Changes: Cariad Lloyd
The audio version of this episode is available here.
Annie [00:00:04] Hello and welcome to Changes. My name is Annie Macmanus. Thank you so much for joining me on this week's episode. My guest is Cariad Lloyd. An award winning comedian, podcaster, actor, improviser and writer. Cariad has starred in shows such as Alan Partridge, Murder In Successville and Peep Show, as well as appearing on Have I Got News for You, Would I Lie To You, QI and loads more. Cariads improv show, Austentatious, an improvised Jane Austen novel where she regularly pretends to be a regency lady, has had five sell out Edinburgh festivals and currently performs weekly in London's West End. But she's also become known for talking about grief and death and trying to change how we talk about our own.
Cariad [00:00:54] The first time you have to say to someone, this is what I want by the way, this is my advance care plan, like if I am in a vegetative state I would like to be switched off, of course you feel like oh my God, this is really- what a horrible conversation. But the more conversations you have, the easier it is. And that's what I say in the book so much like, you just got to practice it.
Annie [00:01:14] In 2016, Cariad launched her multi-award-winning podcast, Grief Cast. A podcast that examines the human experience of grief and death but with comedians, so it's cheerier than it sounds. Cariad's own father died when she was in her teens, and she wanted to make it her mission to help anyone dealing with grief and let them know that they are not alone. Strangely, we recorded this conversation about grief on the day the Queen died, so I will never forget when it happened. The Queen's death obviously sparking so many more discussions about grief on a personal and collective level. I mean, grief is something we will all experience at some point in our lives. It feels indisputably important to discuss it and have conversations around it. And it was a joy to speak to Cariad about her personal changes and her experience with grief. Welcome to Changes, Cariad Lloyd. Cariad, you have been doing Grief Cast for six years now, so it launched in 2016. What does talking about death and grief all the time do for you?
Cariad [00:02:24] *Laughs* sends you slightly mad. Um, it's changed a lot. So the podcast has become something very different from when I started. So I started in 2016. I was pregnant, my daughter was two weeks late and I thought, ooh I'll just get this podcast to get something to do. And at that time, what I didn't realise was I really needed to talk about my grief quite badly. And I also went into therapy at the same time for the first time. So we should say my dad died when I was 15, so I had not dealt with this really at all. So when I started talking about death and grief every day, it really was something I sort of viscerally needed to do. I didn't know why or how or if anyone would listen at all. That was never in my brain. I was just like, I think I need to talk about this and I think I'd like to talk to other people so don't feel mad. So someone else can say, yeah, yeah, me too. But now, six years on, much therapy, having had nearly 200 conversations about it, I don't have the need to talk about my grief anymore. So it's really changed. I think it started, it was really a chat, it was me talking and now I find I can listen a lot more. I just want to tell their story and get their story out because I'm not somebody who desperately needs to share my story anymore because I've done it, I've shared it. So what it has done to me is it's healed a big part of my grief. And I say that carefully, because grief is not something you can heal. It's not something that goes away. It's not something that- you fix it, it can be fixed, but it's definitely helped an aspect of my grief and helped me carry it a little bit differently.
Annie [00:04:08] And do you find that you have- I mean, you must have just a kind of heightened consciousness of death, like a heightened awareness of it when it's kind of at the top of your thoughts all the time when you're talking about it, what does that do for you? I mean, does it afford you a more kind of, precious perspective on life?
Cariad [00:04:24] It does, but also it's a mixed bag, *laughing* as ever with life, isn't it? There's, you know, shadow and light because, yes, it makes you hyper aware that people can die. But it also doesn't help the old death anxiety that you have anyway, as someone who's lost someone very significant. And it's quite common in young grievers that they have quite significant death anxiety because when we were being formed, somebody must have died. So you're on edge a little bit anyway *laughs*. And so, on the one hand, yes, I am very good at zooming out and thinking, you know what, I'm healthy, I'm okay, people die. This moment is what matters. And on the other hand, if someone's trying to just casually say goodbye to me I'm like, I really care about you and it's been really nice to see you and they're like 'fuck, Cariad so intense'.
Annie [00:05:18] You think your mates are like, Cariad's done a podcast earlier today *laughs*.
Cariad [00:05:19] Yeah, like I am so intense and I don't mean to be but because you're talking about big things all the time, it's hard to, it's hard to get into the little stuff sometimes because- and so I find it quite important. I've got friends in the death industry as we refer to it so palliative care doctors, death dealers and we will often talk about that because it's like you're in a slightly different room sometimes. Not comparing myself but someone in palliative care, you're dealing with people dying quite a lot. And so you do- you need people who sort of get that because sometimes your other friends are like, err like what *laughs* like this is so heavy and, if someone has an accident or if someone gets diagnosed with anything I'll think they're going to die. Like, I'm there, I'm ready with-
Annie [00:06:05] You're straight there, yeah.
Cariad [00:06:05] I'm there. I'm like, let's talk about grief, how are you going to process it? And they're like, no they've had chemo, they're okay, I'm like what? What do you mean *Annie laughs*. What do you mean they're okay? People don't survive these- so I have to sometimes remind myself, people do survive. People do get better. They don't always- like my thing is like, they'll always die *laughs*.
