering if our friend would still have the hairspray in his hair, as he always wore hairspray as the only boy we knew. It must have been our shock reaction that was pondering that once someone dies and his soul “disappears”, whatever they are wearing, hairspray, perfume… disappears, too. The scent and the glue of life on the body just disintegrating immediately when the soul and spirit leaves the body. It was our shock reaction because we were with him and other friends just hours before the accident and his death. The whole school, it seemed, came to the funeral, again very surreal, but I was able to keep his death at a distance again, hiding myself in the crowd of funeral guests and the group of friends.

And then another shock of an ex-boyfriend who died of suicide. I haven’t had contact with him for 10+ years, and apart from us having been teenagers in our clumsy way of being boyfriend / girlfriend as kids, I had a lot of distance to him by the time he died and the effect of his death and circumstances I was able to cope with.

In the years to follow several more deaths happened of acquaintances, maternal grandparents, an uncle I’ve never met, friends of friends, most of old age or cancer. Funerals that became part of life, a routine, a courtesy to attend. It was all a reality that was kept at a distance from my fenced-in security. I moved on and matured from the simple accepted reality that people die when they are old to a new reality and acceptance, that people die when they are young, too. Okay, but being the “realist” that I am, I had to come up with a new coping mechanism that was to reassure me, that this still does not apply to me personally. My reality, my illusion, my subconscious fear and desire was kept behind a veil that blinded me until the scales where ripped from my eyes.

And I know I am not the only person who is covered and blinded by that veil. In these last painful years I had to come to realize firsthand how cruel it is to have been falsely protected and plainly lied to in this society we live in, that holds the truth and reality away from us. The founders of The Good Grief Project Jimmy Edmonds and Jane Harris, parents of Joshua who died aged 22 while traveling in Vietnam, faced this brutal reality head on! They make beautiful and relevant films out of their grief, and in support of other bereaved parents. They recently toured with their documentary, “A Love That Never Dies” the UK cinemas in the summer of 2018. In the Q&A of the London screening I was privileged to be in the viewing audience in May 2018, Jimmy Edmonds commented that in Victorian times it was very normal in conversations to speak about death and dying, but it was absolute taboo to speak and mention anything about sex. And today it is the complete opposite!

No wonder we drift away like emotional corpses ourselves when a premature or any kind of death occurs in our lives. The death of my brother was not straight forward and has no clear answers, lots and lots of speculations, opinions and mostly questions which made it even more unbearable and traumatic. Not to mention HOW the news of his death was delivered.

But the reality that death IS part of life and that it happens to all of us, at any time and most brutally it happens to those we most hold dear. It happens for any and no reason, in gracious age and traumatic ways and unfair premature ages with little or no explanation. It happens to the best of people, and not “just” to those who we think deserve it. None of us is safe from any circumstances, time, expected, unexpected, acceptable and unacceptable forms of death.

 

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None of us is guaranteed that we will have an opportunity to say “Good bye”, to say for one last time, or even for the first time, “I love you” or “Thank you for having been my friend” or “Remember when we were kids and stole the cherries from the neighbours tree and ripped our pants on the fence running away when the neighbour chased us?” or “Yes, I promise I will take care of your kids” or “We will arrange the funeral and the music exactly how you wish”…

We are robbed of the reality and chance to deal with death in a normal way from an early age, which then catapults us deeper and much worse into trauma when death actual hits us out of nowhere, unprepared and incapable to deal with this reality. We are not prepared out of false comfort and political correctness to keep our lives thriving, young, healthy, successful, smiley. Just don’t bother us with this eternal reality. And then to face our own mortality is another ballgame altogether.

This is why it is so important and timely that people like Jimmy Edmonds and Jane Harris are courageously and openly presenting this reality in such a beautiful and creative way.

There is a way to take the veil off and die to a false “life” that doesn’t last. A veil that aims to blind and falsely protect us from the reality we all face, and look at death in a healthy and authentic way. Since we can’t avoid it, why postpone preparing for it and with it leave the bereaved person behind, traumatized and alone and in our grief drown in hopelessness and paralyzing fear?

This video by The Good Grief Project is a very personal and also beautiful portrayal of a family and friends in how they deal with the unexpected and premature death of their loved one, Joshua. They conducted and arranged the funeral by themselves and even built the coffin themselves. It is not a gloomy or depressing video documenting grief and saying good bye. It is a very personal and gracious way in how a funeral can also have a rightful place in celebrating a life while saying good bye.

