Grief Clowns: Laughing At Death | BBC Stories


Losing a mum is absolutely destroying. God like, I find it hard to think back on now like how emotional I was. There is still trauma there; there are still a lot of things that I have to work on with that. As I said, it’s a journey for everyone. I can be sitting down talking to someone, watching the TV, a film or listening to a bit of music on the radio. It stirs memories and it grips you, hits you like a sledgehammer, and the emotion can be a like a tidal wave. It can just sweep you away. My name’s Grace, I’m a clown, and I am currently creating this show Good Grief, which is about death and grief. This just in: Death is everywhere. Done in a way that you would never, ever expect or forget. [Screams] So under here, this will be on stage and this is going to be some kind of tomb. These are possibly my favourite thing that we have bought for the show, glittered sunglasses. We are going to have a godlike character within the show. Instead of going for something like wings and halos and things, we are trying to imagine heaven as like this crazy kind of rave or party that people are going to. We are trying to show that grief can feel like being on a completely different planet and it can feel like no one knows how to communicate with you when you’re dealing with grief and that people might feel like a completely different species, so that’s why we’ve got these. I tell you a funny thing though, when my mum and dad died, people didn’t know how to talk to me. [Alien jibberish language] I’m very open, I must say, I’m always the first person to talk about it. I don’t believe that grief is something wrong. I am not someone to shy away from anything. It’s not just me that grieves. There are 100,000s of people out there that are going to grieve today. So, if that one person can start to be a little bit more open about it, it will start opening those doors for people to start talking about it as well. I find it hard to think back on now, like how emotional I was. There is still trauma there; there are still a lot of things that I have to work on with that. As I said, it’s a journey for everyone. I have lost both of my parents. I lost my mum when I was quite young, when I was 13 almost 14, it was just before High School. It actually took me three years to accept that she’d died. You know you just create this world where she’s not actually gone and it makes it so much easier to live with. I can’t really describe it. It is just stone cold fear that you see on someone’s face when you talk about dead parents. People are really, really terrified of their loved ones’ mortality so they prefer not to think about it and that’s where the conversation stops. Grief is like the tarantula in the room, you know it’s there but you don’t know where it is. It’s going to bite you. It will come to life and you will see it, and it will bite you one day. Why are you keen to see your story and your voice shown in a way with this clowning and this physical comedy? You make a very bitter pill into a nice sugary treat. I can’t wait, I think it’s going to be absolutely fabulous. Can I just see that last bit with the eyes? We take those interviews and we take the recordings and then we use those in the show as kind of like a soundtrack to what you can see happening on stage. Ok, so it’s like a tarantula bites you, you know it’s there, but you don’t know when it’s going to get you, you can be scared of it, but you are going to find it at some point and it’s going to grow and it’s going to bite you. Higher, higher, higher, lovely, there you go, about this speed. And then the bass is going to drop, and then it’s going to go booom. [BOOOM!] The reason that we started doing the show is because a good friend of ours, Tim Miles, who was a comedy lecturer when I went to university, he passed away this year in April from cancer, but before he passed away he asked us, ‘can ugly bucket make a 10 minute piece about death for my memorial service?’ which was probably the strangest commission that we’ve ever had. I hope he likes it. He’ll be dead. So we are going to see if people are interested in sharing some stories with us, sharing some poetry with us, or just showing us what they’ve been working on in that session. We are focusing the whole session today on grief, okay. We’ve been working on improvisation, devising, working with props, but today’s pin point is grief. If you went to a GP with a problem, say you were socially isolated, you had a mental health issue, instead of just putting you on medication or having a clinical intervention ‘social prescribing’ gives you that opportunity and platform to meet new people, do something creative, it allows you to explore these issues that you’re facing alone in an environment where people are trained to look after you and they know how to adapt to your needs. Perhaps the most traumatic for me was losing my daughter. She had three young children and although they stayed with their father, I was a big part of their lives and doing for them, as I promised I would do. But I never grieved myself. I feel all the things that have happened to me, I seem to take that role on, I put my arm round, but all my grief I feel is piling up from here. Every day it’s there. My wife’s been dead now 10 years come November. It only seems like yesterday sometimes. Some days I can be sitting down talking to someone, watching the TV, a film or listening to a bit of music on the radio and it stirs memories and it grips you, because you are not thinking about it, and it hits you like a sledgehammer, and the emotion can be a like a tidal wave. It can just sweep you away. I go and visit my wife at the cemetery at least three times a week. So, when I go, I always talk to her as if she’s there, it’s my way of coping. Everyone has got their own way. I will press record on my phone and then I will give you a signal, and then knock them dead. Distant Lady. I visited my wife today and had a little chat. I talked about many things, but mainly this and that. Tales about the grandkids, the things they say and do, playing in football tournaments, ballet dancing in their tutus. These are some of the topics I talked about and said. I got no reply as usual because my lovely wife is dead. She is always with me, when all is said and done, she was my girl and a fantastic mum. My lads and my daughter in laws and my Mrs were all tea tanks; I was the busiest can lad in Liverpool. I get the urge sometimes to get up and make a cup of tea. I live alone and I make a cup of tea when that urge comes because if I don’t, it stays. I make it. I can’t express you how good it makes me feel. But that cup of tea is going nowhere, except down the sink. Even though I am being sincere in what I have wrote, I can see the funny side in relation to the message of what I’ve wrote. If it does good, I am over the moon, because I didn’t think I would be able to contribute to anything like that. It’s all different ages, people from different backgrounds, so many different perspectives, so many different stories and I think bringing it all together and being able to perform it in Liverpool is so exciting, because it’s such an electric city and the community is incredible. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. A couple of months ago, I was just talking about this experience and now it’s happening. I was in the taxi thinking, ‘wow, you spoke to people that are going to do a clown show, about your dead parents’ basically. It is tugging on my heart strings a bit. It’s something that I’ve always dealt with on my own but always wanted to talk about it. Of course, the people that I’ve spoken about, my parents, are always in the back of my mind. I am feeling extremely nervous. It’s just because it’s new, new show and you’re like, ‘oh my god are people going to like it?’. I’m really, really excited for the interviewees to see what we’ve done with their thoughts and their feelings and experiences and see how they react. I think that might be really surreal for them. It’s the biggest challenge we’ve ever had, so it’s pulling it off. I think we will. I can’t wait for it to start. I’m really excited but a bag of nerves. I am a bag of nerves. To be honest with you, in a word, it’s a privilege to be a part of it. I am just amazed what I wrote has touched people. That in itself has touched me. I can see me getting emotional here tonight. I can do. I am not afraid to let my emotions show. If it helps somebody I will be thrilled. I know my wife would be thrilled with that, if the shoe was on the other foot, she would say exactly the same thing, she was that way out. She wouldn’t mind people laughing at me; I don’t mind people laughing at her either. [Laughs] [SCREAMS] Grief is like the tarantula in the room, you know it’s there but you don’t know where it is. [Aliens singing] and it’s funny because Facebook, everybody just says these great things on Facebook, but no-one came to my house. I’ve never felt so alone in my whole life as I did in those first three months. Do you know what, I look a bit like my mum today. Or you know, I have got my dad’s chin and my dad’s nose. I can’t express you how good it makes me feel. But that cup of tea is going nowhere, except down the sink. Oh god. It was amazing. We did it. Did you enjoy it? It was brilliant, it was absolutely brilliant Grace. I was not expecting that, I was expecting something, but I wasn’t expecting that. It was a privilege to be part of it, wasn’t it? Oh stop it, it wouldn’t be possible without you. I couldn’t be happier. I have got no words. It was just gorge, gorgeous. It’s nice to see how far you’ve come from the start as well; I think it’s really important to see that as it is a really, really long journey. I would say just that because someone else’s life has stopped. Yours doesn’t stop with it. Always be grateful for your own strength. Yeah, Life is a party.

