John Bishop is one of the UK’s top comedians. While going through a divorce he used to tell a joke about killing his wife and keeping her head in the fridge because he knew he would miss her.
One evening, as he was telling the joke, he realized that his soon-to-be ex-wife was in the audience. ‘That’s going to cost me another £20,000 in the divorce settlement’, he thought to himself, but she actually saw the funny side of it, they started talking again, and eventually the divorce was dropped and they got back together. They have remained happily married ever since.
An extreme case of not wanting to let go
A story reported by the BBC this week does not have such a sweet ending. It’s about an undertaker who could not bear to bury or cremate his parents after they died so he decided to mummify them. He then applied to the local planning authority for permission to convert his home to a private mausoleum so that he could keep their bodies forever.
Both parents had died of natural causes and were issued death certificates – his mother in 1987 and his father in 1994. The bodies were then stored in a former fishmonger’s shop until they were discovered in 2002 and moved to Edinburgh City Mortuary, where they remain to this day.
The son had meanwhile moved away from the area and it took a while for him to be found. He still refuses to give permission for his parents’ bodies to be disposed of, permission has not been given for a mausoleum, and so the case will now have to be decided in a court of law.
It seems to me that what lies at the heart of this problem is unresolved grief. He has not come to terms with his parents’ death and is trying to hold on to them using the best method he knows. The way to settle this matter, therefore, is not by dragging him through the courts but by providing him with grief recovery counselling to help him to complete his relationship with his parents and move on in his life. Sadly, like many others, he probably doesn’t even know that such help exists.
The art of letting go
In John Bishop’s case, becoming a stand-up comedian was his own self-devised therapy for getting over the break-up of his marriage, and telling jokes about it was his way of letting go. In the process, he regained the qualities of the man his wife had originally fallen in love with and their romance could be rekindled. The Edinburgh undertaker, on the other hand, has found no such solace, and is still holding on in whatever way he can.
What’s important to learn from this is that it’s not what happens to us in life but how we handle it, and knowing when it’s time to let go is a life skill that everyone needs to have.
Copyright © Clear Space Living Ltd 2016
A few years back I purchased your audiobook Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui after having enjoyed your printed book. Recently I started listening to it again to review the stories and points you made.
Like a refresher course, I needed the momentum since our household is going through yet another major clutter clearing. Letting go is indeed a skill that all of us need to improve, and for me it is a path for achieving spiritual freedom so that I can grow as a person and as a musician. Just practicing and studying music isn’t enough, I must let go of the old to make space for new ideas and peace to be myself, and this time, even more than before.
Listening to your book this time is taking me to a higher level of letting go more than where I was a few years back! Thank you for your wisdom as I continue to enjoy reading and listening to your books again and again whenever I need the boost! (My next goal is to check out your space clearing when I have cleared enough clutter.)