I still have to find my own way to celebrate my brother, as his death, the learning of the news and the funeral was a chaos, with an indifferent police not having bothered to find the cause of death nor thoroughly look for next of kin, but being very efficient in cremating my brother before reaching us! No chance, no choice for us to decide what we want to do with his body. And the process of getting his urn and conducting his funeral was a fogged up occasion of autopilot and disorganization. I felt then and still feel that I did not give him the funeral he deserved. It was the first funeral of a “significant” death and the first I had to help organize. And no matter how many funerals I was part of before, I was utterly lost in how to do this while also trying to protect and hold up my mother. And not to mention after that the postponing and complication of my grief due to work-related bullying and mistreatment on top of my loss! I survived just about to now write about it.

At times I watch this video below and know that I can accept how it went for my brother, as I did the best I could under the circumstances and time frame. In Germany it is against the law to have and keep the ashes and urn of a loved one. Urns are kept by the council and only released to the funeral conductor, but at the funeral I just grabbed my brother’s urn out of the hands of the funeral director and carried whatever was left of him in my arms to his grave. I had to let go, not being allowed for health and safety reasons to lower his urn into the dug-out hole myself. That last part the funeral director had to do. And I have my own celebration for my big brother in my heart and have no choice to leave it like it is.

That’s why creative people like The Good Grief Project is such a breath of fresh air and a great inspiration to me and many others.

 

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Please watch this video below and don’t be afraid of it. As painful as this is even to observe or witness, this is a very hopeful project Jimmy and Jane have started out of their own grief, helping countless others who are faced with a sudden or even expected death. As paradox as it sounds, but their project is a celebration of life.

Thank you for reading and thank you for watching the memory and celebration of a beautiful young man by his family.

 

Remembering Josh (Longer version of “Beyond Goodbye”)

 

In memory of my big brother, Thomas (1969 – 2014) – and – my Father (1939 – 2018).

 

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©2018 LateNightGirl.org

 

Unless otherwise stated or linked to, this website and all writings within this site are the property of poetrasblok.com, LateNightGirl.org and are protected by copyright and other intellectual property laws. Reproduction and distribution of my writings without written permission are prohibited.

©2017 – 2019 poetrasblok.com, LateNightGirl.org unless otherwise stated. All Rights reserved. Disclaimer.

 

In Germany they send Urns via Post

 

And the postal service in Germany is very reliable and on time. German efficiency, hey?

What is it with an efficient country like Germany that has a well working ID system to find anyone’s relatives, anywhere who is registered in their system, to then not bother finding next of kin of a loved one who died?! Not finding a mother who’s address and phone number has been the same since 30+ years, safely tucked in the ID system, but she couldn’t be found?!

And what is it with this highly sophisticated system to then cremate my brother without our consent?!!

And what qualitative organized people, after they finally find one family member, then give the message of my brother’s death via email?!

And what highly educated people of this efficient country later sends his urn via post?!!

Where did they lose their emotional intelligence?! Did they ever have any?! What school taught them the art of stepping on dignity like this?!

I received a second letter recently from the court in my family’s town that deals with inheritance issues, since my father died in March this year. The court asked me again to provide contact details of my brother, whose ashes are in this urn because of the last will of our dad that is registered and stored with this court. I have decided since this efficient system didn’t bother to find and inform us in time of my brother’s death and then just cremated him and allow a system that sends urn via postal service, that this efficient system needs to do their homework properly to find my brother. Dead.

 

 

TK Urn

 

An Urn is an even Smaller Domain

 

An Urn is an even smaller Domain

Not able to contain

A Heart once beating

A Life so beaten down to diminished Pain

 

A Rock is a restricted Lot

Yet better than a Stone

A Poor Man’s Plot

Forgotten not, and yet it stands alone

 

To Him who at His cumbrous Door

Bestowed His final Breath

Circumstances know we not

Nor Estimated Death.

 

— ©LateNightGirl

 

Inspired by Emily Dickinson’s poem:

 

A Coffin — is a small Domain,

Yet able to contain

A Citizen of Paradise

In it diminished Plane.

 

A Grave — is a restricted Breadth —

Yet ampler than the Sun —

And all the Seas He populates

And Lands He looks upon

 

To Him who on its small Repose

Bestows a single Friend —

Circumference without Relief —

Or Estimate — or End —

 

— Emily Dickinson

 

TK candles

Thomas, I’m sorry we’ve let you down

 

 

Unless otherwise stated or linked to, this website and all writings within this site are the property of poetrasblok.com, LateNightGirl.org and are protected by copyright and other intellectual property laws. Reproduction and distribution of my writings without written permission are prohibited.

©2017 – 2019 poetrasblok.com, LateNightGirl.org unless otherwise stated. All Rights reserved. Disclaimer.