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Comments

  1. (7:25) Yeah, that got me. Give me a sec to let my eyes clear up a bit. Although I imagine it would be very nice to have someone in my life that I cared about, and loved so much that I might feel that deeply about if she were to die, based on my very long track-record, I don't foresee that ever happening for me. As for my own death, I want no obituary, no funeral, and no memorial service. I just want to be gone, cremated, and, if there is no one to dispose of my ashes in such a way as to make them useful to the earth again, then I would be very grateful if someone were to be kind enough to toss my ashes in the trash. Afterward, I hope my belongings will be distributed in the way I want, and whatever letters I may leave be delivered in a timely manner. I'm actually pretty happy knowing that no one will have to deal with any kind of serious grief at my passing. Life has enough grief in it; no one should have to get an extra dose of it on my account. Death, per se, doesn't scare me. On the other hand, not living my life in a useful, productive way — wasting my life — scares me quite a lot. It's test time; the clock is ticking; there is an unknown amount of time to finish; and death is the proctor. What a complete and utter waste of life I would be if I fail. Yeah, that scares me a lot. (12:11) Oh, and the end of the performance is absolutely brilliant! Give me a sec ….

  2. She was my girl …..and a fantastic one…💘💘💘💘💘💘💘💘💘…she was my girl…and a fantastic woman…I'm not sure if he said one or woman…but that was so sweet..💔💔💔

  3. When people say things like….
    Every one says nice things on Facebook but nobody comes around…stuff like that…..well if you want to see people or talk to people you need to say so…make the call…invite people over..because if you think people can read your mind…they can't..people have jobs…lives…things to do….I can't stand when people say….well..he never calls me..so I'm not calling him….or she never comes by my house so I'm not going by hers…if that's your outlook..then you'll probably end up a friendless lonely person….I could go on and on with examples….if you feel lonely..instead of saying..poor poor me…then cut the crap and go see people or call them…text them…if you can't get out then simply invite them over…….because stupid head games will get you no where…….if it's your pride…then you better put your stupid pride aside and make the first move…it's really that simple.

  4. (7:25)
    I visited my wife today,
    and had a little chat.
    I talked about many things,
    but mainly this and that.

    Tales about the grandkids,
    the things they say and do,
    Playing in football tournaments,
    ballet dancing in their tutus:

    These are some of the topics
    I talked about and said.
    I got no reply as usual,
    because my lovely wife is dead.

    She is always with me,
    when all is said and done.
    She was my girl,
    and a fantastic mum.

    Frank Pybis

    Good on ya, Frank.

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