Rev. Kate J Meyer, LPC
I Love You, This Is Us, But You Got It Wrong (No spoilers, I promise!)
NBC's smash-hit drama, "This Is Us" is one of those shows the unique ability to unite people across many lines. From the collective gasp at the end of the pilot to the weekly post-cry exhaustion, fans are united in their love of all things Pearson.
Post-cry exhaustion, for those who don't know, is not an exaggeration. The writers, the actors, the staging and lighting, the music; all combine every week to bring us to heights and depths of emotions most of us regularly try to avoid. But we go there with the Pearsons and we do so because it is a safe place, a place of love, and a place of acceptance.
I love "This Is Us", what it promotes, and how it deals with very real and very significant issues.
This past week, though, I found myself very disappointed with the show--a feeling to which I am unaccustomed related to this show and a feeling I didn't much enjoy. In the episode 'Songbird Part 2', Rebecca says the following to Kevin: "It's hard to be mad at someone who's not here anymore; there's nothing you can do with those feelings."
As a bereavement counselor, I work daily with grieving people who come to me with some version of this sentiment. They're stuck in their grief because of an argument or other unresolved issue and have been led to believe they are now forever stuck with something unfinished.
This misconception is unfortunately all to common. That message is said by well-meaning (sometimes, at least) friends or colleagues, it is spoken from the pulpit, and, as I witnessed last week, it is even touted on prime time TV.
I recognize some might believe my reaction to be a little too strong; after all, in 43 minutes of show, why should 60 seconds cause such distress? Because of its platform. Because our culture is already terrible at grief and perpetuating misconceptions that there is nothing we can do with feelings towards someone after they die does nothing to improve how we treat ourselves in grief.
So, let me be abundantly clear. Your feelings are your feelings. You are allowed to be mad at someone even after they've died and you do not need to live with those feelings for the rest of your life; you can, in fact, do something with those feelings!
Talk to a picture of the person who died. Get out a heavy bag and punch out your feelings as you scream them at a picture. Write a letter in which you hold nothing back . Buy some dissolving paper (yes! that is a real thing!) and fill it with your most challenging emotions and then watch them dissolve away while you engage in some mindfulness practices. There are truly so many options to rid yourself of emotions that hold you back from moving forward in your grief. It is important you understand you do not need to be stuck in something negative or unresolved.
"This Is Us", I love you still; but I could not allow this significant misconception to go unaddressed.
What about you? Have you found ways to release difficult emotions after a person has died? Do you find yourself stuck and believing your emotions have no place to go? Share your thoughts in a comment or write your questions in the suggestion box--an answer just might appear next Wednesday!