Why are People so Upset at that McDonalds Advert?

 

This last week, a lot of fuss has been made about the McDonalds ‘dead Dad’ TV advert that first aired in the UK last week. In a bid to reach its customers with an emotional and touching TV campaign, McDonalds used the theme of bereavement with a storyline of a young boy asking his mother about his deceased father. They failed, horribly.

If you have not yet seen the advert, you can watch it here; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S1XM4INk8l8

The argument that many people who are for the advert seem to be making (from what I have seen on social media) is that the advert ‘has been very well put together’, ‘is a great piece of advertising’ or is ‘touching and sensitive’.

However, these are my personal views and personal opinions based on my own experiences. You may agree, you may not;

If the advert had been for something else, I.E. a charity, it would have been fine, it would have been ‘very well put together’, touching and sensitive. But it wasn’t. It was an advert designed to sell a fucking BURGER. A multi-million pound company saw fit to relate the stresses and emotional turmoil of losing a parent as a child to a Filet-O-Fish. A shameless advertising tactic which is as vile as it is dumbfounding.

As someone who has both lost a parent at a young age and gone on to work with vulnerable young people in a youth work setting and also study the mental health implications of bereavement and trauma, I have never felt so angry and insulted at a television advert in all my life. Do I have a right to be angry? Fuck yes I do, and so do any others that have ever experienced the loss of someone you love.

Losing one of the most important and influential people in your life at any age is heart-breaking and confusing. Losing that person as a child or teenager stays with you for the rest of your life and leaves behind a painful void where your loving Mother or Father should be. Yet, young people are immensely and astoundingly resilient. The defiance and bravery that I have witnessed in young people battling personal traumas that no child or teen should ever have to experience is just amazing. I have seen young women complete their A-Level exams and get accepted into university despite being sexually abused for years, and I have seen young men move into their very first flat independently despite becoming homeless at 15 years old. Bereavement as a trauma is something that affects your life every day. There isn’t a day that wouldn’t have been made different, or maybe warmer, if your Mother or Father were still there with you. I think about my mother every day after losing her at 13 years old, certain things get easier but the loss is still there. After the death of a parent the smallest things can be a battle but we push on and make amazing achievements despite the pain it has caused. Bereavement at a young age is nothing to be belittled, least not by a Happy Meal.

The arbitrary use of childhood bereavement in the advert undermines the feelings of loss, pain, upset and upheaval that are felt after the death of a parent. Not because it isn’t a ‘well made’ advert, but because that pain and emotional pull is being used to sell cheeseburgers. To exploit the anguish that young people feel after a bereavement in this way is disrespectful, crude and corrupt. It is not ok to use death as a way to market fast food.

Families should not have to watch a TV advert in the comfort of their own homes while watching Britain’s Got Talent that makes them feel capitalised upon for losing a loved one. Bereaved families aren’t yours market or cash in on, McDonalds. Bereavement moulds and shapes our lives and the people we become. It turns us into warriors, worriers, thinkers, doers, introverts and extroverts. Whoever we become after losing someone we love, it becomes a part of our identity. McDonalds, you took that part of our identity and cashed it into a burger.

So, McDonalds, if you want to go ahead and advertise your products then please do so. If you want to do your bit to help families experiencing trauma, again, please do so. But don’t get the two confused. If you’d like help on how to do the latter, myself or charities such as Winston’s Wish or Childhood Bereavement UK are here to help. Childhood bereavement is not a taboo subject, and is in fact something that should be talked about as a way of helping individuals, schools, families and society tackle the issues that come with it. But there is a way and a how that doesn’t involve promoting a Big Mac.

 

 

 

 

Winston’s Wish and Childhood Bereavement UK do amazing work with children, teenagers and families suffering from bereavement. Please take a look at what they do;

https://www.winstonswish.org.uk/

https://childbereavementuk.org/

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Everyday Mental Health after Bereavement

 

After sitting and listening to Prince Harry’s pod cast interview with Bryony Gordon, my first thoughts were ‘I need to write about this’. What an incredibly honest and open interview for a young man who has lived his life in the forefront of the media to share on such personal and painful subjects. Hazza, I salute you!

