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Dublin: 2 °C Wednesday 13 November, 2019

'Death comes to us all': This new play wants people to talk about their grief

Vickey Curtis lost three important women in her life: her mother, friend and granny.

Source: vickey curtis/YouTube

DEATH. IT COMES to us all. But what happens when it keeps coming?

The tag line for Vickey Curtis’ new play is direct. And personal.

Its title, Finem Respice, comes from a motto on Vickey’s family crest. The phrase translates as ‘consider an end’, something that can be difficult to comprehend – or just something most of us want to avoid, until someone close to us dies and we can’t.

Over the space of 13 years, she lost three important women in her life: her mother from cancer, her friend from suicide and her granny from old age.

“Mom passed in September 2000, my friend took her own life in June 2011, and my nanny, mom’s mom, died in May 2013,” she recalls.

In the back of my mind I thought I wanted to do something around death and bereavement. A few years after my mom’s death, my friend took her own life and I found her. That started the spiral of grief again.

Given their circumstances, Vickey says the type of grief she experienced after each of these deaths was different.

“Three years after my friend killed herself, my granny passed away and I was there when she left. Several family members had made it, that was just so beautiful. One of the most amazing moments in life is to be there for the end of someone’s life.

“I was comparing and contrasting that experience to mom’s death and my friend’s death.

They were three different kinds of death. There was a certain amount of relief around mom – the fact that she was not suffering anymore, to the complete anguish of suicide and then that beautiful aspect of being there at the end of someone’s long life.

Vickey, a playwright and spoken word artist from Dublin, explores the concepts of death and grief in Finem Respice. She hopes the play will start a conversation about these topics – usually things people don’t rush to talk about.

vickey Source: Screengrab/YouTube

“I wrote the show to articulate feelings that are rarely aired in public. It’s that classic thing – death comes to us all, yet we rarely talk about it. The show looks at the supposed timeline of grief, and examines how that’s disrupted when grief keeps happening.”

Vickey researched the topic in a broader sense as she didn’t want the play to be solely about her own personal experience.

I spoke to people who are close to death all the time, from funeral directors to counsellors. A lot of the time, death and the ensuing grief happen behind closed doors. This show is about bringing that centre stage.

Vickey has been considering exploring her own grief in a creative way for some time, but, naturally, is still somewhat daunted by putting herself out there in such a public way.

“It was difficult delving back … going back to when mom died and reliving that emotion. It was such a whirlwind, I was so young.”

Finem Respice by Vickey Curtis

Vickey says it took several years for the relief aspect of her grief about her mother’s death to kick in.

“I wasn’t relieved initially when mom passed away, I was devastated.”

Eventually she found comfort in the fact her mother was released from suffering, something many people who have lost a loved one to an illness such as cancer can relate to.

‘Battling her own demons’

Her mum was 49 years old when she died. Her friend was 62 years old. Her granny was 89.

When her friend took her own life, Vickey found her. She says this death was a “complete shock”.

She hid it, she wasn’t engaging socially towards the last few months of her life, but no one knew the extent of what she was going through. She was such a vibrant character, but was obviously battling her own demons. I obviously don’t know why [she did it].

Vickey says she wants the audience to walk away from Finem Respice “with a different view about death and grief”.

“It’s about how we converse and how we don’t talk about it and how we should talk about it more. People are afraid to talk about it, they don’t know how to approach people who are grieving.

“The play is also full of hope and light. It’s about how death affects life. It’s about living.”

Finem Respice will be performed at the Tiger Dublin Fringe from 21-24 September. More information about the play can be read here.

If you need to talk, contact:

  • Samaritans 116 123 or email
  • National Suicide Helpline 1800 247 247 – (suicide prevention, self-harm, bereavement)
  • Aware 1800 80 48 48 (depression, anxiety)
  • Pieta House 01 601 0000 or email – (suicide, self-harm)
  • Teen-Line Ireland 1800 833 634 (for ages 13 to 19)
  • Childline 1800 66 66 66 (for under 18s)

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About the author:

Órla Ryan

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