One Death or Four?

By Emma Pearson

July 16, 2024

Photo by Jude Beck on Unsplash

12 February 2020

It’s about 3am and I can’t sleep. I slept from about 11.30pm to 2am and now I am awake. Last night I slept from about 9pm to 3am and then was awake till I got up for my Tuesday morning swim. I try to go back to sleep for an hour or so, and if I can’t, then I get up and read or write. The pets are always happy to see me as I wander downstairs to make a milky drink. Well, they are hopeful for a feed and a cuddle anyway.

I can be so wide awake at this hour. It doesn’t feel that it’s anxiety keeping me from sleeping. I am just not sleepy after a few hours sleep. And of course I need more. But for sure stuff is going around and around in my mind. Which keeps me awake. I am not sure if I am just splitting hairs about whether or not that’s anxiety-creating or “just thoughts”. Ever the optimist I go for the latter.

I saw a film last night – “Je voudrais que quelqu’un m’attende quelque part” (or, “I would like someone to wait for me somewhere”).

I found it moving.

About a family, a normal, standard family, a family with “stuff”, dynamics, issues, history. Four siblings who join up for their mum’s 70th birthday. It transpires that their dad had died when they were much younger and the elder brother had a strong part of bringing them all up. And now they are adults and the early dynamics still play out.

All the good ingredients are there.







False starts.




Semi-forgotten dreams and ambition.

First loves.

Illness and Cancer.





And then there was the underlying cello and piano soundtrack. Good ingredients.

But too close to my life in terms of the relationships, if not the actual storyline.

Kids growing up without a dad.

A mother losing a son.

Siblings losing a brother.

Another kid losing her dad.

A woman losing her husband.

A friend losing his best friend.

Too much of my life in it.

In the film it was one principal death during the film, and one that had happened a long time before. But in my life it’s four deaths. Four recent deaths.

I have all of the losses, not rolled into one person, but rolled across four people. And I care for two stunning, courageous young adults who have lost their dad. And I cared as best as I could for another who gave up the grief battle for more reliable peace.

It’s hard seeing films like this. I made the mistake of seeing it with people I don’t know. People who liked it, found it moving, and probably cried more than I did. But then could let it go. People who found the dialogue inadequate – the hesitation for making contact unconvincing: (“why couldn’t he just ask for help?” or “why didn’t his best friend just come?”). Or too much left unexplored: (“why did the mother seem to prefer her elder son?” or “why didn’t we hear more about xyz?”)

I found it all entirely realistic. Except perhaps the speed of the crying following the main death event. My experience is that shock prevails. But the non-asking, the non-responding, the coping, the half-sentences, the unknowns – all of that felt spot on to me.

Ugh. Lesson learned. Again. Just carry on going to the cinema on my own where I can do my gentle processing afterwards. Recognise it’s a film and not my life. Stay with my experience and not enter into analysis.

Not rip hearts further to shreds than they already are.

It’s not my life. There was just one main death in the film. And in my life there are four.

About Emma Pearson

3 thoughts on “One Death or Four?

  1. The cinema can be a violent intrusion in one’s life inter alia, because the story has to play out in the space of a couple of hours or less. That’s OK where it doesn’t reproduce one’s own experiences. For you, dearest Em, in this situation, I can understand the film cost you precious sleep.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *