Hello fellow mortals! Welcome to The Deathtivals Project.
Last year I published a story in the Guardian about the day my husband and I found his father dead in his house. By the time we realised why he wasn't answering his emails, he had been dead for eight days.
Long story short, the trauma led to a horrendous bout of agoraphobia. I may or may not* have tried to get over it by going to a supermarket to buy a sandwich, where I lost my nerve and threw said sandwich before running home.
*NB I did. I did do that.
I don't believe Britain is a good place to be when trying to overcome a trauma involving death. We're too afraid of it. We avoid direct mention of it, we have no mourning period – we're just expected to go back to work – and when people started meeting up to talk about death in the form of "death cafes", that made the news. People openly discussing death makes HEADLINES in this country.
I used to live in Mexico, where, as most people know, they have an annual festival for the dead. I started researching other countries where they have death festivals - or "deathtivals" as I now call them. This little research expedition led to what is probably the opposite of agoraphobia:
I am travelling the world attending deathtivals. Eight of them. One for every day we didn't find Chris.
I realise I am a strange person to be writing a book about death. I am not old or terminally ill, and as the daughter-in-law of the person who kicked this off by dropping dead so unexpectedly, I am an outsider – and I have been told I have no right to even feel this loss. Writing as a "grief outsider" I do of course hope to heal what time can't, and maybe even understand why facing death makes some throw a party, and others throw a sandwich.