Hello everyone…I almost did three months in a row…but it’s December 7, so I’m only 7 days late here…so it kind of counts.
I, like so many of you I’m sure, am addicted to the NBC show, “This Is Us.” I am drawn to the stories of each of the characters, find myself invested in them, tuning in each and every week to see the next installment, and when the season ends for summer I find myself eagerly anticipating the next season. I find that I identify with almost every character at one point or another; Rebecca, the mom who tries so hard to be everything for her kids, and whom, like most humans, doesn’t make the right decisions all of the time. I am Jack when I try my very hardest to be everything for everyone, carrying the weight of everyone else’s need above my own. I am Randall when I try to plan out every detail of my life down to the exact minute, only for it to all come crashing down on me in a momentous, anxiety inducing wave. I am Kate when I feel like the lost middle child, who is often overshadowed by her siblings in various ways, in various points in her life, often forgetting that she is equally loved and cherished. I am Kevin when I pretend that I have this grief thing under control, only to find that even still, no matter how long ago the trauma happened, grief still has a hold on me that I cannot escape.
I, like so many of you, love this show and identify with these characters and feel like I know them, because I am them. And for so many people, every week viewers tune in to look into the window of the life of these people, but then go back to their regular lives, where they haven’t felt this loss in any way other than experiencing it through the show. They call their mothers to talk about what happened, how they can see Kevin spiraling and can only imagine the pain Kate must carry around with her, as she blames herself for her fathers death. But for me, and so many other people who have lost someone real, I look into the window of the life of these people, and I see my life, and my family and my grief.
There was an episode this season, where Kevin is filming his movie with Sylvester Stallone. Sly comes over and tells Kevin that Kate mentioned their father and his passing, and Kevin tries to keep his composure, saying, “That happened a long time ago.” And Stallone responds, “In my experience Kevin, there is no such thing as a long time ago. There’s only memories that mean something and memories that don’t.” And Kevin looks at him and you can see that he’s trying to hold back grief and tears and it’s stuck in his throat, right at the place that makes it hard to swallow and I find myself doing the exact same thing, because I know that feeling so well. That, I have to keep it together, you are not going to cry, softball in my throat feeling, and in that moment I felt so bad for Kevin, that he was experiencing this feeling that I knew brought so much pain.
For some of us, that show is hard to watch. There have been times that I have to shut it off and come back later. The episode where William dies, and Randall holds his face in his hands as his finally let’s go, brings tears to my eyes right at this moment. It was such a beautiful moment, and I was envious that the last moment with my mother was not this way. There was no closure, no special moment, no last words. There was just an abrupt, ambiguous ending that was full of regret and anger and sadness. Some people watch and they get a “good cry” out, they feel better after watching, like they released something from inside them. There are times that I watch and the thing that I release is a months worth of grief that I had been packing away, and the thing that let it loose was Kevin breaking down in the front yard because he lost his father’s necklace and to him, he was losing his father all over again.
For some of us, this is not pretend. It is not something that we turn on every Tuesday night and then when the show is over we get to go back to being ourselves. For some of us, this is our life, this is our grief, this is our family and our daily struggle to move on without the person you need the most. This is us, years later, still grieving, still missing, still loving.
This Is Us.