Annie [00:06:23] Yeah, the glass half empty. It's always empty. Yeah, with that.
Cariad [00:06:25] It's not so much empty it's like, you're just aware of the emptiness.
Annie [00:06:29] Yeah, got you. Yeah.
Cariad [00:06:30] So it's not like negative. It's not like, oh everything's awful. It's just like, well that's a real possibility and I'm prepared for it, and I'm ready to talk about it if you need to *laughs*.
Annie [00:06:36] Yeah, yeah, yeah. Okay got you.
Cariad [00:06:39] And they're like, I broke my leg I'm alright. I'll be alright Cariad. So, in one way it's very positive, in other ways sometimes you have to watch it and be like, actually, not everyone- like, not every cross in the road is a significant, could you die moment. Like sometimes you're just crossing the fucking road and it's okay.
[00:06:53] *Short musical interlude*
Annie [00:07:06] Well, let's get to the childhood change then and you've mentioned it already, this seismic thing that happened to you when you were 15, right?
Cariad [00:07:14] Yeah, I was 15.
Annie [00:07:14] Yeah. Can you tell us about that? As much as you would like, obviously.
Cariad [00:07:18] Yeah, I have to be again, careful because I've talked about it so much on the show and been like, so my dad died when I was 15. So, yeah, I was 15. I guess to give you a better narrative about it, he was very healthy. He ran marathons, triathlons. He was training for an Ironman.
Annie [00:07:36] Wow.
Cariad [00:07:36] So a very healthy person. Hadn't always been healthy to be fair, had lived quite well before that. To be polite about his alcohol and drug taking as a young man. He got diagnosed with, well, initially liver cancer and then we found out it was pancreatic. And I make the joke quite regularly, pancreatic is- it's a real bad one *laughs* which other cancer people get annoyed about because they're all bad. But pancreatic is a particularly crap one. Not that there are good ones, but it often has not much symptoms and people don't find out, they have it until it's too late. So it's survival rate is shit. Because it's not like you can find a lump in your pancreas. Where is your pancreas? So that's what happened to him. He was diagnosed in the February of 1998 and by the April he was dead. So it's a very fast illness and death. And in terms of change of, you know, what this podcast, brilliant podcast that I love so much is about, we went from being a very sort of normal suburban family. Nothing really bad had happened. Like-
Annie [00:08:41] Can you give me a picture of the family? Who else was there, was there siblings?
Cariad [00:08:43] I have an older brother who's four years older than me and my mum and dad were married and you know, we lived in like a relatively nice house.
Annie [00:08:54] What kind of a dad was your dad? Like, how did he fill the house?
Cariad [00:08:58] When I do the podcast, sometimes when guests come on, if they haven't listened to the show they think, why would someone talk about their dead dad for six years? They must have adored them. And it must have been like, oh my, my poor daddy died. I've never got over it. I was like, no, absolutely not! The reason I'm still talking about him is we had a very difficult relationship. If we'd had a good relationship, I wouldn't need to do a podcast and talk about this man for six years. I'd be fine. Oh he died that's sad, I miss his uncomplicated relationship *laughs*. No.
Annie [00:09:23] Yeah. Got you.
Cariad [00:09:25] He's a very complicated man. Very difficult. And what we have subsequently discovered is that he had ADHD, which we didn't know. Quite severe ADHD.
Annie [00:09:34] And he wouldn't have known either I suppose?
Cariad [00:09:36] No, he wouldn't have known. But it was like textbook. Like everything I've read now, I'm like oh, like and textbook male ADHD, because obviously it shows up very differently in women. But he had the absolutely couldn't sit still, lost everything, everything in chaos. So he was like- it's like living with a hurricane, is how we describe it as a family. It wasn't an easy relationship. He worked from home and he was very tempestuous and provocative and difficult and we didn't get on very well. And my brother was older and he was 19 when he died. So they had just kind of been through very difficult teenage years and they were just kind of finding a place of like, okay, maybe we can be adults and talk about this. But me and him were in the middle of loggerhead, like, screaming, arguing. I just thought he was a fucking dickhead, and I just had no time for him at all. And then he died. So it left me with a very like, oh shit. Because I just thought he was going to be here all the time. So I didn't have a chance to go, oh actually, there are some good sides to you, and there's some good sides that actually I'm similar to you in this way, and let's- you know like you do as a teenager, right? Everyone gets that, I hate my parents, oh, I get to my twenties, oh actually my parents are amazing. I've been in idiot. Woops. Sorry guys. And erm, when you lose a parent young, particularly as a teenager, obviously that's my experience, it takes a long time to rectify a disrupted relationship because that's what you're dealing with, is you didn't get a chance to finish the conversation. And I talk about this a lot in my book, which is coming out in January, You Are Not Alone. It's the complicated grief. So if you have a very simple relationship with your parent, it's not that you will feel less pain. You will still grieve them. It will still be awful, of course. But if you've got through to an older time, you've probably- the relationship might be less complicated- not always. Obviously some people in their thirties are estranged and it depends, you know, everybody, it's a completely unique experience but losing a parent as a teenager means you sort of lose in the middle of a process. You haven't ended them being your parent, you haven't walked away from them and become an adult. So yeah, him being in the house was- we went from having a hurricane to not having a hurricane basically. So there was alot-
Annie [00:11:47] That's a huge vacuum.
