Last year, there was quite a bit of chat about famous people dying. The BBC examined this and found they had published more pre-prepared obituaries than usual in the first 4 months of last year in particular.
This sounds callous but I find it difficult to care.
Don’t get me wrong – if Sarah Michelle Gellar (I liked Buffy) or Claire Danes (I like Homeland) die, I will be taken aback. However, I am not going to be personally affected should Gellar die. And whilst it would be sad if Homeland got cancelled due to Danes’ untimely demise, this is not reason to grieve.
When people on social media express their sadness at a celebrity’s death, mostly this is in tribute to their body of work. However, there sometimes seem to be genuine expressions of grief as though they were a loved one.
In hospital, whilst most relatives are realistic, it is not uncommon to encounter impossible expectations of healthcare. Arguably the most challenging aspect of critical care medicine is making the decision about when to provide or more crucially when not to provide critical care.
Being on a Critical Care Unit/Intensive Care Unit (vs being on a standard ward) involves a host of unpleasant interventions. Whilst this is worthwhile if a patient has a reasonable chance of survival, in futile cases, this is tantamount to torture, a word I use when explaining ceilings of care.
I worry that both the unrealistic expectations and grieving for celebrities are symptoms of our general aversion to discussing death. How can one seriously grieve for somebody unknown to them?
In the original Get Carter (1971), Michael Caine’s character (the titular Jack Carter) has to attend his brother’s funeral. The body is kept in the family home. These days, bodies are kept in mortuaries and taken by funeral directors prior to burial or cremation. It would be unheard of to keep a body in the family home.
I am not trying to make you feel bad for your sadness at George Michael/Alan Rickman/Victoria Wood’s death. Still, posts can seem as grief-stricken as those from the genuinely bereaved.
Death is a fact and it is something we consider too little and discuss too infrequently. It leads to the situations where people with cancer are abandoned by their friends. I have had multiple conversations where bereaved friends have found others unable or unwilling to discuss the death of a loved one.
And because of this, it seems uncouth and unhealthy to act as though a celebrity death should be treated similarly to personal bereavement.
Talk about death; when your relatives became unwell, doctors are going to ask what you think they wanted. That is a much easier discussion if you have had the decency to talk about it. It is for them as much as you.
You and everybody you know and love is going to die: get comfortable with that. On that note, I am going to have a banana and go to bed.