Creating content

Can you see the Thestrals?

Laila Faisal
3 min readJan 31, 2023

Prior to my partner, Martin, passing away last year in August, I haven’t experienced the death of a loved one. My grandfather who I was close with, died a few months after I moved to New Zealand. Muslims are to be buried within 24 hours, so I didn’t get to attend the funeral. I had a dear old friend take her life at 70 years old ten years ago. That was sudden and I wasn’t involved in the end of life care. With a sudden death you don’t get that experience. I was also not involved in the funeral preparations.

With Martin things were a lot different. I was emotionally and physically involved. After six months I noted what doesn’t sit well with me or my daughter in terms of other people’s reaction. The number one irk?


We both know people who have not said a word about our loss. Four months down the track they talk to you as if nothing happened.

Person: “How are you?”

Me: “Oh, you know have been busy with stuff, affairs to tidy up after Martin died.”

Person: “I was going to reach out but I didn’t want to intrude.”

Trust me. Not reaching out is a LOT worse than intruding.

Don’t think of it as intruding. One of the best comments I had from a friend was “I’ll stay out of your way, but please call for help when you need it.” She expressed care, but acknowledged I had a lot of things to do.

When I got messages of condolences from people, I have the option to engage if I felt like it; or not if I didn’t. I’d usually just reply with a heart emoji for the latter just so that I’m being polite and don’t ghost them.

But when you see somebody who knows about your loss and doesn’t say a word, it’s like the grief comes back refreshed.

My daughter had a friend who moved overseas a few years ago. They have deep conversations on and off. And they’re the bestest of friends when she does come back for a visit to New Zealand.

She hasn’t heard from her since June last year. Then the friend started contacting her again because she has a crush on a boy they both know who hasn’t exactly been gracious with our loss. My daughter asked her if she had heard about her dad passing away a few months earlier

Girl: “Oh yeah I heard about that last month.”

My daughter: “And you didn’t think to contact me then?”

Girl: “It was a few months after he died, I didn’t think it mattered.”

It’s her dad. It matters.

I noticed the ones who have shown care and support for our loss, and those who don’t really acknowledge this. I’ve come to realise that the ones who have shown care are the ones who have had a close loved one pass away too, where they were deeply involved. Or they are ones who accept that death is just a normal part of living.

It reminded me of the Thestrals from Harry Potter.

Thestral (from

According to Harry Potter lore, Thestrals can only be seen by those who have witnessed death. Harry Potter was only able to see that the carriages that take the students from Hogwart train station to the castle were pulled by Thestrals in The Order of the Phoenix after he saw Cedric Diggory murdered by Voldemort in The Goblet of Fire. His friends Hermione and Ron still thought the cart was magically self driving.

You don’t necessarily need to experience near death to see Thestrals. They also appear visible to those who have accepted, understood and internalised the concept of death.

I am grateful that I can now see Thestrals. It makes me live my life more intentionally.

Can you see the Thestrals?



Laila Faisal

Hi all, I am mum and BFF to a gorgeous girl. I'm exploring content creation and mid-way through an EdD. I'm reflecting on death since my ex-husband died.