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Margaret Thatcher’s death: Dance if you wanna dance, cry if you wanna cry.


Well here is something new – I meant to write a blog…and the Guardian bet me to it!

The article in question (here it is if you want to read it) talks about all the outrage around the celebrations of Maggie Thatcher’s death.
It states: “This demand for respectful silence in the wake of a public figure’s death is not just misguided but dangerous. That one should not speak ill of the dead is arguably appropriate when a private person dies, but it is wildly inappropriate for the death of a controversial public figure, particularly one who wielded significant influence and political power.”

I absolutely agree but I take that further and say that is misguided not just for public figures, but for ANYONE.

How Western Society deals with death is generally not great. Not even close to great. We have been highly conditioned around what we are meant to do and feel and every day I work with the repercussions of this.
Just now I have written back to a woman who wrote to me around a death in her life to check that she is not a ‘heartless freak’ – her words. I get emails like this almost every day now

Why? Because of two things that I can see clearly going on in this whole Maggie debacle.

One: because we have been taught that is not ok to feel everything around death even though any and all emotions can go on all the way across the spectrum. We have learnt it is appropriate only to feel sadness and regret around death…and that anything else is wrong and disrespectful. This is absurd and damaging. Because there are ALWAYS other feelings going on in there and the guilt and fear people go through about these ‘inappropriate’ emotions end up causing so much pain and stress and getting lumped in with ‘grief’ and often never dealt with.

Two: this whole ridiculous idea of not speaking ill of the dead. Do you want to be remembered as you really are? (the good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly) or would you prefer people block out memories of you they see as negative (which are parts of you that are being blocked out here) to invent a new angelic looking version of you that they can think on for years to come – a person who actually has little to do with you at all sometimes. We all want to be loved as we are – and part of this is that the bad bits are seen, and not hidden. You are seen by the world as good and bad. You are seen by those who love you best and know your secrets as good and bad. The idea of not speaking ill of the dead does nothing but suggest some of you deserves to be blocked out – that some stuff about you is not worthy of love. Which is seriously off.
I want to be remembered as I am – and if some of that stuff is seen as ‘ill’ or hate worthy then so be it…because that is me too.

If we got rid of these misguided ideas about what is ‘respectful’ and were allowed to be totally honest around all of our feelings around death and everything we know and think about those who have died….it would change people’s experience of death more than I can put into words. I would be halfway out of a job.

EVERY emotion is ok to feel around a death – whether you feel the saddest you ever have…or the happiest you ever have.
Speak TRUTHFULLY of the dead – respect them enough to do that – and if you’re truth is ‘ill’ then so be it.

So, by all means, if you think it’s fab that Maggie died and you want to shout it from the rooftops…then go for gold. Or if you want to curl up in a ball and break down….then go for it. I don’t have an opinion either way (I’m not even vaguely political – my dad would turn in his grave to call me a dummy) but I totally support your right to do either. Or both.




John Anderson April 16, 2013 at 11:54 am

Hi Kristie, I agree with a lot of what you say about our personal healing journey from the death of a loved one; being able to admit to the full gamut of human feelings and emotions is necessary for our well-being. However, to then express those emotions in public is a different matter altogether, as is blaming one human being for all your problems. Whether we agree with what Maggie did is one thing, but to ‘dance on her grave’ is not the actions of a well-balanced human being. She did what she believed in, I lived through that era and saw the division that already existed in society; my father was in shipbuilding, but had the sense to find another job, seeing that it was in natural decline, as was the coal-mines. She was not perfect and no human being is, to expect that from anyone is delusional. No, I’m sorry, it is not healthy to express unadulterated hate on anyone, as Nelson Mandela said: “Resentment for another is liking taking poison and then expecting the hated one to die”!

Kristie West April 16, 2013 at 1:03 pm

Hi John,
Thank you for your comment.

Surely “being able to admit to the full gamut of human feelings and emotions is necessary for our well-being” also includes being able to be honest about these feelings publicly – whatever they may be. And the full gamut surely includes the positive feelings too, not just the negative ones…otherwise it is just ‘being able to admit to the socially acceptable feelings …and keeping the others to yourself’. The idea that it’s ok to feel them but not ok to admit them publicly…..pretty much means it’s not ok.
I have worked with loads of people who felt a bit (or a lot) like dancing (or doing a small 20-second shuffle) round someone’s grave for some reason or another – and it is not these feelings that cause a problem so much as the belief that these very common and very human feelings are wrong or not spiritual, etc, and mustn’t be expressed.

For each of us there will be those that feel sad upon our death and those that feel not so sad at all…. and everything in between. And the more high profile we are the larger the groups will be.

I absolutely agree that holding on to resentment is poison to us….but the reality is that everyone feels resentment at times, toward someone or other, to some degree. Not expressing it to others doesn’t change whether it is there or not – it only impacts whether others know that we are carrying it or not, and any guilt we may feel about feeling something we think we shouldn’t feel. Working through our resentment to find the lesson about ourselves is a very worthwhile pursuit…but that is very much a different topic.


John Anderson April 16, 2013 at 1:31 pm

Thank you for your response Kristie; why is it necessary to express your emotions in public? If you mean telling another then yes; in indigenous tribes when someone dies they wail in public for a number of days for the loss of that person, they don’t waste their time blaming someone else for it. Whilst we feel blame if we look closely at it we will normally find hurt underneath it. I fell in the mud last year, my natural reaction was to blame the mud! Once I’d gotten over my blame I felt my pain. It is natural to blame but not very helpful to do it for long. Those people who are still blaming Maggie for the demise of their community over 40 years ago have not moved on – why? Because they are not feeling the pain of their loss their are still into blame. Not sure why working through resentment is a different topic; the death of a loved one is not the only loss we feel: redundancy, divorce and kids moving home are all forms of loss and the process is still the same. Blaming the kids may be a natural reaction, but how does it help? Thank you.