Cathy Rentzenbrink: The Long Journey to Grief

Cathy Rentzenbrink is an acclaimed author and speaker.

Her memoir, The Last Act of Love, is about the life and death of her beloved brother, Matty, and the impact this had on her life. Matty was left in a Persistent Vegetal State following a car accident just weeks before receiving his GCSE results.

‘At what point does a human life cease to be worth living? This question lies at the heart of Cathy Rentzenbrink’s extraordinary memoir.’ – The Times

In this discussion with Dr Lesel Dawson, a lecturer at the University of Bristol, Cathy talks about the trauma and grief of her brother’s accident, and how what happened to him made it difficult to experience or process the grief that followed.

She explores the ethical complexities of decision making around people in Persistent Vegetal States, and how time doesn’t relieve grief in and of itself, but rather it’s what you do with time. She explains how writing and sharing her story started to help her process her grief, revealing what she wishes she could say to her younger self. Cathy also offers wider advice for those experiencing grief and loss.

Cathy’s other books include A Manual for Heartache, which offers a broad look at sorrow, anguish, despair, loss; and Dear Reader, a joyous and moving exploration of Cathy’s lifelong love of books, and the ways that reading has influenced her life and supported her mental health and wellbeing.

Dr Lesel Dawson is a Senior Lecturer in English at the University of Bristol, specialising in grief, Renaissance literature and the history of the emotions. She’s leading a research project on Creative Grieving and writing a book that explores how art and the imagination can enable the bereaved to express and process their loss.

Image (c) Peter Flude


Dr Lesel Dawson

Facilitator Cathy Rentzenbrick

Cathy Rentzenbrink