The person who got me through 2021: Fleabag helped me survive my mother’s death

I rewatched Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s monstrous and lovable creation after my mother died in lockdown. The show gave me space to live and grieve

Fleabag isn’t really the person who got me through 2021. To confess the truth (and now the Hot Priest is saying “Kneel!” in your head, isn’t he?), she also got me through 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017 and half of 2016, when the show first aired. It’s been an intense few years. Which is precisely why only a show about a self-sabotaging, black-humoured, grief-stricken, sex-obsessed, charismatic and broken nihilist would do.

However, 2021 has been different. It’s the first year I’ve rewatched Fleabag since my mum’s death. She died last June in the midst of lockdown. She had breast cancer, just like Fleabag’s mum, whose farts sounded either like “a door opening” or a “suspicious duck”, and who also died. My mum was ill – with a remission in the middle that was like the sun coming out – for eight long years. Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s monstrous/lovable creation (whom she plays with such startling acuity that I actually felt betrayed when I discovered her own mother was alive) was my (evil) spirit guide through much of the darkness. Now she walks with me on this newly laid, even longer road through the wilderness of grief. I can think of no better companion.

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