Kicking the Bucket Festival invited half a dozen students of journalism to write a blog post about what death and dying meant to them. The results were full of insights and well worth reading – we will be posting them under this heading over the next few weeks. Here is the first-
The Reality of Death as a Journalist
I am freelance writer and aspiring journalist from Oxford and work for Community Media Group, which has also recently been launched online as Oxfordtoday.news. I enjoy blogging and writing in a style suitable for an online readership, and this blog on Kicking the Bucket is my first real excursion into writing about the reality of death. Thanks Richard Chidwick
My first experience of death at work was to report at a memorial service for a local Councillor who died in 2015. I did not know or had never met the person, but nevertheless I was struck with the grief and sadness held by many and the speeches given at the service to remember the person.
After the service I thought about people or one person who was close to me who died, and until then had not reflected on my own situation. It often feels better to write things down when you experience hardship or confusion in life, so this opportunity has helped me overcome the loss of a close friend.
Death is inevitable but when someone dies young and in circumstances that were never really confirmed to anyone, it is only at a funeral where people start to establish what mattered about the person. The first thing I heard about my friend dying was through social media, and I was so shocked that all I could do was ring everyone who knew the person and ask what was happening.
On learning when the funeral was, I knew people from my school would be attending and I instantly felt a little bit more assured that going was the right thing to do. The papers reported the Coroner’s verdict in local papers the death was accidental, and one family member appeared on the radio to talk about the issues surrounding the death.
This was my first funeral, no funeral is ideal, but this was a tough one, the hardest part was seeing people breaking down, as it was terribly sad, but at the Wake, my friends were all there and we were able to have a chat about what people would really want us to do! Have fun, rather than sit there not knowing what to do! But seeing pictures of the person on the big screen was very unsettling.
We tried as a group to talk to her parents and it was probably harder for them to deal with it than us, the father was inconsolable when people decided to leave the wake. And till this day I often think of my friend, and I remember her now, rather than the funeral.
Death occurs to people in different ways, palliative care is often provided for people who know they are going to die, and it’s always a question as to what is harder with the person themselves dying, or for the people they are going to leave behind. But in my personal experience it was certainly the grief felt at the funeral that until this moment I had put behind me. Maybe it’s better to think of a funeral as a celebration of life rather than a macabre event.
As a trainee Journalist I will probably encounter death knocks and stories related to people dying, and perhaps this blog can help me become resilient to the subject of death as a new reality.