After looking further into the work of the Head’s Together mental health campaign that has been backed by Harry, William and Kate, I am simply in awe of the positive, creative and supportive push for openness around mental health from the Royals. While listening to Harry talk to Bryony about mental health and the importance of being more open and honest about it I found myself relating heavily to what he was saying. As he goes on to discuss the subject of losing his mother at age 12 and shutting off his emotions for 20 years I can step back in time to only a couple of years ago when I reached a point of realising that I had never dealt with losing my own mother at 13 years old.

Everyone’s experiences of grief and loss are different, mine (eventually) appeared in the form of anxiety which for the last 7 years I have experienced on and off. It started with very brief anxiety attacks that were few and far between but slowly and surely the anxiety became more frequent and prevalent in my life. I began to regularly experience anxiety attacks that made it almost impossible to deal with daily life at times. It’s hard to explain to someone that you feel as if the world is going to end over something that is, in reality, a minute issue. Because of this, I feel that a lot of people who experience anxiety don’t talk about how they are feeling. Harry spoke candidly in his interview about the “fight or flight” reaction and how difficult this can be to cope with while getting on with everyday things. Granted, a lot of Harry’s everyday things will be slightly more media frenzied or high profile compared to my sitting in an office trying to politely turn down a cup of tea for the 5th time that morning, but when you are having the fight or flight reaction inside you it can make you feel like a prisoner in your own body. As the name suggests, your body goes into overdrive because it feels that it needs to either fight something or run away, but when the issue causing this isn’t physical and is mainly in your own mind it is impossible. You get that heavy feeling behind your eyes as if you’re on the verge of crying but your body doesn’t quite let you, so instead you sit there in emotional turmoil probably looking deeply upset that someone didn’t make you the cup of tea that you didn’t want.

Two years ago it reached a point where I simply couldn’t cope. Severe anxiety attacks took over me on a more regular basis and when it got to a time where I felt like there was no point to life if it meant I was going to feel in a constant crippling state of panic and despair, I decided it was time to see a professional counsellor.

Seeing my counsellor has changed my life in ways I can never thank her enough for. Sitting with a completely impartial person and talking about things that I hadn’t allowed myself think about in years is both utterly terrifying and magnificently empowering. Like doing a bungee jump, the risks are there but the reward afterwards is greater. I’ve never been the type of person to cry in front of others, I partly put this down to growing up in a military background as my Dad was in the RAF, and partly to do with it just not being something that my family do. It feels unnatural and I have a subconscious fear of being judged for it, but sitting and crying my heart out in front someone unprejudiced and supportive is the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. By letting out emotions that I didn’t even realise were buried in me I have learnt a lot about myself and dealt with feelings of grief and the after effect of bereavement. Grief is a tricky issue because there is no one side effect and everyone reacts differently. Like myself and Prince Harry it can take years to realise that you haven’t coped with it, or for others the feeling of loss and its effect could be felt much more instantly. My counsellor enabled me to see where my anxiety attacks had come from and deal with some really deep rooted emotions that I hadn’t even realised were a factor. It isn’t always doom and gloom when I see her either, we laugh about things, I can swear about small things that have pissed me off and we can talk about really nice memories that I have of my mother.

My anxiety developed over losing my mother and other people that I had been very close to over the years and smaller and smaller things became a catalyst for the overwhelming panic attacks. Now, I still see my counsellor on a much less regular basis and I look forward to my visits because it almost feels as if I’m going to see a friend that I know I’m going to have a really good catch up with. My anxiety hasn’t gone away completely but it does occur far less often and is much less consequential. I have realised which kinds of situations are triggers for an anxiety attack and I have developed coping mechanisms which make it much easier to handle or quash altogether. I am a much more empowered person for opening up about my mental health and seeking help, I’m happier and can actually belly laugh with my friends over ridiculous things, and I’m confident in myself and my own abilities. Altogether I can just be ‘me’, without worry. As Prince Harry stated in his interview “just have that conversation” because it will go much further than you think for both yourself and the people around you.

Although I’m now 28 and have been out of school for some time, I do wish that mental health had been a much more open topic of conversation in my school and that there was more education surrounding it in general. Had I been able to recognise the signs and symptoms of anxiety sooner I don’t think I would have suffered with it for as long as I did. I hope that with Harry, William and Kate shedding further light mental health that it will become a subject much more widely approached within schools and further education. Knowing what an isosceles triangle is will only get you so far in life, but arming yourself with knowledge on mental health could literally help you to save a life.