Cariad [00:11:47] Huge, massive. And then you realise how loud someone is because you're like, oh my God, I didn't know what quiet was my whole life. This is what quiet sounds like. Because my mum's a very calm person obviously *laughs*.
Annie [00:11:59] Yeah. To counteract him.
Cariad [00:11:59] Yeah, to counteract yeah.
Annie [00:12:01] Yeah. So, I mean, having had these six years to talk about your grief and kind of process that, how did it change you?
Cariad [00:12:13] *Sighs* the other thing I think it's important to acknowledge is grief isn't a constant process. So it changed me then and it's still changing me. It never stops. It never, it never ends. And that's the thing that I think is quite important with grief is people, they're looking for the end point of like, oh, now I'm done. Great.
Annie [00:12:28] Now I'm changed. I'm this person and I can get on with my life. Yeah.
Cariad [00:12:32] And you know, as anyone experiences, if you have parents, you change constantly and your relationship with them changes constantly. You know, as you develop, maybe you become a parent or you move away or you know, you suddenly get to their age that you remember them being, all these things affect us. So that continues even if you lose them, you're still changing and then you're continually reviewing your relationship with them. So it's a really important part that I didn't know about grief until I did the show, that it's okay that your grief evolves, comes with you, moves, changes, is not a stable thing in the way that no relationship is stable. You know, you can love someone brilliantly and get on with them when you're eight years old and then when you're 18 it's a nightmare. Like, it depends. We're evolving beings. So grief is the same. So, the stable thing in answer to that question, what changed was I realised that life wasn't safe and that's not necessarily 100% true but that's the lesson I took from it. That people can just die, like that *clicks fingers*. So, you know, as I said, he was diagnosed February, then he was dead in April. So for me, my world went completely upside down from things being relatively fine, relatively okay, normal levels of stress and arguing with my brother and, what shall I wear? To, people die and you have no control over it. And knowing that lesson quite young is quite difficult. And it removes you from your peers because your peers are still talking about, I can't believe that they snogged on the disco and they did this and whatever. And you are in this position of going, wow, like anyone at any point can just leave you. Nothing is grounded and we are vulnerable humans. You know, all these things we think matter don't matter actually, because at any point someone can get ill or run over or have a heart attack. So as I said, that became a very extreme lesson for me. And I kind of made that my truth. And it's taken a long time for me to, as we talked about earlier, not everyone's going to die *laughs*. Everyone will die but not everything is a heightened situation and I suffer very badly from anxiety and that obviously comes from what happened to me. So, the change in me was a change that I have fought against I suppose, and had to sort of unpack a little bit, but the change was, things aren't as safe as you think they are.
[00:14:59] *Short musical interlude*
Annie [00:15:10] So you mentioned that it wasn't until you were pregnant with your first kid that you started doing therapy and you were like, okay, I actually really need to talk about my grief. So that interim period, which is a big old chunk of life, obviously, you know, you're a really successful comedian, actress. You kind of forged this career. Looking back at that period now before you started expressing your grief. How do you feel about that cariad, now?
Cariad [00:15:35] I used to feel quite sad about that, sort of, you know, being very confused and not really understanding that I was grieving and-
Annie [00:15:42] Right.
Cariad [00:15:43] And a lot of the decisions and choices I made, I can see they were about somebody who was grieving and didn't know how to say it.
Annie [00:15:50] And can you give me an example of that? Like, what does that look like?
Cariad [00:15:54] Ahh it's hard to give a sort of specific example. It was more my mental state. Was more like the neediness that I had. I just had a sadness and I didn't know how to get it out. And I would try and, you know, take it to the wrong person or.
Annie [00:16:06] Yeah.
Cariad [00:16:07] Or express it in not quite the right way. And I've talked about this on the show. So my first Edinburgh show was characters and all these characters... it was a very funny show, I should caveat with, but all these characters had missing dads and I never realised until like years later. So there was a character called Andrew who was a, a small seven year old boy doing Stand-Up and *high pitched voice* he'd speak like this and he'd only seen Michael McIntyre. So he'd be like, so who gets trains? Phwoar trains they're tricky. And I was like, he'd do terrible Stand-Up but the joke, the story that came out was that his dad had run away from his mum and he'd been constantly looking for his dad. And then I had another character who was a magician's assistant and the reason was her parents, the dad was a magician, the mum was the assistant. The mum had run off and she had to fill in for the mum, but the dad was having a breakdown and she used to shout constantly like, dad, dad, oh he's coming. And I would do like this awful magic trick where I'd like, skewer my thumb and blood would come out. But it took me years to go, wow, that character constantly said, my father's in a different room and he won't come in. And I'm shouting *laughs*, like psychology 101, Cariad. Err, like, and obviously I hid it in loads and loads of jokes and I enjoyed it and it was very funny. But there was lots of characters where there was this male figure that wouldn't appear and couldn't come into the room. And then when I hit therapy I was like, oh I was hiding it in jokes because what I wanted someone to say was, why'd you seem really sad, are you okay? But of course they were like, that's so funny! Do you want to write a sitcom about that character? And you're like, I don't know if I do actually, I think I'm, I think I'm really sad. So that's kind of how it manifests itself. And I think it's important to say, you know, because if people are grieving who are listening to this, I was okay. I wasn't on the floor, I wasn't weeping every day. There was just a really big sadness inside me and I didn't know what to do with it. And it wasn't till eventually I went to therapy.
