Nigella on grief

(24 Posts)
JanH Sun 17-Oct-04 19:43:30

<<Lawson has had more than her fair share of bereavement, watched too many people die dreadful and untimely deaths. Her mother when she was barely four years older than Lawson is now, her sister, two years her junior, then her husband, whose exquisite record of the long, slow dying of his light made us all feel as intricately involved as Lawson in his loss. Fools that we are. What to us came as an enlightenment, to her was the gradual diminution of a shared life while she watched his expression of himself removed with his throat and his tongue until it was reduced to the written word, his most intimate self shared with a computer. You'd think, she says with a practised stab at irony, she'd have been used to it by now. Or at least ready for it, when the end came. But she wasn't.

She remembers something the theatre critic Jack Tinker wrote when his daughter died at the age of 23. He said that you only get over a death if you think of it as a life completed rather than a life interrupted. But the words are hardly out of her mouth before she repudiates them. "What is this thing about getting over it? You don't get over it!" She remembers back 20 years, when her mother died, how well-meaning people would ask how she was coping and, by way of empathetic consolation, tell her how well they remembered the sad death of their puppy. "The mourning process," she says grimly, "is not a matter of universal understanding." We cross the road when the widow walks by because we do not know what to say. We are embarrassed by her grief. We say, "Oh, she has taken it well" with admiration, meaning you can hardly tell she's just suffered a bit of a setback. We use these ridiculous expressions - "Draw a line under it." "Go on with your life." "Put it all behind you."

Lawson's first child was born 10 days after the death of her sister. The well-intentioned seized the opportunity to assure her of the good fortune of this "compensation". "But you can't think, well, my sister's dead but, hey, this will make it better," she says. "And when people said, at New Year, here's hoping you have a better year, you think, why, is she coming back?

"There is a kind of euphoria of grief, a degree of madness," she says. "You are very distanced from other people because what is going on in your head is literally unshareable and you can't focus properly on what is going on outside you. And, in a funny way, each death is different and you mourn each death differently and each death brings back the death you mourned earlier and you get into a bit of a pile-up."

There is a process to grief, but it is not linear. "You don't feel this on a Monday, that on a Tuesday, as though you are making steady progress from A to B while all about you are being supportive. It's as if people think you are either happy or unhappy, one or the other. As though happiness is like some kind of domestic cleaning product you spray around to get rid of those nasty, dark, dusty corners. I don't think happiness is a remedy for unhappiness, like there, that was unhappy, now this is happy! What kind of a life is it if you don't have both? You don't go around grieving all the time, but the grief is still there and always will be. That John was so ill for so long is a cause of grief for as long as I remember it, and I have no wish to forget. I have room in my head. It's all right. I don't want to put my mind in order as I might with work or a store cupboard, because that wouldn't be a fair representation of the way things are. It is difficult to explain this to people. Language is more articulate than emotion, but it doesn't do the job. Emotion is messy, contradictory ... and true."

There was a moment, not long ago, when the authenticity of this concept bore in on her with such stark clarity that the memory of it makes her laugh out loud. Her five-year-old son was watching her unpack some groceries in the kitchen. He said to her, "You know, I'm so sad that daddy has died" and in the same breath - "Oooh, Twiglets!!!"

"Do that as an adult and you'd be regarded as sick. But it isn't. It is just entirely honest.">>

I like Nigella.

Rest of the piece is here .

OP’s posts: |
donnie Sun 17-Oct-04 19:45:58

I also read this in the Guardian yesterday and really liked it. I had always thought of her as a bit of a rich airhead but this article really changed my view of her.

Frenchgirl Sun 17-Oct-04 20:02:45

I've just read it and it's illuminating. My SIL's dh died of cancer at 43, 10 years ago, and I hardly knew her then. It was very strange seeing the way she dealt with it. This piece somehow helps me understand some of it. Thanks for posting it JanH. I like Nigella too.

DelGirl Sun 17-Oct-04 20:11:49

Thanks for posting this Janh, it is entirely how I feel, even what she said about her 5 year old and twigletts rings true, tho I'm not so keen on twigletts as to jump up and down . I read 'C' when it came out. Certain things my DH would not express though I knew he was feeling were put into words in the book and it helped alot.

