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.

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