Annie [00:18:09] What changed in you or in your life to make you think, well, I really need to go and talk to someone.
Cariad [00:18:14] So I did the Edinburgh Festival. My first solo show and it did really well. I'm not bragging, it did. And then the next year they were like, right, you've got write another show, and I got an agent and I sort of had a breakdown writing the show because I just, I couldn't believe it had been successful, I couldn't believe that had happened. And I sort of was in shock, I, you know, needed more time to process it. And I did write another show and it wasn't- it was funny. It wasn't as funny, I think, and it wasn't as successful. It did fine, it did a solid show. But the pressure of that Edinburgh, I came back and I wasn't sleeping. I was having constant anxiety and I went to the doctor just for something like *laughs*, oh, like I can't sleep and I can't stop talking and he said, do you think you might be stressed? And I was like, oh, err yeah, yeah, I'm really stressed. And he said, oh, well would you like to talk to someone? Good GP, and I said yeah, absolutely. Like I wasn't anti therapy. I was like, yeah, no one's- just no one's ever offered it. So it's like, yeah. And they said, you know, there's a two year waiting list. And I was like, my dad died when I was 15. Like, I'm in my 30's. I'll wait two years, who gives a shit *laughs*. I haven't talked about this for 20 years. It's fine. So they sent me on lots of CBT and various things and they kept saying, we have a big list, big list, and I was like, It's fine. And then eventually I got to the top of the list. Because I was in no rush. And obviously there's people who are in desperate need of mental health help and waiting two years for them would be not physically possible. But it was because I had hidden it for so long. I was like, I can hide it for another two years. That's fine.
Annie [00:19:52] We've talked a lot about therapy on this podcast, but what did it do for you at the time?
Cariad [00:19:56] It was game change- completely game changing. Completely and erm, I know I've spoken about this a lot on Grief Cast that, and in the book as well. I've got a whole, a whole chapter on this that I didn't think grief could change. So that's why I talk about it. I thought grief was grief. It was awful. It's horrific. You have this awful, awful thing that occasionally hits you on the head and destroys you, and there's nothing you can do about that. And that's fine. That's just how life is. And I would, when I saw the Grief Cast, I would speak to some guests who felt like me. They were the same as me. They were like, this, just, no, we can't get past this. And then I would speak to other guests. I remember talking to Robert Webb, who said, you know, obviously his mum died when he was 17 so we had a lot to talk about, a lot in common. And he said, well, yeah, some days I feel sort of, I've come to a sort of a peace with it. And I thought, how? How? Like, I couldn't conceive of how that would ever happen. And then when I was in therapy, I realised that if somebody, you know, not literally but is in the room with you, as you remember extremely painful things. It's not that they're not painful anymore, it's that some of the pain becomes less raw and some of the memories of his death and what happened to me and how my life had changed so quickly, to just open the box of grief and have someone look in it with you and go, that looks really hard, makes you go, yeah, it was actually. It was hard. And I hate using the word suffering because it sounds like it magically got better. It didn't. I was in therapy for four years. Five years. I've only recently just stopped and I will go back again. Like, I definitely don't feel like I'm done. It's just like *laughs* my lady was like, yeah, I think, I think we need a break *both laugh* after all this grief chat. And then yeah. So that was the change for me is that, the grief, I realised oh, it can evolve, it doesn't have to stay stuck in this absolute agony phase. It can move into a bit where you look at it differently, you look at it as an adult, you understand the relationship and you have the conversations you want to have with them, with your therapist. And I would have sworn blind that would have made no fucking difference but it did. If you'd asked me 25, ahh I just talk to some woman as if he's, as if that's him and I'll feel better will I? Yes Cariad, yes you will.
Annie [00:22:29] You actually will.
Cariad [00:22:31] Oh what, yeah. Yeah, right. Yeah you will. I promise you. Oh, okay. Sorry. I don't know why I'm being so negative *laughs*. So, yeah, that was. That was what it did for me. It enabled me to look at it calmly, carefully, and to have someone help me look at extremely, extremely painful memories. You know, I was 15. I was in the room when he died. Like, from that point, I had seen a dead body, had, you know, gone to the cremation of my father like, huge, huge things that most 15 year olds don't go through. And I for a long time have been like, yeah, gosh no big deal, loads of people lose their dad at 15. Well, they do, but also lots of people don't and that is painful so that is what it did for me, was enabled me to allow the grief to move forward to a different place. It's not that I'm never upset about it. I am, but I'm upset about it much less, much, much less.
[00:23:22] *Short musical interlude*
Annie [00:23:32] You have spoken to, as you said, up to 200 people about grief. No grief is the same. It's complex, it's nuanced. But what have you learnt about grief? Like if someone stopped you in an elevator and went, tell me about grief then, what do you know? Like, I've never had someone die in my life. What's ahead of me? What would you say?
Cariad [00:23:52] As we say on the Grief Cast, yeah, if I'm talking to someone in the club as we say-.
Annie [00:23:56] Describe the club, what do you mean by that?