KateandtheGirls Sun 17-Oct-04 20:16:45

Great article, Jan. Thanks for posting it. Nigella's 5 year old sounds just like mine!

BooMama Sun 17-Oct-04 20:29:09

Thanks Jan! Very good article. I do not have much first hand experience of grief but it has made me think of friends who have.
I really like Nigella.

Twiglett Sun 17-Oct-04 21:09:50

She's right and she's so eloquent about it too .. I really like her and I admired John Diamond's columns too

hoxtonchick Sun 17-Oct-04 21:14:45

i thought it was an excellent article.

Marina Mon 18-Oct-04 09:27:03

Thanks so much for posting this, Jan. I find her public persona irritating at times but this is a reminder of how much she has faced and how well she deals with it.

marthamoo Mon 18-Oct-04 09:32:16

She's very eloquent, isn't she? It's easy to look at the *surface* Nigella and forget the truly terrible things she has endured. I like her too but her recipes make me fat..

sleeplessmumof2 Mon 18-Oct-04 09:44:40

thanks for the posting, so eloquent, really touched some nerves for me too!!!

Cam Mon 18-Oct-04 13:00:31

What Nigella says makes a lot of sense to me, my younger brother was diagnosed with cancer (untreatable) a few months after John Diamond and although it was a different kind, he similarly had chemotherapy over a period of approx 3 years.When John Diamond died I knew my brother wouldn't be far behind and wasn't. He left 3 children and my SIL got married again this year.

prettycandles Mon 18-Oct-04 14:41:00

This puts a whole different spin on my perception of Nigella Lawson. I only know of her from cooking, and I think 'ghastly woman' at her antics, but of course she is much more of a person than just that. What a painfull and wonderful article that is.

spacemonkey Mon 18-Oct-04 14:44:16

excellent interview, I like her too

Twinkie Mon 18-Oct-04 14:46:55

Goodness - I have always thought she was great and coped well - I read her husbands diary as he was dying and it was sad and poignant at the time and made me laugh and smile and sob.

She's right about death though isn't she - I think you don't ever get over it just learn to live with it some days and some days you don't. Even 29 years down the line you can have a bad day when you just yearn for that person to put their arms around you!!

winnie1 Mon 18-Oct-04 14:51:06

This article was great. So often people mean well but miss the point... one does not get over a death one simply learns to live with it and ime it grief can be like madness.

Heard Sheila hancock talking about grief recently and she made so much sense. haven't got time to write now but it has made me want to read her recent book on her relationship with john Thaw.

Thanks janH

WideWebWitch Mon 18-Oct-04 19:56:46

Oh I like her too Janh, thanks for this, what a moving piece.

snmum Tue 19-Oct-04 12:40:14

thanks for posting this up janh, i like Nigella too. it is so true what she has wrote

DelGirl Tue 19-Oct-04 13:11:28

My DH died of the same cancer that killed John Thaw and they died 4 months apart. I would dearly love to read Sheila Hancocks book but just seeing the cover of it in whsmith the other day brought tears to my eyes. Far too painful just yet .

spacemonkey Tue 19-Oct-04 13:12:27


JanH Tue 19-Oct-04 13:16:20

Sheila Hancock is a friend of beety's, DG. Maybe you could write to her? (Or would that not be helpful either?)

Hugs. XXX

OP’s posts: |
DelGirl Tue 19-Oct-04 13:33:23

I did try to contact her actually through the site that was set up after he died but it was too late. A bit strange all this, remember James Grout who played Morses boss in Morse? Well he was a friend of my dad's and he was with him when my dad collapsed with a brain heommorage (sp) he died later that day . Strange!

JanH Tue 19-Oct-04 13:47:35

Definitely a weird connection there, DG. Why not ask beety for an email address or something? (Be quick though, she is going to ggglimpopo's tomorrow.)

OP’s posts: |
DelGirl Tue 19-Oct-04 13:50:41

Thanks Janh, maybe I'll catch her when she's back, lucky thing.

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