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Dead People Suck… Using Humor to Cope with Grief

If you or someone you know has recently lost a loved one, or if you know someone who has an ailing and likely to pass loved one (e.g., in hospice), I wanted to recommend a new book from New York Times bestselling author Laurie Kilmartin called Dead People Suck: A Guide for Survivors of the Newly Departed.

Kilmartin, who is also a comedian and writer for Conan, uses her experience with the passing of her own father to provide an element of comfort, coupled with solid advice, in this humorous and often outrageous- in a good way- look at all you have to deal with when someone passes. From begging fathers not to let their daughters find their porn stash when cleaning out their homes to a more realistic look at an obituary (“He Died at Home, Surrounded by People Who Were on their iPhones…”), this book makes you laugh at the horrible and unthinkable. If you have ever been through this before, it is like its own dose of therapy.

I personally loved how the book jumps from relatable elements to silly suggestions to practical advice to keep you reading and to share the feeling that someone really knows what you are going through during a time when you can feel really alone. Tips range from the helpful (have a garage sale to reduce the clutter loved ones have to sort through, label the backs of photos, keep track of loved ones’ passwords) to the entertaining (how to give the prognosis of death to people in different generations, such as millennials, GenXers and boomers themselves) to wacky (what to tell telemarketers who call after your loved ones pass), with a back-and-forth styling that allows you to quickly consume and not be overwhelmed by the information and humor presented.

I also enjoyed how Kilmartin shed light on some of the uncomfortable unspoken situations that you encounter when a loved on is sick and dying. Take the chapter, “Help. I Just Saw My Father’s Penis/Mother’s Vagina.” Nobody else who has gone through death before you is going to prepare you for that!

And, as the stages of grief include some futile exercises themselves, Kilmartin also infuses the books with humorous musings, from wondering why Silicon Valley doesn’t develop a cure for cancer instead of stupid apps that nobody needs to lamenting bad news not being a calorie burner.

Having lost four loved ones myself, including both of my parents and a step-parent, and being devoted as the founder of Future File to helping loved ones prepare for and cope when aging issues and/or passings come to bear, Dead People Suck had me nodding my head knowingly, laughing and even crying a little at times (I laughed, I cried—it was better than “Cats”).  But seriously speaking, when someone is dying or dies, it is so hard to find the words to say to try to make things even marginally better for a person who is suffering. I think that Dead People Suck did that in a way that would resonate with anyone who has even a partially-developed sense of humor.

Whether for yourself or for a friend or loved one who could use a little humor about the most devastating part of life, go pick up Dead People Suck. You can find it here.