The scheduled diary did not appear tonight, so I am posting this as a place for grieving people who want a place to gather.
Please share whatever you need to share.
Last week I happened to see the movie Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. While the movie had many flaws, I was impressed by the way it tried to depict the complexity of the grief process.
Without spoilers, because I think people should see it, the movie is about a young boy named Oskar who is mentally challenged and/or incredibly bright (and his performance is intriguing in that I was never quite sure which one). He grows up in a family where his parents love him and each other very much, and he is particularly attached to his father, as young boys often are.
One of the things he likes to do with his father is go on "expeditions" which are scavenger hunt puzzles his father constructs to help him develop social skills. He has trouble talking to people, and by extension trouble relating to people.
Then his father is on the 105th floor of the WTC on 9-11. It magnifies all the boy's fears and adjustment issues. Not only that, the boy is engulfed with guilt from a big secret he keeps about his own actions on "the worst day". And while Oskar is struggling through the raw early days of his grief process, he finds a key among his father's possessions. His father's last puzzle. He becomes obsessed with finding out what the key opens.
I promised no spoilers, but I will say for the purposes of this diary that his process of finding out what the key opens, actually opens him. Opens his relationship with his surviving family members. Opens his relationship with the world. Opens his relationship with himself.
The movie is over the top in spots and manipulative. But watching it from the perspective of the extreme lengths people will go to to deal with (or avoid facing) deep and complicated grief, I thought it was brilliant.
It showed how a grieving person will sometimes choose to hold on to very specific behaviors or talismans as an obvious (and ultimately, of course, fruitless) stand in for holding on to the person who is gone.
It dramatically portrayed how a grieving person can seek and find comfort in an all-consuming project that fills up all the free hours in the day and occupies all the free space in the mind, as if trying to fill the empty space left in a life when the most important person in it has died.
It showed how real growth happens once a person realizes that coping mechanisms are just that, coping mechanisms, with no magic power to restore the dead to life.
And it showed, rather than told, the essential truth about grief recovery, that the only way out is through, and finding a way to connect to life and connect to the living, including yourself, is the true path to healing.
The cast is incredible, with Tom Hanks and Max von Sydow and Sandra Bullock and Viola Davis and Geoffrey Wright and Zoe Caldwell and John Goodman and Stephen Henderson in cameo/supporting roles around Thomas Horn as Oskar. The boy's performance is grating at times, but it is hard to tell whether that is about the actor, or whether the character as written is just a person who is difficult to like, which would mean his acting performance is extraordinary. It is a challenge for any child actor to get the audience to identify with and care about a child with a difficult personality. If the child at the core of the movie had been sweet and perfect and doe-eyed sympathetic, that would really make the movie unwatchable. His rough edges helped keep the preposterous premise grounded in reality.
I recommend this movie highly as a study in grief, although I admit I avoided watching it when it was first released. I was at a tender place in my own grief process in 2011 and I did not think I would take it well, and I do not think I was ready to see this movie until now.
If you cry easily at movies, have a strong reaction to 9-11, and are at a vulnerable place in your own grief process, it will probably push your buttons, and perhaps you should watch it with someone you trust.
Welcome, fellow travelers on the grief journey
and a special welcome to anyone new to The Grieving Room.
We meet every Monday evening.
Whether your loss is recent, or many years ago;
whether you've lost a person, or a pet;
or even if the person you're "mourning" is still alive,
("pre-grief" can be a very lonely and confusing time),
you can come to this diary and say whatever you need to say.
We can't solve each other's problems,
but we can be a sounding board and a place of connection.
Unlike a private journal
here, you know: your words are read by people who
have been through their own hell.
There's no need to pretty it up or tone it down..
It just is.