Experiencing grief and loss can be one of life’s greatest challenges. There is rarely another experience that effects, consumes and transforms you in quite the same way, and you can never go back to being the same exact person you were before.
Often film and television tend to shy away from the discomfort and harsh reality of depicting grief on screen. When a character dies in a TV show or movie, often time is accelerated through the grief, so as not to get swaddled with the responsibility of showing it.
However, Ricky Gervais’ latest series chooses to lean into this discomfort and tell the story of Tony, a small-town newspaper journalist and his struggle with grief and loss following the death of his wife & best friend from Cancer.
Grief is experienced differently by everyone.
Tony’s grief is expressed largely in the form of anger and apathy – emotions that he thrusts indiscriminately on all those around him.
“You’re like a troll on Twitter. Just because you’re upset, everyone has to be upset.”
Grief can often leave you feeling sad, numb, irritable, isolated, relieved, guilty or lonely. It can last for weeks, months, or years – and there is no one way to manage it. Instead of overcoming your grief, experts often say that it’s more likely we grow emotionally to make space for it to exist as part of us.
How to get through grief.
Tony uses some not-uncommon though definitely ill-advised methods in an attempt to deal with his devastating loss and consequent feelings of apathy and purposeless.
“I just want to sleep.”
One of our psychologists, April, specialises in grief & loss and says “It is important to schedule time to confront your grief and sit with the emotions of your grief on a regular basis (depending on the intensity of our grief, this could range from a couple of times a day to once a week/month). This doesn’t need to be long but it is important to do it in a safe environment where you have time to be emotional, if needed.
When you sit with your grief, although incredibly challenging, it’s important to take the time to notice what you’re feeling; pay attention to the emotions sitting in your body and let these come to the surface (rather than pushing them down or distracting yourself). Sit with these uncomfortable emotions and validate and soothe this part of you gently, and compassionately. It’s important to spend enough time here for you to realise that although your suffering may feel insurmountable, you can be an emotional holding container for your own pain.
It can be helpful to pair this with writing to help you process emotional content and attempt to make meaning of your suffering as well as with touch, by placing your hands over your chest and belly to help soothe yourself. Because grief often feels like it controls us, popping up at random and unexpected times, scheduling time to grieve can help us feel more in control of our grief and often has the result of reducing the frequency or intensity of spontaneous/unexpected waves or grief.”
How to help someone going through grief.
In #afterlife, the people in Tony’s life try doing all they can to help distract him or alleviate his suffering, but it can be difficult knowing how to help.
“Open the curtains. Enjoy some sun while you can.”
Ask your friend or loved one how they’re feeling. Listen to understand and don’t feel the need to proffer advice. Sometimes it’s important to make someone feel heard. Ask how you can help – sometimes little things like running a few errands, giving someone a lift or going for a walk can be a huge help to someone suffering. If you feel their grief is harmfully impacting their life without alleviating, it might be worth helping them seek out a professional to chat to.
One of the most important things we can do through our grief process, however long that may be, is to be gentle and compassionate with ourselves. Grief changes us and from that moment, we are no longer the same person. Life will never be the same again; however, we learn in time that our transformation through grief also has many positive elements and although it doesn’t feel like it at the time, we are capable of experiencing joy again.” – April, Indigo Psychologist
#Aboutlife is emotional and poignant. It manages to tap into some real and raw themes that highlight the sometimes sad and painful reality of the human experience, as well as our profound strength, resilience and ability to transform and make new meaning. Also, there is a dog in it.