Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Grief on "The Big Bang Theory"

Maybe I watch too much TV, or maybe I just never noticed before my training with the Grief Recovery Institute, but it seems like I see grief being played out constantly on the "small screen."  One of my favorite shows is "The Big Bang Theory."  I am a total nerd when it comes to technology so I love to see the disfunction of those nerdier than I am.  I was watching Episode 19 on the DVR this morning and I noticed some things I would like to discuss in the blog today.

First... ***Spoiler Alert*** if you haven't watched Episode 19 of this season, bookmark this page, watch it and then come back ***End Spoiler Alert***

In this episode, one of the story lines is that Sheldon's computer dies and Amy is there to support him.  Most people would simply say, "its just a computer, what's the big deal?"  For Sheldon, however, even a broken computer with a failing video card, audio card and three bad keys on the keyboard are still not enough for him to replace it.  Sheldon, like us, get attached to things, physical things without any real existence of their own except a shaped or formed piece of plastic, metal, ceramic, etc.  Some things have sentimental value to us because of how we got it or how it was involved with other people.  Sheldon is no different.  He had attached himself emotionally to a laptop.

At some point in the show, the laptop breathes its last breath, the screen goes dark, and Sheldon is obviously moved with grief.  He ceremoniously plays "Taps" on his smart phone and covers the computer with a black cloth.  He's sad, well, as sad as the character can be, it is Sheldon afterall.  When moved with grief, we are predominately sad and struggle to make sense of it in our minds.  Our minds and our hearts are suddenly in "disconnect mode" and confusion and disorientation begin.  Ceremonies are a way of dealing with loss to some degree and Sheldon immediately exhibits these grief symptoms.

I thought the writers did a good job not trying to recreate the "stages of grief" in the show.  As we know, the stages of grief were not discovered for those that remain after a loss, but for those that learn that they have terminal illnesses. The writers also did a good job having Amy be supportive for the most part from an emotional standpoint.

One interesting thing that Amy did is to go out and buy a replacement computer.  Amy was replacing the loss for Sheldon.  A dear friend of mine tells a story of losing his dog only for a well meaning relative to buy a new dog and "surprise" him.  The new dog was not the same as his old one.  The relationship could never be the same.  One is always comparing the old with the new, trying to have the new behave like the old.  We need to complete the relationship with the former before we can love the new one completely and without the encumbrance of the previous incomplete relationship. We call this "baggage" and we tend to carry our baggage from one relationship to another.  This is also true of Sheldon in the show.  Amy did a good job technically buying a very nice replacement, but Sheldon objected wildly initially.

Amy starts to discuss the disposition of the old computer and Sheldon makes a startling admission by taking Amy to a storage locker where everything he had ever owned was stored.  Every book, every computer, every T-shirt, etc.  Sheldon had an attachment to everything and could not say "goodbye" to anything.  Sheldon knew that this was odd, but he was so attached, so incomplete with previous relationships with things, he couldn't bear to throw them away.  He tries to make a step towards recovery, to completion, with a golf ball thrown at him by his brother by throwing it away outside the locker.  Amy is pleased with his progress in throwing away just one thing, however as Sheldon closes the locker, you see the golf ball rolling in the gathering darkness of the storage locker.  Sheldon had thrown away an empty box.  He had made a false step toward completeness.

Sheldon is a lot like me in a way here.  When my son died, we packaged up his things and periodically pull out a box and try to throw things away.  It is hard sometimes to unhook ourselves from the pain and the stuff associated with it.  I'm thankful to the Grief Recovery Method for helping resolve that connection and for providing tools for dealing with things like this.  I'm thankful that there is a book like "The Grief Recovery Handbook" to walk me through a series of small correct choices for completing my grief.

While just a TV show, the grief experienced even by small things is real and we need a path for completing those losses.  I appreciate the writers and actors on this show for not shying away from exposing real issues, even though shown through eccentric characters.  I spoke with Russell Friedman  at the Grief Recovery Institute recently and he told me that I would "find grievers under every rock."  I guess that is true.  We all experience grief to some degree and and in varying intensities throughout our lives.  Thanks to the writers of "The Big Bang Theory" for a compelling and wonderfully eccentric exhibition of grief.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Dancing with the Grieving Stars?

Last night, my wife and I watched "Dancing with the Stars" and I was struck by the number of times grief came up in the show.  The theme of the night was "Your most memorable year," so many remembered highlights of great years.  Some however remembered loss.  Doug Flute, a former NFL quarterback remembered the loss of his parents.  His situation was quite different in that his father died and while kissing him goodbye, his mother passed away. This all happened within an hour.  See more here:

Doug made a very valuable statement during the show.  He said something to the effect that he had the chance to tell his father how much he meant to him shortly before he died, but he didn't have that chance with his mother.  This all happened in November of last year and you could visibly see his demeanor change during the discussion of his mother.  Obviously Doug had unfinished business with his mother.  He wished he could deliver some communication of love and appreciation to her, but he did not have the chance.

Jodie Sweetin, a beloved child star from Full House and now Fuller House, talked about her loss and grief when the original Full House show ended.  She said she did not "know how to grieve" about this loss.  She was five year old when it started and an early teen when it ended.  She did not know anything but working with this family and suddenly it was all lost.  Jodie turned to various short term energy relieving behaviors like drugs and alcohol.  She spent many years in that place until she looked for and found help five years ago.

Paige VanZandt stated that she was bullied in school and had trouble fitting in.  She didn't say it exactly, but she was hurting from the abuse of other children.  In not knowing how to deal with it, she turned to fighting.  She is now a championship contending UFC fighter.  She funnelled all of the anger she kept inside into fighting in the ring, unleashing the inner hurt on her opponents.

What is most interesting to me is that all three of these public figures struggle with grief just the way we do.  They seek comfort from the grief in sometimes healthy and sometimes unhealthy ways.  They are victims of no knowledge of how to grieve in a healthy way or how to complete the relationships. They do not know how to deal with lost hopes, dreams and expectations associated to their losses.  They have messages they want to be delivered that were not.  They explore how they could have done things differently, better, or more.

I wanted to reach out to these three stars and introduce the Grief Recovery Method to them from the Grief Recovery Institute.  Both Jodie and Paige's parents could have learned much from "How Children Grieve" and all three could benefit now from the "Grief Recovery Method."

I am so happy to be able to help people through this program as a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist.  Paige, Jodie, and Doug, please give me a call so we can set up an appointment.