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Death Cafe


are also traumas

Embed themselves

in our bodies

May be surprising or shocking

after several years

That you're still living it

almost as if it's the same day

Immediate kind of rawness

when something first happens

Like the top layers of your skin

have come off

Ebbs and flows, not linear

Comes and goes

in waves.


Can't always know

when it's going to happen

or kick into you

Seasonal, certain times of year

you feel more connected,


at the same time,


just out of nowhere.


He didn't tell anybody for three days

To this day, he still doesn’t understand

what he was going through

He had support systems in place

but chose not to tell anyone

Not his partner, not managers,



He got the call,

it happened.

He was working from home

He put the phone down and

continued working.

The weekend rolled on,

he didn't tell anybody.


He’s not even sure

about how he felt on the day,

still a year later, he doesn’t know

A lot of question marks

Not knowing how you feel

on the day

An overwhelming feeling

Fries your brain.


Just going about your day

Making a cup of tea

On autopilot

You're at Tesco’s,

you're buying lettuce

‘Oh yeah, my mother died’

A ball can drop very rapidly

Those moments,

those very everyday moments

Cognitive dissonance,

being on autopilot,

survivalism kicks in.


Mum has gone

but I must carry on

I'm programmed to carry on.

Yet, I’ve learned that

my heart beats

for another person

When that person's gone

my body and my soul

must readjust

to existing

without their presence

Half of me




I ask myself,

‘How long do I have to grieve for?’

There is no timeline, my heart

is still learning to beat

without the other person’s.


I'm in a supermarket

I'm buying salad,

my brain will try and repair

my body and my mind,

adjusted  to going on

with this presence

but it's gone


with no wheels.


She hadn't seen her mother

for many years

Many different flavours of reaction


enormous relief, actually

Layers of  ‘Am I even allowed to feel this?’


If only I had,

if only I'd

said something that day

If only I'd sent a message.


Reading your diaries

in public

Writing poetry

Art therapist

A creative process

to charter the way that I'm coping

Remembering what that person

meant to me,

all the things they've given me

upon close inspection.


That person lives

through me

day to day

Still with me



and appreciate what that person is

Who you are because of them,

or not because of them.

How do we embody them today?


The heart

and the soul,

there's a residue,

For the first few years

after her mother had died,

in the run up to her birthday,

she’d still go to the shops

and look at the things

that she would have bought her

Not buy them,

but still go through that process

and think about it,

because they're the things

as well that she’s lost.

Around thinking about someone

and the care that's always been there.


She just couldn't,

She couldn't literally continue.

Her whole life breaking down,

she’s had to build

her whole life back up

And it's happened

in such a painful,

but in such an incredible way

that she could never have imagined,

His death has given her

this incredible gift of her new life

But she wish he hadn't died.


Two opposing feelings,

do not have to not fit together,

It doesn't have to be a conflict.

We are given a one-size-fits-all

way of grieving

People say, ‘oh you do this,

then you do this, and you do this,

and you do this, and it's... ‘

already patterned.


People boil it down to,

‘oh, you're going to feel sad,

and you're going to feel less sad,

and you're going to feel less sad,

and you're going to feel okay’

It's never linear,

it ebbs and flows,

it goes in waves,

it’s all kinds of feelings

that are not talked about.


Checklists for

how to arrange a funeral

You print them off,

it will say you call this person,

 you do this, and you arrange this,

and you pay this, go through it

very linearly

You can go through it

one by one,

tick, tick, tick, tick, tick

At the end, there should be a

‘now you just go and figure it out

on your own’ box

‘And now live’ box.


He wishes there was a recipe

that he could follow

You do three months of this,

and you do two months of this,

and you do a month of this

Getting grief wrong,

having a one-size-fits-all

doesn't work

But at the same time, he wishes

that there was a one-size-fits-all,

because then he could understand,

and then he could do it,

and it would be done.

Because within a framework,

he feels safer

He knows the boundaries,

he understands when it starts,

when it ends

Thinking that it ends

It doesn't fucking end

It's never going to fucking end.


Just allowing it to be,

stop trying to intellectualise it

stop trying to find an answer,

Or try to make sense,

a rational sense of it


It must make sense,

everything makes sense

and nothing makes sense

because actually

I hold myself to this standard

I'm a logical human being,

and that is a contradiction

in and of itself

Humans are not logical

We are emotional

so why am I trying to

figure this out

when it is impossible?

It is unexplainable

There is no reason, 


or rationalisation.


Feel angry.


His mum's death anniversary

is coming up in August

The last couple of years 

he decided to go to work


To feel like his life

hasn't been ripped apart

That memory of his life

falling apart and rupturing.



Finding the language.

I always felt

when it first happened,

and still now,

there are certain feelings that I have

and experiences that I go through

I just cannot find the language for.

Or I don't want to,

this is so immense

There's nothing

that neatly puts it

into a term.

If I say this word,

people go,

‘I know what that means’

It's like just looking around

to have something

which you cannot put

into language

When people try to empathise,

experience, but you cannot equate.


Why don’t we have a word?

We have ‘birthday’

We don’t have ‘deathday’

Suggesting terms,

every one feels so weird

We deserve a day

She says she

deserves a day

to refer to the day

her dad died

without it being

a whole big thing

Without her having to

flip through the thesaurus

to find the least offensive

or triggering word

for the people around

He wonders if there are

words in other cultures.

‘Anniversary of their passing’

She wants a

one-off term,

a single word.


Scream crying

Letting go of

any resistance

any ideas of how we should behave

any ideas of how others would react to that

Allow myself to

Exist in my grief, pain and devastation

Let my body express that

Allowing myself

A beautiful thing.

Watching myself cry

Stops any ideas

of other people’s opinions

Crying in front of a mirror

to see myself as a person

I hold myself at higher standards

than I do others

Thoughts in my head,

very self-critical

Speaking those thoughts

out loud

I am not as critical

I’m vocalising it

I’m talking to another person

(me in the mirror)

I would never be

that cruel to another person

When I look in the mirror

I treat myself

like a person

as opposed to me

I treat myself with

the respect

the love

the compassion

that I deserve

as a human being


Comparative grief

‘My trauma is worse than yours’

If someone were able to quantify,

they may have been like,

‘Yes, this experience equates very well to this person’

This is not helpful

Your grief exists

Please do not try

and put your grief

next to mine,

because I feel minimised.

You may not be intending that,

but please,

it feels dismissive

Wanting to express yourself

through writing and performance.

People have been expressing

feelings of grief

for about as long

as we've had

human language

But it's one of the things I feel

that we just can't articulate

However much language

we have for these feelings,

you cannot articulate it in a tone

It's beyond,

it's way beyond

You can't intellectualise it,

but you also can't articulate it.


So, I expressed my grief

in a sound the other day

The idea was in song,

but it wasn't that at all

It was just sounding.

And it was very guttural

And it was very mournful

And loud

And long

And that felt brilliant

to express it fully,

without the restrictions

of language.


Workshop on vocal Tai Chi,

singing what comes up

and using your body to move with it

30, 40 seconds on the mic

as we passed it around

And all of us were like,

‘WOW! I feel like I've learned

so much of your story

There were no words at all.

But I felt it all

I know it

And not all of it

I know there's so much more,

but so much depth was portrayed in that’

And yeah,

it felt open without

the limitations of language.


◄ Memory Scents

Posh Nosh (with audio recording) ►


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Graham Sherwood

Sun 23rd Jun 2024 11:58

A mammoth and comprehensive litany of emotions. What poetry does best!

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