It’s not often I read something that hits me like a scene out of batman- POW! ,AIEEE!,THWAKE! But yesterday I did .
For those interested ,it was page 8 of The Sunday Times supplement and was entitled ”I feel a responsibility to see what grief looks like” .A Decca Aitkenhead interview with Rob Delaney -stand up comedian and writer and star of the sitcom Catastrophe. Sarah and I went to see him live in 2016 and he was pants – all is now forgiven .His son ,Henry was dying after being diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour .
Like his humour , he is blunt , direct , honest and so much of what he said resonated with me and made me feel much less of a failure/ sad lonely person / bitter ,twisted old bag .If the truth be known , I do not think I am bitter twisted person , but the so-called friends I have tried to talk to about their lack of understanding , have spun my honesty so much , they have thrown these doubts back into my face . It’s very easy to say ”I can’t get anything right , therefore I’ll stay away ” , as opposed to ” I miss you , I care for you .How can I help ? What can we change ?” Ho hum , I don’t know why I bother saying this , It’s got me no -where . But actually ,yes it has – even more excluded .
Anyway I digress , back to Rob and his wisdom .
And before he starts , he explains to Decca Aitkenhead ( who has had her own fair share of tragedy ) , that he is going to speak very slowly and once he hears of her grief and illness, he visibly relaxes ”I didn’t know i was talking to someone who got it.I was trying to gauge if i was talking to someone I could trust ? i feel more comfortable now.I really prefer to talk to people who’ve had terrible things happen to them .”
When asked how he is , he tells them ”My heart hurts OK ? I’m a balloon that is filled almost to the point of bursting, and when you bring up my dead son, it’s like you’ve let a little out .It’s like a gift .”
Are people ready to hear that answer? ” Not everybody, but I don’t care. I’m an ambassador from the f*****g other side now , and I feel a bit of responsibility, being in the public eye, to show people what grief looks like.It’s just so weird to me how we deny grief , how we shut it out ”
Misapprehensions about how to comfort a grieving parent never cease to bewilder Delaney When he told one of Henry’s carers that the tumour had returned and nothing could be done, ” she started screaming ,’Oh, Jesus Christ, oh Jesus Christ ‘, over and over . And it felt for me like getting into a jacuzzi. Because i was like, yes , that’s what it f*****g feels like. Thank you .It’s so refreshing to hear that ,rather than some platitude bullshit. Scream jesus Christ again , and you scratch the surface of what we’re feeling in this family right now .”
It has, though left Delaney feeling exiled from normality , unbridgeably distanced from other families. ”Yes, we live on a lunar outpost now. Except on this lunar outpost, there are other ( bereaved ) parents. There are good people here ,but we are different