Angelena has spent thirty- five years as an international training consultant, specialising in behavioural management and conflict resolution. She trained in Transactional Analysis, the psychology of communication and behaviour, her preferred tool for counselling and coaching.
She originates from the Peak District but has spent a life time travelling and living in places as far apart as Vancouver, Dubai, Paris, Seville and Iran. Now semi-retired in Great Malvern, she writes every morning, walks the hills and paints landscapes every afternoon and fits family and reading in between.
She is the author of two traditionally published novels and many articles and blogs.
Her most recent novel, Edna’s Death Cafe is published as an e-book by Matador.
Angelena is keen to meet readers, old and new, and is available for book talks, events, and always chatting over a cuppa.
DYING IS A DIRTY WORD
Death isn’t something we like to talk about. If it pops up in conversation we suddenly find the floor covering very interesting. In researching for my new novel, Edna’s Death Cafe, I talked to many people about how they feel about death, particularly their own, and the response was the same - they didn’t want to think about it at all.
When my father died in 2013 I became obsessed with everything to do with the dying process, funerals, body disposal and the age old question of whether life continues in some form. I devoured stories of near death experiences, especially the works of doctors such as Pym Van Lommel and Raymond Moody. My mind was having great difficulty in accepting that death was the end of life as we know it. Realising there is no opt out clause is a major trigger for death anxiety but the good news is that talking about it can be therapeutic.
The international Death Cafe movement has been encouraging us to open up about death, dying and bereavement since 2011 when Jon Underwood held the first meeting in Hackney washed down with tea and sweetened with a bit of cake. To date, over 8000 meetings have been held in 56 countries but you won’t find gloom and doom on the menu.
Death Cafe provides a safe space with no agenda or aim to convert participants to a particular belief. No one is under pressure to do or say anything. There are no long lectures or guest speakers pushing their views or funeral service representatives trying to sell you a plan. It’s just you, others like you, and the facilitator.
The unwillingness to talk about and accept death is a problem of our modern age. With no long mourning periods as in Victorian times, we are sheltered from its stark reality but, thankfully, literature offers us a rich seam of comfort. Richard Holloway in his surprisingly uplifting book, “Waiting for the Last Bus,” asks us to take stock of our mortality without weeping. Seneca writes that it is pointless to waste life by worrying about death’s inevitability.
To help me come to terms with death I trained as a funeral celebrant which put me in close contact with the bereaved. They looked to me for the right words of comfort and strength to help them say that final goodbye. Composing and delivering a eulogy for someone you’ve never met requires not only a chronological understanding of their life but something of their essence. Little anecdotes say far more about the person than the big achievements. To die well means to have made the most of what life has given us, no matter how small and to have been of service to others.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said “to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived—this is to have succeeded.” This is the one thing that keeps me going and makes my life meaningful.
It isn’t solely our own death that we fear but that of those close to us. How will we cope? The only way to get through grief is by grieving, in our own way and at our own pace. We need to allow ourselves to feel the tidal wave of emotions reassured that we won’t drown. Grief doesn’t have to mean neglecting everything and everyone or shutting ourselves away in a darkened room. It means nurturing yourself with good food, fresh air, walks in nature and slowing down to appreciate that we’ve been lucky to be given this opportunity to experience life in all its glory.
In my novel, I soften the death theme with dark comedy to make it more palatable as bed time reading. Legendary humourist, Mark Twain had this to say, “I do not fear death: I had been dead for billions of years before I was born and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.” Wise words.