Cariad [00:23:59] The club is once you've lost someone really significant, you're in the club, you get it, you get it. And if I'm talking someone not in the club, I'm talking to someone who doesn't, inverted commas, get it. And they can think they get it and we all can, we can all think we understand but when you have really lost someone in the inner circle, it's a different thing. Like, obviously we've all known people who've died and we've all been upset by that or even someone famous who meant something to you, that is grief in itself and I wouldn't- we say very clearly on the show, there's no hierarchy of grief. So it's not like, oh, my dad died at 15, so if your grandpa died at 21 err, I'm more upset than you. No, that's not how it works *laughs*. It's about the relationship and every grief is unique and every grief is individual because it's based on those two people, you know? So it's- me and you talking now is different to you talking to your best friend or you talking to your mum. Like that's, that's how relationships work. So if I died, you would grieve it differently to someone else. So we have to remember the grief is an individual relationship and that's the same within a family. You know, siblings grieve differently. Partners grieve differently. Aunts and unc- it's completely different. So someone in the club, I would probably, the first thing I would do, which is what I do on the show, is I'd ask them the name of the person because we don't say their name, we never ask people's names. And I would say, well, you know what are they called and what were they like and how old were- these are the questions I ask on Grief Cast. How old were you when that happened and you know, oh, like what were they like as a parent or a brother or sister or a child? You know, what was your daughter like? What made her laugh? Because if you're in the club, the thing that happens to you quite a lot is nobody wants to ask you about the person.
Annie [00:25:43] People change the subject, yeah.
Cariad [00:25:44] They change the subject or they don't mind talking about your grief a bit. `Like, oh how are you? Oh, are you feeling better? Or you know, you must be strong, keep your chin up all this stuff, that's shit and useless.
Annie [00:25:57] And then they say, well let me know if there's anything I can do.
Cariad [00:26:00] *Putting on a voice* let me know if there's anything I can do! Number one, never, ever say, never ever say to a griefster, as we say on the show, do it. Just do it. Just do something. What do you think.
Annie [00:26:08] Yeah, just shut up and do something. I don't know if you've ever read Eva Wiseman in the Guardian, she wrote the most incredible article recently where she inferred that someone had passed in her inner circle and it was awful. And she wrote about her friends being like, let me know what I can do, what can I do? So you're already putting it on the person to have to tell you how to help them. But it was the most incredible article. It was so angry and it was just, it was so honest. I loved it.
Cariad [00:26:38] Emma Freud wrote a really good one as well quite a few years ago about funerals and when you lose someone and yeah, don't say let me know what you can do because, I know what you're saying. What you're saying is I'm thinking of you and-
Annie [00:26:50] I want to help.
Cariad [00:26:50] I want to help. So you know what? Say that. Say that. I'm thinking of you so much. I want to help you so much. I'm not really sure if there is anything I can do. One thing I thought I could do is I could bring around some food, but I don't know what you like, so why don't you tell me what you like? And is Thursday a good day for me to drop lasagne round? That is a better text message than let me know there's anything I can do. Because then you're saying someone can go, oh, right, yeah.
Annie [00:27:15] It's passive. It's so passive.
Cariad [00:27:18] Exactly. And it's not to say if you've said it like, you're a bad person because we don't know what to say. And that's why I've written the book. So there's a whole chapter of like, what to say, and you'll get people who will say, oh, I like that. You know, again, everyone's unique. So someone will be like, oh, I appreciated everyone saying that.
Annie [00:27:35] Yeah.
Cariad [00:27:36] But most people I speak to say, just do something. Do they need their bins changed? Do they need help with the admin? Do they need kids picked up? Like, has everyone sent them flowers and they're surrounded by eight jugs of dying flowers? Could you just come round and just like, get a binbag and clear that out so they don't have to do that bit? Could you wash all the vases so they don't have to be that bit like the tiniest things you can just think, what do they need rather than yeah, putting it on them because currently they're dealing with a bomb blast in their life. Like the worst thing that's happened has happened. They don't know they fucking need, they don't know what day it is, they don't know why humans exist if people are going to die, *laughs* like they're dealing with this huge, huge, massive thing and you're saying, let me know what I can do and yeah, I mean, lots of people moan about it. It is a common thing. And if you're not in the club, you can think, oh that's a good thing to say.
Annie [00:28:30] But let's go back to the lift, you're in there and someone's not in the club and they go, oi you, you talk about grief all the time. What's grief? What goes on? What would you say?
Cariad [00:28:38] If you're not in the club, I would say to them, you don't necessarily have to worry about this immediately, but it is going to happen to you. It's okay. Talking to me is not contagious. You can't catch death from someone, but it is worth thinking about what you want to happen when you die. And I don't mean that in a morbid way. I mean that in like, the people you love will be left with all the decisions. So it is worth just gently entertaining the idea. How you want to go. What you would like people to think of you. What legacy you want to leave. Have you got a will? Because you are going to die.
Annie [00:29:19] It's so mad, isn't it, that even saying something like that is considered kind of taboo?
Cariad [00:29:24] Yeah, taboo or rude.
Annie [00:29:24] It's like the one thing that unifies every single person on the planet. Like, why don't we talk about it more? Why don't- why don't families discuss it? Why don't they say in advance, this is what I want my funeral to be like? This is what I want to happen after I die, you know? It's so mad, isn't it?