 

 

If you’d like to listen to Prince Harry and Bryony Gordon’s podcast on mental health, please do here; http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/04/16/prince-harry-sought-counselling-death-mother-led-two-years-total/

 

And if you’d like to learn more about the Head’s Together Campaign, please have a look at their website; https://www.headstogether.org.uk/

Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day gets harder every year. Sometimes not even for the reasons that you’d imagine.

I lost my mother to cancer when I was 13 years old, which as I type is now almost 16 years ago (yikes!). She was 36 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer and 38 when she lost her courageous battle against it. She had the most stunning big brown eyes you’ve ever seen and a smile that was absolutely contagious.

Although I am heading towards 30 and have now experienced 16 Mother’s Day’s without her, it still isn’t an easy day to contend with every year. There are other days that are hard, such as her birthday and Christmas, but Mother’s Day is something specifically designed to celebrate something I no longer have. Everyone assumes you have a mother, especially when you are a twenty-something year old girl, and society has begun to make me feel a little bit less of a whole person for not being able to celebrate this particular day.

Every year the mass commercialisation of Mother’s Day begins a little earlier and lays it on a bit thicker. It’s something I’ve become well versed to and brace myself for as soon as the Valentine’s Day cards and gaudy plastic red roses are shipped off for another year. As everyday use and influence of the media is more a part of our lives than ever before, it becomes more and more impossible to actively ignore the fact that it’s coming. Mother’s Day – the most awkward day of the year when you have lost your mother.

Have you ever wanted to tell a daffodil display in Tesco to fuck off? I have. Fuck you daffodils. It now isn’t just one day of the year in March that is hard to bare, there is about a month to six weeks of build-up beforehand. Whether it’s Mother’s Day cards being displayed in the supermarket, restaurants advertising Mother’s Day bookings, Pandora reminding you that a charm bracelet is the perfect Mother’s Day gift on the TV, local radio hosts enthusiastically compelling you to enter a Mother’s Day competition for a spa weekend, or the hordes of emails that rudely invite themselves to sit in your inbox reminding you to buy Mother’s Day presents with free next day delivery.  There is no escaping the fact that it’s coming.

Once Mother’s Day becomes a conversation piece and your friends start talking about what they bought as gifts and co-workers in the office start a discussion on where they are going at the weekend to celebrate, there is only one phrase that pops into my head; ‘elephant’. Yes, the fact that my mother died is a big fat elephant in the room and I feel like I am sticking out like a sore thumb. Or worse, what if someone doesn’t know and asks me what I’m doing for Mother’s Day? How do I answer that question without making you feel awful and causing an awkward situation? Please, PLEASE don’t ask me what I’m doing for Mother’s Day!  Speaking of elephants in the room, another thing that’s almost as awkward as this situation is when a characters mother in a film dies. Disney, I’m looking at you. You know, your friends know, your family knows. So you sit there awkwardly hoping that no one will make eye contact with you.

Now as we are well and truly in an age where people share their day to day lives on social media (don’t worry – I realise I am also currently doing the same), the day itself can be a very lonely one indeed. Ironic that websites such as Facebook, which were developed to help people connect, can feel the most isolating. As I sit looking at my IPhone at 8.32am on 26th March 2017, I begin to watch all of the heartfelt Mother’s Day messages and photos being passed on by my friends, work colleagues and those random people on your friends list that you haven’t spoken to for years. And I am deeply jealous of you all.

This isn’t to say I don’t think you should express your love for your mothers, let’s just get that clear. If I had the opportunity again to show mine just how much I loved her and how much of a perfectly fantastic role model she was, I would in a heartbeat. If she was here and I was a millionaire I’d buy her her own beautiful island, because that’s what she deserved. So as much as Mother’s Day is hard, it is also conflicted. My mother isn’t here so I miss her, and Mother’s Day can be a painful reminder of that. But it is also a day to celebrate how wonderful our mothers are, which should never be forgotten.

This is my first ever blog post and was inspired by this amazing blog by Rochelle Bugg – please give it a read here; http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/rochelle-bugg/whats-mothers-day-like-wh_b_15498356.html