Why This Is Us Is So Important For Grieving
Never has there been a show that has made me cry during nearly every episode until This Is Us. It is an American drama on NBC that premiered in 2016 — its second season wrapped in March of this year. The series as well as some of the actors have been nominated for a slew of awards and the characters have won the hearts of fans across the globe.
This Is Us isn’t just another wholesome family drama; this show is important. It tackles issues like race, mental health, addiction, sexual orientation, body image, suicide, terminal illness, adoption, and many other important topics. The emotion is palpable, but it’s also funny and relatable.
The series follows the lives of a family who has experienced profound loss and profound love. For me, I watched it from a number of different standpoints. One of them was from the position of someone who has experienced grief in a number of ways. I saw my own grief process through each of the characters. I felt seen and understood. This Is Us is an important show for many groups of people, including those who have experienced traumatic grief.
The Many Types of Grief
Grief is packaged in many different ways. You can grieve many different things. This Is Us tackles the death of a spouse, parent, friend, and child. You can grieve a relationship, a miscarriage, and many other types of loss — this show covers it all. This is important because some might feel that their feelings of grief are dramatic or unnecessary. However, we can’t choose how we approach loss. Grief is grief. Feeling validated in your feelings is extremely helpful, and this show depicts characters feeling grief over a variety of different aspects of loss. For viewers experiencing something similar, this show is emotional validation.
There’s No Right or Wrong Way to Grieve
I felt myself depicted in each character in This Is Us. Seeing Rebecca’s need to be close to Jack’s ashes was like feeling my need to be in the same room as my best friend’s body at her memorial. Kate’s guilt in her grief was like looking in a mirror. I saw my story in Kevin’s substance abuse. I saw my own celebrations of life in Randall’s celebration of his dad during the Super Bowl. I saw my husband in Beth and Toby as he tries to understand my loss. I felt Randall’s guilt and resentment losing his father that he barely knew, just as I lost my mother.
— This Is Us (@NBCThisisUs) May 31, 2018
Some people grieve with tears, some with anger, others with substance abuse issues. Some develop mental health struggles as a result. Some are able to celebrate the life of someone they’ve lost. Some feel guilt, others feel resentment, some feel at peace. Some stifle those feelings, and some have to stay strong through the pain. Some people ignore it. I’ve been all of those things and I imagine many others experiencing grief have as well. Through the characters in This Is Us, you see each grieving process and the ability to relate to it. There truly isn’t a right or wrong way to grieve, just different ways.
Spotting the Warning Signs
Throughout the show, no one really handles the grief in exceptional ways. This opens up a dialogue for grief and how we talk about it and understand it. It’s important to feel how you feel, but it’s also important to cope with traumatic grief. Things like natural disasters, shootings, car accidents, or just experiencing grief on a profound level can cause traumatic grief. One of the important aspects of coping involves seeking help from friends or family and understanding that you’re not alone. It’s feeling okay about talking to a professional and catching the signs of self-medicating with drugs or alcohol. There’s no specific time frame or picture for what mourning looks like, but there are risks. Depression, anxiety, PTSD, sleep problems, substance abuse, and suicide are some serious side effects that grief can cause, and it’s important to know the warning signs. This show discusses how easily grief can turn into something more serious.
Grief Affects Everything
Something that was always said to me in times of loss was that it would get better. And it did — but not in the way it sounds. The pain of loss hurts as bad today as the day it happened, but in time I learned how to take that pain and move it from its place in front of my eyes to a drawer in the back of my brain. If I revisit it, it hurts just as bad. But I’ve learned to compartmentalize the pain. However, triggers still happen. In the show, the characters are still affected by grief years later. It shows that grief affects everything. When I wonder why I’m still hurting all these years later, I see why in This Is Us. During a wedding, during the Super Bowl, in certain settings, listening to certain songs, smelling certain smells, hearing certain names brings it all back.
Grief causes anger and resentment. It causes anxiety and distrust. It causes fear. It affects so many areas of life long after the traumatic event occurred.
About 40 million adults, or 18 percent of the population, have anxiety, but only a fraction seek assistance, experts say. Anxiety can be a major side effect of traumatic grief because the loss is so profound. Grief affects everything. This Is Us not only helps those experiencing grief to see grief affect characters in the show in the same way it affects them, it’s also helpful for those who support someone experiencing grief to understand it.
Representation Is Important
It’s important to feel understood and represented. This Is Us does a great job of depicting characters from all walks of life. Those who experience grief are one of those groups who feel represented through the show. Grief is chaotic and messy. Those experiencing it feel helpless, angry, sad, and alone. This is why representation is important. It’s important for those experiencing traumatic grief and loss that what they are feeling is normal, but to be careful about the serious side effects. Feeling immense pain is normal, but it does get better. Though the characters in the show are forever affected by their grief, they go on to have families, to laugh, to love, and to have success. I saw my grief in their grief, and I felt hope.
“Grief” is a word that I sometimes feel defines my life. Sometimes it’s all I think about; other times I put it in its drawer and focus on my life. In truth, grief is something that will probably affect everyone at some point. Losing people is a part of life, so many people can watch this show and feel the pain that the characters are feeling. They can relate, grow, and cry with their characters. This Is Us is important because so much of it is exploring that grief and how it affects the characters. It’s an important thing for a community of grieving people to see themselves depicted in characters they can relate to. For those who can empathize with feelings of grief, this show is literally us.
Photo courtesy of NBC