A reason for living when someone close has died

A reason for living, when someone close has died is demonstrated perfectly with Ricky Gervais. He plays Tony in ‘After Life‘ currently on Netflix. He struggles to come to terms with the death of his wife. Here are my observations and the lessons we can take from this series.

Why Ricky Gervais, his dog and death are so important is simply because of this memory.

A reason for living when someone close has died

My dog died when I was ten.

I was upstairs one evening, in the bath and on the way to bed when I heard a howl like I’d never heard before.

I jumped out. Not pausing for a towel or anything, I ran to the top of the stairs. My darling border terrier Busco lying flat on the hall floor.

He looked like he was sleeping, but in the context of that awful noise, I knew he must have died.

I don’t remember anything more, not even crying. Although I imagine I burst into tears – I think I must have been in shock. 

The vet came to pick him up. I’ve no idea why we didn’t bury him in our back garden  (it would be different now).  

I missed him dreadfully, and a while later, we got another dog, Pablo, a mongrel.

My main memory of him was one day when I was crying. He started whining, jumped up and started licking my face.

That made me smile through my tears. Although I often tried to reproduce this response with him again, it never happened.  

But at the time, my heart was warmed by this little puppy seeing my tears.

After Life

Ricky Gervais as the character Tony in After Life demonstrates his love for his dog, and the dog for him.

The episode I watched last night had his dog Antilles start whining, jumping up at him and licking his face as Tony struggled with thoughts of suicide, holding a bottle of sleeping pills in his hand, tears streaming down his face.


That’s what my little dog Pablo had for me. And now we see it on Netflix, brought into millions of homes. 

A reason for living, even after someone close to you has died. In this case the dog’s love for Tony, and his need to be fed, walked and looked after.

Because that’s one of the weird things about death – life surrounds it, and it just goes on.

Life Goes On

Even when your own life has been completely disrupted, life itself still continues. 

The leaves still drop from the trees and need sweeping up.

The shopping still needs to be done.

The dog must still be fed and taken out for walks.

I’ve yet to watch the third series of After Life but at the moment I’m already hugely grateful to Ricky Gervais for writing this screenplay, and acting in it so well.

Even if it’s not your cup of tea, the effect it’s had on many millions around the world has done us all a favour. 

After Life Lessons:

  • a man crying openly (giving permission to many men to do the same thing and feel okay about it)  ✅
  • grief in its many guises (meaning we are all educated on what that looks like, and can perhaps be more accepting when grief visits us and our families) ✅
  • how the relationship between a person and their dog can allow someone who’s bereaved to carry on even when they don’t want to live any more ✅
  • And we see how the star’s late wife left lots of video instructions about how to live without her around.

Healthy Death and Bereavement

Even if you don’t particularly like Ricky Gervais, or want to watch something about dying, death and bereavement, it’s very healthy that this is happening in our world.

When we are not exposed to this kind of thing, we don’t make plans for the fact we won’t be around any more.

We ignore the fact we are mortal beings who will be knocked off our perch one day.

And because of this, we leave our friends and families ill-prepared for coping in the run up to our death, and after.

And it’s not okay!

How well prepared are you?

So whether you are touched or not by this series, or viewed it or not, I invite you to think about your answer to this question:

If you had died yesterday, on a scale of 1-10, how would the people around you now be coping?

What’s your answer?

If the answer is ‘10 – they would know what to do, what I wanted, how to find everything, and to follow my instructions’ then that is wonderful, I salute you!

Anything less than 10, then please consider what one small thing you could do this week to help move that figure towards a 10.

Then do it. 

And then go and celebrate that you’ve taken a step forward in showing your love in this way.

Next Steps

Our Before I Go Workbook and End of Life Planning cards are the perfect tools for helping you answer and document the questions your loved ones will need to know after you can’t answer them anymore. You can buy them here.

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  1. Doreen Miller on January 26, 2022 at 4:04 pm


    How very touching is your e-mail

    Reminds me of my visit to the Home for dogs near Leamington Spa where they select the puppies that are to be trained to work with people who are blind or partially sighted .

    I just saw an employee last week who is unable to continue to work in any capacity . He has no idea of how he will fill his day to provide him with a sense of achievement. Physically he would struggle with owning a dog although we did discuss it .

    When we discussed walking someone else’s dog he immediately became excited and he said he had a fried that would love him to do that and help him. I suggested that the dog would look forward to his walks , would appreciate being praised, and would lick his hand to thank him

    He left a happy man.

    Thank you Jane for your lovely story which allowed me to reflect on the dog walker’s story.

    Keep writing

    Kindest regards


    • Elizabeth on January 26, 2022 at 7:11 pm

      That’s beautiful Doreen ❤️

  2. Elizabeth on January 26, 2022 at 7:10 pm

    Thank you for another thought provoking blog. The story of your dog really touched me. After I took in my second dog from the streets of Romania, at one point, looking into her eyes, my heart ached for all the pain she had endured, and my tears began to fall. Gently, she reached up, sniffed them, then tentatively licked a tear.
    I think dogs give many people a reason to go on.

    That’s also a good point about Afterlife, re getting bereavement, loss and grief out in the open and talked about. Sadly season 3 was a big disappointment for me: there’s actually a rape joke near the beginning, and he seems to be using his grief as an excuse entitling him to express aggression, violence and of course, his usual rudeness and lack of consideration for anyone but himself. I gave up after the 3rd episode. I loved the first season though.

    Thanks for the work you do.

  3. Jane Duncan Rogers on January 27, 2022 at 10:47 am

    Interesting Elizabeth – I haven’t got to that stage yet .There’s loads about this programme I am not too keen on but just when I think I’m going to give up, another gem is portrayed! So I am plugging away at it, to see what happens. A bit too much swearing for my personal taste though…

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