“Death” Episode 173 of The Allusionist

Presented, written and produced by Helen Zaltzman

#funerals, #dying, #grief, #language, #blackhumour

This podcast episode is for you if …. you love language and how it impacts our experience of the world and death and dying in particular and don’t mind a bit of humour in that context.
This podcast episode may not be for you if…  you don’t want to hear direct language about the realities of death, dying and grief.


The Allusionist is a podcast all about language; why we use the words we do, their history and their purpose. In this episode, host Helen Zaltzman wants to understand the language of death.

Joining her is Cariad Lloyd, a comedian, author, improviser and host of the Griefcast podcast. Cariad’s father died of cancer when she was 15 and she is always intrigued by how uncomfortable this fact makes many people. She started Griefcast to explore why it was so hard for people to share their grief and acknowledge the grief of others. 

Helen is also joined by Evie King, author of ‘Ashes to Admin: Tales from the Caseload of a Council Funeral Officer’. Evie arranges the funerals of people who die without the means to fund their own funeral, or who do not have family or friends to arrange a funeral for them.

This conversation is fascinating, touching and humorous, all at once. Cariad and Evie show experience, respect and comfort with the language of death and grief. As a result, the listener feels welcomed and comforted. Each tell stories of how language can be used to help or hinder a person’s experience. Both share personal thoughts on how to approach death and dying with family, friends and even complete strangers.

Cariad, in particular, explores how to define grief. A wonderful section in this podcast is where she and Helen talk about ‘anticipatory grief’. This is the grief you feel when you know someone is going to die, perhaps months or years from now. Anticipatory grief is common in situations that involve dementia or other degenerative conditions.

Evie speaks to the value of clearly communicating your wishes. Importantly, this includes ensuring the people who need to carry them out have the information, or know how to find it. A large part of her job is trying to decipher the legacy and final wishes of a person. She hopes to find information in things like their diary, the receipts in the kitchen cabinet or their wall calendar. Mobile phones, while wonderful for the living, make Evie’s job quite challenging. Often all the critical information she needs, like if a will exists, is stored only on a phone. This usually makes it completely inaccessible to Evie, leaving her to guess the person’s wishes as best she can.

This episode will make you reflect on the value of communication in death and dying. We hope this will help you feel more comfortable having your own conversations with the people around you.

Listen to Episode 173, “Death” of The Allusionist on all your favourite podplayers or at the website https://www.theallusionist.org/allusionist/death. You can also read our review of Evie King’s book, Ashes to Admin: Tales from the Caseload of a Council Funeral Officer

Review by Catherine Prosser



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