Friday, October 11, 2013

Grieving with Glee

I used to be a huge fan of Glee. The first two seasons, I never missed an episode and was faithful in buying the DVD's right when they came out (this was before the show was on Netflix) so I could binge watch whenever I wanted. After my daughter died, I attempted to watch the show again but lost interest in the plot line, especially since at the time there was a lot of focus on the baby girl that Puck & Quinn gave up for adoption. It was just too hard for me to watch. I honestly have not followed the show since and have no idea what the characters have been doing since 2011. But once I heard about the tribute they planned to honor Cory Monteith's (The Quarterback), I knew it was a not-to-be-missed episode. I was not disappointed.

Interestingly, Glee decided to move focus from the subject of Finn's death and instead concentrate on the way his friend's and family were dealing with it. The episode concentrated on grieving. And boy, was I blown away by how accurately they portrayed grief. It was obviously written/directed/acted by people in the midst of the grieving process and it showed. They got it. The pain, the irrational anger, the sadness, the laughter, the terror, the complication of emotions, the fear of the future, the tears that seemed to come out of nowhere. The show did a fantastic job of taking the viewers on the grief roller coaster that the bereaved are oh so familiar with. It was quite painful yet beautiful to watch, particularly because you know the actors weren't acting. Those emotions were a true representation of how they were feeling after losing their friend.

There were many moments in the episode that portrayed the grieving process eloquently and, sadly, familiarly. In one scene, Santana gets so irrationally angry at Sue for not allowing candles at Finn's locker that she screams in her face and pushes her into a bookshelf. While I never resorted to physical violence in the early stages of grief, I remember feeling like I was a ticking time bomb who could go off at any second. I fought back the urge to yell at people, sometimes unsuccessfully, quite frequently. I realize now how hurtful and irrational that behavior is but I also know that you can't control it at that stage because it is almost impossible to think rationally when your heart is broken. Another moment that had me in tears was when Rachel said “Nobody treat me with kid gloves, OK? I don’t know what to say either.” Damn. Isn't that the truth? I know she was speaking from experience in that scene, as she is most definitely experiencing that in real life. I don't know how many times I've walked in a room and literally felt the pity pouring out of everyone. It's such a strange feeling because you know no one can help it and the have the best intentions but it is just so damn uncomfortable. It just magnifies the abnormality of an already abnormal situation and makes you feel like even more of an outcast. And honestly, it's two years later and I still don't know what to say.

The most pivotal scene of the episode is when Finn's family began packing up his room. First off, this act alone needs to be acknowledged. Packing up your child's belongings after their death is one of the hardest things that anyone ever has to do. The only reason I even did it was because we needed the room. Second, this scene focuses on Finn's family. While his friends are hurting, it is his family who is going to be affected the most by his death. Their life is forever changed and nothing will ever be normal again. I was in tears as Finn's mom said the thoughts that go through the heads of all grieving parents, “You don’t get to stop waking up. You have to keep on being a parent even though you don’t have a child anymore.” I have to wonder if a grieving parent wrote that line because it is so scarily accurate. They will always be our child and we have to wake up and face the fact that they died every single day.

Huge kudos to Glee for being brave enough to focus on the act of grief rather than the story of Finn's death. Grief is such a taboo topic in our culture and it was very comforting for those of us who have gone through it to have such a mainstream show confront the topic and show how normal it is.