Grief and Loss…A View from Six Feet Under

Last week was rough for the living. Alan Rickman, David Bowie, Annette Funicello among others. In my work and personal life, there have been losses too. Whenever I experience loss one of my favorite comforts in the HBO show Six Feet Under. The views of life, death, and pain are insightful and witty. The show is really more about appreciating life, moment by moment than the deaths that are depicted in the opening scenes.

Here in the US, we are a death-denying culture.We don’t discuss death, we pretend it may never happen. Unfortunately, it does, it’s an inevitability. One of my favorite characters, Brenda who I love to hate pointedly states: “the future is a concept that we use to avoid being alive today.” A harsh statement that can be uplifting and motivating at the same time. Beyond US culture norms, every religion has different beliefs about the mourning process. There are so many rules. How to mourn, when mourning can end. It can be overwhelming pressure to live up to. What if you don’t fit the mold?!?

I am going to clear up any confusion right now. There really is no right way to grieve. There are the commonly known 5 – 7 stages of grief.
The stages do not have to be linear as was once thought. Some stages are skipped. You may stay in one longer than another. There are also tasks for grieving. It can be both overwhelming and comforting to know that the feelings you are experiencing and the thoughts in your head are absolutely normal.

The mourning process is very personal. There is not one right way or wrong way to grieve. People in your life may tell you to do one thing or another but know that whatever your body and mind are telling you to do, is what’s right (as long as its safe for you). You cannot judge your grief. Don’t allow others to do so either. Over time the secondary losses also reveal themselves as if losing a person was not hard enough. You have not just lost the person, you lose income, friendship, your role. This list can go on.

Some people find that changing their perspective and turning a funeral or wake into a celebration of their loved one’s life makes saying goodbye a little easier. Working on a memorial project to remember the person by in another positive way to process a loss. Crafts like a memory jar, modge podge yourself a collage or build something to honor your loved one. It can be a welcome distraction. Projects can help you find purpose and just experience and process the loss and fill the void.

Sometimes it can feel like your emotions are out of control. Thoughts racing around in your mind. There can be feelings of regret for the things we never got to say or do. There may also be a lot of guilt and blame when someone dies. Our minds seek a clear answer, a resolution, and understanding. Boxes to check off. Death doesn’t always give us any of the things our minds want. We ask ourselves questions, we mull over “what if’s”. It becomes easy in our sadness to point our fingers at others. It’s easy to give into these negative feelings. It’s SO EASY. It can even feel good. However, this can be a sign that you don’t want to look inward. Maybe its too much too acknowledge your own feelings. Notice this and make a choice to not give in. You already have enough to deal with, hurting others will only lead to heartache and other bad places. It is a waste of energy. It may even lead to regret. Remember forgiveness which I mentioned at the beginning of this paragraph? These moments of anger and negativity are an opportunity to forgive others and yourself. To let go of old baggage, you are carrying with you, to not take on other people issues which are out of your control and to survive the loss (which you will).

In life there are always endings. A show about death is no different, six feet under had to end and in 2005 it went out with one the most appreciated series finales of all time (a positive from a negative? Say WhATTT?) The music in the background of the clip was written to have the song by Sia in the background. It makes me cry EVERY TIME I watch it. I’ll watch this clip whenever I need to grieve something.

How do you grieve?

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