When I was an undergraduate English Literature student, I had the opportunity to write a dissertation in my final year about (relatively) whatever I wanted. I had just finished a module on American Literature, with a emphasis on war-related fiction and I knew what I wanted to write about: the representation of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Gulf War Literature. So started a life-long interest in the effects of killing on individuals serving in the armed forces and in civilian life, such as serial killers. There are a wide range of different angles this type of interest can take and I will start covering some of them over the course of the next few months on this blog.
Needless to say, regardless of the situation, taking another life is a pretty big deal. You are effectively extinguishing a life and reducing a living being to a motionless body that will then need to be disposed of in whichever method is most culturally appropriate. The effect of this kind of death in far-reaching, from the individual to the family of the deceased. However, understanding the reasoning (or sometimes lack thereof) behind a killing and the subsequent effects of that event can be of great value to immediate communities, the legal system and society as a whole.
I have just re-qualified as a first aid provider with St John Ambulance and this triggered some thoughts about sharing a story on here about my experience with death and PTSD as a first aider.
I won’t go into too much detail about the individual involved as they have surviving relatives and it would be unethical of me to reveal too much in a public forum such as this. However, I feel that sharing my experience is important as death is not always interesting/entertaining/fascinating. It can be scary, traumatic and difficult, regardless of how well adjusted to it you are.
Earlier this month I was thrilled to have the opportunity to attend a three day conference in London that was all about death! Death Salon was started in the US and is based around the 18th century salon/coffeehouse movement where people got together to talk and share ideas. The recent event that I went to was the first time that Death Salon had held an event in the UK, so as soon as I heard it was happening, I snapped up two three day tickets immediately for Ryan and me!
I am very glad that I did, because during those three days I had an experience like no other. Each day had a theme: ante-mortem, peri-mortem and post-mortem. Each speaker sort of fitted in with each theme, with some finding some flexibility with their content. Each talk lasted for half an hour, with an average of 9-10 individual speakers per day, presenting on a whole range of topics. Each day was then concluded by a half hour keynote speech from one of the several Death Salon members who were in attendance: Megan Rosenbloom (Death Salon Director and co-founder), Dr Lindsey Fitzharris (Medical historian and The Chirurgeon’s Apprentice) and Caitlin Doughty (Founder of The Order of the Good Death).
As there was so much content, I cannot possibly cover each and every single speaker here, but thankfully there were some of us (myself included) who were tweeting throughout the conference and so I was able to pull everything together and create some rather epic Storify reports for each day. So, if you want the nitty gritty, check them out! Day One; Day Two; Day Three.