Cariad [00:29:41] It's insane. Like when you break it down, you get into the club and you go, why didn't we talk about it? Why didn't we have that? Why don't I know what they want at their funeral? Why don't I know if they want to be buried or cremated? Why don't I know how religious they were? Why don't I know that? Because the admin that you have to deal with after someone's died is huge. It is fucking massive. And ask anyone who's been through grief, they will tell you like, oh, you want to be crying and sitting on the floor weeping? No, you've got to get the death certificate, ring the phone company, cancel the bank account. Like there is so much shit to do. And if you don't know where that stuff is, you are going to have a hard time doing it. So why don't we gift each other? Like, if you love someone, you let them know, you're like, I tell you I love you, I bought you a birthday present, and I remember things about you, and I make the effort to talk to you. If you love them I make the effort to ask you, what do you need by the way, when when you die? Because it's going to happen. And I know, I know these conversations are horrible. I know it's not easy. But as with any difficult conversation, you know, we're talking about mental health and how much we, you know, taboo that used to be when I was growing up and now everyone is happy to talk about it and happy to talk about their medication and what therapy they're doing. The only reason that conversation has got easier is because we practiced it. The first time you had to talk about mental health, it was like, *gulps* I'm going to therapy.
Annie [00:31:00] Yeah, totally. Yeah.
Cariad [00:31:01] Oh God, people are gonna think I'm mad. And it's the same with grief. Like the first time you have to say to someone, this is what I want by the way, this is my advance care plan. Like if I am in a vegetative state, I would like to be switched off. Of course you feel like, oh my God, this is really- what a horrible conversation. But the more conversations you have, the easier it is. And that's what I say in the book so much like, you just gotta practice it. You're not going to be good at it straight away. No, of course not. Don't expect to be like queen grief.
Annie [00:31:31] *Laughs* Queen grief. That's got to be your new name by the way. Queen grief.
Cariad [00:31:35] Well, you know, and I still have guests whose grief is so painful or so difficult, that I find myself thinking, oh my God, how am I going to ask you that question? Or how am I going to say it. Like, nobody gets the point where they're fine with talking about it but your loved ones, your family, your partner, your parents, your children have a right to know some of this stuff about you. And I know it's a hard conversation and I know it's not fun, but I promise you, it gets easier. It gets so much easier. So I think as humans, as a human race, we all could be better at just thinking, okay, well, I am going to die.
Annie [00:32:11] I think just the process, like the idea of thinking of that and an awareness of that can only be a good thing for you in the present.
Cariad [00:32:19] Yes. Oh yeah.
Annie [00:32:20] It's only going to make you value your life more.
Cariad [00:32:22] Yeah.
Annie [00:32:23] And seize your desires and you know, chase happiness more.
Cariad [00:32:27] Yeah. And I think- not even in terms of what's- because I sometimes think with stuff like that, we sometimes think there has to be a positive to it, but also just, just a calm acknowledgement that your time here is limited. So that doesn't mean, like I said, you know, I don't wake up every day like, 'whew! Today I'm going to live because tomorrow I might die'. Like, I'm shouting at my kids and I'm grumpy and I'm annoyed that I can't afford a dress that I want to buy. Like the stupidness that humans think. But there is a peace in my heart that I do acknowledge my time here is limited, and I've looked it very calmly and coldly in the face that I am not going to be here for my kids one day and they are going to have to live without me. And that breaks my heart so badly. But I know that after I am gone, if I can look this in the face, their life will be better by me acknowledging it here. So I suppose that is a positive, but it doesn't necessarily have to be filled with joy positive. It's just having interviewed that many people, the people who were able to carry their grief with calmness and with ease, were the people whose parents and family members had acknowledged it before, and things were not necessarily unresolved. And we don't all get that opportunity if someone's knocked down by car or has a heart attack. Like these things take that away from you. But you can have these conversations when people are healthy, you can have these conversations over breakfast, you can have these conversations before you go to bed and be like, just by the way, buried or cremated. *Laughs* like, just so I know. Lets just start there, buried or cremated? What music do you want? Because I think you like this song. I hate that song. Oh, my God. I thought you loved that song? No, I liked that song 20 years ago.
Annie [00:34:15] *Laughs* and it can be light can't it, it doesn't have to be- And I wanted to ask you about that aspect of grief and these kind of preconceptions of how grief is spoken about and the kind of discourse around grief and how it feels to me that there's an assumption that there's- it's got to be very serious and sombre and grave. Whereas you are this beautiful exception to that, where you kind of encourage laughter around grief. I mean, you've come from this comedian's background. How has being a comedian helped you, I suppose, in terms of processing grief and living with grief?
Cariad [00:34:46] Yeah, it's definitely helped. It stems from my family. Like, we made jokes about it when he was dying.
Annie [00:34:52] Really? Okay.
