Guest Post by Angelena Boden ~ @matadorbooks
I am delighted to welcome the lovely Angelena Boden back to my blog. Her latest book, ‘Edna’s Death Cafe’ was published last September as an eBook by Matador and it has been getting quite a few good reviews.
Angelena has written a post about the fear of dying for my blog. There is also the chance to win copies of the book. First though, lets take a look at what ‘Edna’s Death Cafe’ is about.
As in life, death is not without its agenda. This is something seventy-nine year old Edna Reid finds out when her partner, Ted, suddenly dies.
To cope with her loss, she sets up a Death Cafe to break down the taboo around death and to encourage other members of the community to discuss it openly. Over tea and cake, the participants hide their fears behind a veil of dark humour.
Religious fanaticism clashes with Victorian spiritualism as Edna’s meetings trigger lively conversations on the fragility of life, anxiety over dying, cost of funerals, and making sure long-lost greedy relatives don’t benefit from inheritances.
Soon, a series of events begin to unfold which threaten to undermine Edna’s livelihood and the Death Cafe meetings. These events just happen to coincide with the arrival of a mysterious stranger into the village.
Who is she and why is she so hostile to Edna?
‘Edna’s Death Cafe’ is available to buy from Amazon UK:-
THANATOPHOBIA – The Fear of Dying
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 book, 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 because it made them feel anxious. I can relate to that as I suffered for a long time with a similar affliction which verged on panic, usually in the early hours of the morning.
I would spring out of bed, grabbing my throat, unable to swallow or breathe. Breathing into a paper bag or my cupped hands helped to calm the nervous system enough to make a cup of tea and put things back into proportion.
Now in my sixties I’ve experienced many losses as you would expect. When my father died a few years ago, I realised on a very conscious level that I would be next in line (according to the natural order of things). It’s a sobering thought.
I became obsessed with everything to do with the dying process, funerals, body disposal and the age old question of whether consciousness really continues. I read voraciously the stories of near death experiences, 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 – hence the anxiety. I no longer had control over my life at that point.
For two years it made living in the moment impossible. Every waking thought was controlled by the ‘horror’ that one day I was going to be no more – such is the power of the ego. I thought I was going crazy but death anxiety is very, real and very common.
In trying to avoid my own premature death I took ridiculous precautions. Germs were monsters and my hands became raw from scrubbing them clean. I feared leaving the house in case a bus happened to mount the pavement and squash me. Everything I did had to be risk assessed until I found myself sobbing in front of my doctor. Fortunately she was understanding and suggested something to calm me down as well as a grief counsellor who was trained in this field.
My condition was exacerbated by the fact I had post- traumatic stress syndrome which, despite therapy, was recurring especially when under stress. Death of a loved one is the number one stressor so my thought processes were understandable.
As well as these excellent therapies which help sort out the muddle between the rational and irrational I discovered my own path through the nightmare.
I trained as a funeral celebrant which put me in contact with the fundamentals of the dying process and of course with grieving relatives. I had to be the strong one and keep things together for the families. My work desensitised me to the fear of dying but strengthened my new belief that you can die well following a fulfilling life. Being at a burial site or in a crematorium for the final goodbye is a privilege but also provides a form of exposure therapy. It’s the fear of the unknown that gives the demons something to play with.
Writing about those things that make us anxious can be healing. My novel, inspired by the international death café movement provided succour and support. Through the main character Edna, an octogenarian who sets a good example of how to celebrate life we learn how we can talk about this last taboo. I think we need to name it properly: – death, dying and dead as opposed to the many euphemisms we use to lessen the impact of the reality.
We might not wear black or cover the clocks and mirrors as the Victorians did or have a religious belief – many funerals result in natural burials in woodlands – but we need to allow ourselves to mourn and not stiffen the upper lip or maintain a dry eye when someone kindly asks us how we are doing.
The only way to get through grief is through that painful, but necessary act of grieving, in our own time and at our own pace. We need to allow ourselves to feel the tidal wave of emotions knowing that we won’t drown. Grief doesn’t 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.
The best things we can do for ourselves when faced with crippling anxiety over our eventual demise is to learn to relax. Yoga, gentle exercise, breathing exercises, meditation all help. When things get overwhelming, you can focus on counting backwards or reciting a bit of poetry – whatever will distract your mind from the mental pain.
So if you can relate to any of these feelings, don’t despair. You are normal and it will get easier. ‘Sometimes a bit of humour can really help too. This is what Mark Twain had 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.’
Angelena is giving away 4 eBook copies of ‘Edna’s Death Cafe’. 2 lucky winners will receive their book via Amazon UK and 2 will receive an iBooks code. To enter just leave a comment and let me know how you would prefer to receive your book.
Terms and Conditions
This competition is open to UK residents only.
The closing date is 11:59 p.m. on the 31st March 2019.
Winners will be randomly chosen within 7 days of the closing date and their email addresses will be sent to Angelena Boden.
About Angelena Boden
Angelena Boden 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 which is where her new book is set. Angelena has spent a life time travelling and living in places as far apart as Vancouver, Dubai, Paris, Seville and Iran. Now semi-retired in Worcestershire, she writes every morning, walks the hills and paints landscapes, fitting family and reading in between.
Angelena is writing stories for her new grandson about a little dachshund called Digger who is a very special sort of detective!
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. A new Edna Investigates will be available for Christmas 2019.
Angelena is keen to meet readers, old and new, and is available for book talks, events, and always chatting over a cuppa (within 60 miles of Worcester).
Website – http://angelenaboden.com/