Cariad [00:34:53] Yeah, like, that's how my- my mum's from a very working class background. I don't know if that affects it. But the definite immediate reaction to any pain is to make a joke *laughs*. Like, it's just like, make a joke, brush it away. And that's what, you know, the unit without my dad, that's what we became was like quite jokey. And obviously there were days we were weeping and couldn't stand up because we were crying so much, but there was a lot of humour and laughter around it to deal with it. And so that's, you know, led me into comedy. And when I started the show, I only interviewed comedians. Now I don't, because there aren't enough comedians who have lost someone significant to keep the show going. So I branched out and now I talk to writers and palliative care doctors and, you know, anyone who wants to share their grief. But what I love about talking about grief with comedians is that it's not bleak. And the point of the show, I knew when I was in the depths of really early grief, I didn't want to listen to someone weeping. I didn't want someone to, you know, tilt their head and say, how are you? So awful. Because I was like, I know it's awful. God, please stop making me, like, feel worse.
Annie [00:35:59] There's a quote in an interview that I loved from you that says, "laughter is about survival. It's about living. When you're surrounded by death and someone's dying in front of you, it's quite hard to breathe. Laughter is a way of getting more oxygen into you and reminding you you're not dying. You're not dying. You're alive".
Cariad [00:36:14] Yeah.
Annie [00:36:14] And I love that because it's like a physical thing that it does. It's not just the concept of laughing mentally. It's actually what it physically does. It brings air into you, it reminds you, it makes you conscious of your life and your living.
Cariad [00:36:29] And I think that's because people say to me, oh, why do we make, you know, morbid jokes around death? Why is that side to it? And I do think it is a human reaction to tap you on the shoulder and go, you're still alive by the way, like you're not dead. That person's dead, you're still fucking here. Don't forget that. And yeah when you laugh, you breathe and you're heaving this air and you're crying with laughter. And for a moment, you're like, oh, that's a feeling of not grief. So maybe in the future, I won't always feel like this. It is how our brains protect us. The thing with the podcast that I wanted so bad is I wanted someone to listen to a chat between two people for an hour talking about grief and death, but at the end of it feel even 1% better, not worse. I wanted them to go, oh, they felt like I did and I did laugh so that's been you know, that's been a nice break in the grief *laughs*.
Annie [00:37:20] And also, just people didn't have to feel and don't have to feel so alone in grief, right. It's this idea, you know, you talk about the club. You're part of a club. There's other people going through what you're going through.
Cariad [00:37:32] I didn't know that when I started the show. I didn't know. I thought it was just me. I really did. And then the more conversations I had and the hundreds, billions of emails, and messages, of DMS, of tweets, of people going, yes, me too. That's how I felt. And that's why I said at the end, I say at the end of every episode, I say, remember, you are not alone. And that's why the book ended up being called You Are Not Alone because I felt so alone. I thought I was the only person this had happened to, you know. Then eventually you find all these people who also lost dads to pancreatic cancer and also lost parents as teenagers or also felt like you did, you know, doing comedy and trying to make jokes about grief and then you go, oh, I see there's loads of us, the club is absolutely rammed! *Annie laughs*. I just didn't, I just didn't know because we don't talk about it. And the more we talk about it, as with all these taboo topics, you start realising, oh, this is a human experience. Like, that's all this is. I'm not, I'm not alone in this pain. This is just what happens when you're human. You love people and they die. And that hurts.
[00:38:34] *Short musical interlude*
Annie [00:38:44] Cariad, tell me, please, about the biggest change you've gone through in your adult life.
Cariad [00:38:49] The biggest change in my adult life, and it is another cliche but it's definitely becoming a mother. That was huge for me. And as ever, relating it back to grief, it really changed a lot of my grief becoming a mother. It really made me understand what it was to be a parent, how my dad must have felt, why he couldn't talk to me sometimes. What it is to be on the other side. I felt like I swam over a river and I turned around and I went, oh, I see *laughs* your point of view. I do feel bad talking about it because I know there are people who are desperately trying to be in that club of being a mother and can't and find that really- that is another grief of itself. So I acknowledge how lucky I am and how privileged I am that I got to make that choice. But yeah, I think becoming a mother, yeah, just fundamentally changed who I was. And also, I used to do character comedy and so my job was to put on a stupid outfit and I used to do a character called Joeey Beschemelle who was like a spoof Zooey Deschanel. And I would put red lipstick all over my face and I'd be like *american accent* a super cute, like, manic pixie dream girl. And I would say, I would like, talk about Star Wars and nose wrinkle. And then I would say to a bloke in the front, like, are you hard yet? And it was just like this really stupid character that I did loads and I loved and I had all these- I had a character called Cockney Sam, who used to like be a Cockney musical character, but all his songs were about, like, absolutely murdering people. *Annie laughs* but really jolly because thats what Cockney songs are like. My mum's a Cockney and would go sorry what was that and I'd be like, oh well you know he shot- and you're like sorry, what? This is a horrible, horrific story. And I did all these characters that I loved and that was my life. And I had a kid and something happened and I went, I can't do that anymore. I can't stand on stage and pretend anymore. I can't pretend because now I sort of am- I am me. I've become who I think I sort of was meant to be, without sounding very clichéd and cheesy. And I stopped doing character comedy and I moved on to writing comedy and doing, you know, I do alot- improv is my other love and that's all I- I still do loads of improv and Austentatious, my Jane Austen show. But I literally stopped gigging because I just felt like something clicked within me and I was like, I can't pretend my feelings anymore. My feelings. And I guess that came from being a mother, having therapy, dealing with the grief. And it was like that's, that's what the characters have been hiding, all this stuff.
Annie [00:41:23] Yeah. So the characters were kind of- yeah it was you wearing different identities, kind of experimenting with the feelings that you hadn't been able to ground and like tie down.
Cariad [00:41:34] Yeah.
Annie [00:41:34] Yeah, I get you. That's so interesting.
Cariad [00:41:35] It was weird. It was very weird because then you have to sort- and this happens a lot to, I've spoken to women, other women about this as well. Like you sort of have to grieve your past life and-
Annie [00:41:44] Right, yeah.
Cariad [00:41:44] When you become a mum, it's a grieving process as well of like, oh, okay, I'm never going to be that person. I'm never going to not have someone to worry about or someone not to get up for and I cannot just wander around an art gallery at two in the afternoon by myself because *posh voice* it might inspire me. *Annie laughs* I mean you can when they get to school, but it's quite a long. Something in me fundamentally clicked and switched, that's the only way I can describe it. And it felt the same as when my dad died. Something switched and became a different truth. It was the next biggest change that I had after losing my dad.
Annie [00:42:20] And what would you say, if you had to make a change moving forwards to your life or to the world around you, what would you choose?
Cariad [00:42:29] Well, it's hard. As I said, I have death anxiety.
Annie [00:42:32] Can you just for the sake of people who might not understand what that is, would you mind elaborating?
Cariad [00:42:37] Of course. Death anxiety is you particularly worry about people dying. You dying. Like if someone doesn't text you back immediately, they're dead. If they're too late to meet you, you think they're dead, they've been run over. Like that's your just go-to thought. It's quite a common mum thing or parent thing to be fair, because you know, now there's someone you really are worrying about. So it is quite a common parent thing and it's quite a common thing if you've-.
Annie [00:42:58] Suffered.
Cariad [00:42:59] Yeah. If someone you know has died because that happened. It seems to me, and again, I'm not a medical trained professional, but it seems to me if you lose someone tragically or traumatically your brain, a sort of almost a PTSD symptom is this death anxiety where, I interviewed someone, her boyfriend was on the toilet and he just took ages and she sat in her bedroom and she was like, he's died. And she started planning the funeral and she started thinking about what she was going to say. And he came out and he looked at her and she was ashen and almost crying and he said, you thought I died, didn't you? And she said, you've been so long. He was like, I was doing a massive shit, like what? *Annie laughs* What is wrong. She said it on the show, she was laughing. I don't think she'll mind me saying, Lauren Silver, she's a clown. She's an amazing clown. She does mental health clowning. And she was like, I just- that's what my brain did *Annie laughs*. It thought he had died and instead of- and it kind of paralyses you. It kind of makes you, you don't go and check. You don't go *Annie laughing* because you think, well if has I don't want to find him. I don't to find him. I don't- what do I do!
Annie [00:44:02] What would he look like, what would I find! Oh my God.
Cariad [00:44:02] Yeah. It's a very specific type of anxiety that, yeah I think people who are grieving quite heavily suffer from. So yeah because of that I find thinking about the future quite stressful and I am not very good at it. And I kind of do live quite presently, which is sort of wonderful but also there are things you need to think ahead of. So the change I'd like to see in myself or in the world is, I guess in the world it's more people talking about grief and death in a unafraid way. I would love, love it to be taught in schools so badly.
Annie [00:44:39] Wow.
Cariad [00:44:39] You should learn in schools like, this is what happens when someone dies or this is what a funeral looks like. It would be no bad thing for kids at school, at secondary school to understand there's this thing called grief and this is what it can do to people and this is what it looks like. And I would just love for myself to keep on changing because my biggest fear is to stay still and to not be evolving. I guess I find that to me is like, that's not living well, you know, what do you want to change and what do you want to be and where should we go and how can we inspire ourselves next? And is it a podcast or is it writing? And like, what shiny thing is catching your attention now? So that's the change. I want to never stop changing.
Annie [00:45:19] I thank you so much, Cariad, for that chat. It was so interesting. I want to talk to you about five more hours. But I loved it, thank you so much.
Cariad [00:45:26] Thank you so much. Thank you.
Annie [00:45:32] Never stop changing, a motto to live by. Thank you again to Cariad Lloyd. Let us know what you thought. Do you talk to your family about death? Will you now? I'd love to know how you approach this stuff. And I hope for anyone who's lost someone close to them that this was helpful and that you're doing okay. If you're not, if you feel overwhelmed, if you feel like life is just incredibly hard, there is always someone to speak to if you need. You can speak to the Samaritans on 116 123, and we'll put other help lines in the show notes as well. Cariad's book, You're Not Alone, comes out on 19th of January. You can pre-order it now. Again, see the show notes for a link and of course go and listen to Grief Cast, Cariad's Podcast. If you liked this conversation and you missed it, you should also listen back to Tembi Locke, a recent guest on Changes who discusses the process of being with her husband when he died and the improbable story of love that they had prior to that happening. A Reese Witherspoon produced Netflix series, From Scratch is out now and getting rave reviews. So, don't forget to rate, subscribe, all of the biz, tell the world about Changes. It's so appreciated. We will be back next Monday. As ever, Changes is produced by Louise Mason through DIN Productions. Seeya.