Every Wednesday

Every Wednesday I will post something about grief. Sometimes it will be a reflection on an aspect of grief’s landscape. Now and then I will share from my own journey of grief, because in the sharing of our stories we find strength and build a community of people that support one another.

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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Sci Fi and Grief

Movies help us escape reality for a couple of hours when life becomes too hard and intense. Movies also help us re-envision our lives and find strength for a challenge that lies ahead. They reach places inside us where we are hurting and give us hope. This is not escapism, although this has its value. This is looking outside the wooden box of the present towards the horizon to see what else might be possible.

A number of science fiction movies and TV shows have kept me going through grief. Their stories became part of my life, and I think of their characters as real people and friends. Who says they aren’t? ‘Aren’t we all just fairy tales?’ River Song (Doctor Who).

To be fearful of something is where the adventure begins.

The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings (J.R.R. Tolkien) have been part of my library since college, when I tacked a 3x5-foot poster of Middle Earth to my apartment wall. They speak of ordinary people doing what needed to be done even though they were scared and didn’t think they had the skills or strength. But they screwed up their courage and stepped forward. They also made it clear that people we love do die, even when fighting for what is right.

Harry Potter (J.K. Rowling). Not just for teenagers, the books and movies speak of real evil in the world, of people who say one thing in public but scheme and do the opposite behind the scenes. They call us to confront evil when we see it, even if it’s bigger than we are and we feel inadequate. There is real magic in the world, but it comes from their hearts and convictions. After Harry steps forward, companions step up and join him on the journey.

Doctor Who. On the BBC channel, the Doctor has companions he loves as they travel through time and space. When they die, or leave him to get on with their lives, he grieves their loss. When Amy and Rory die because of the Weeping Angels, the Eleventh Doctor gives up saving the universe and hides away as a monk. Until Clara shows up. Then his humor returns (“Bow ties are cool!”), and he opens his heart to love again. When everything seems doomed and survival impossible, the Doctor says, “We are not helpless,” and figures a way out.

We are only limited by the audacity of our imaginations.

Perhaps what appeals to us most about fantasy and science fiction stories is that they are often Vision Quests. You probably grew up hearing about teenage Native Americans being sent into the wilderness to receive the vision that would guide the rest of their lives. Joseph Campbell (The Hero With a Thousand Faces) explored these quests in many cultures. His work would inspire the Star Wars movies.

When grief strikes, what we thought the future was going to be is taken away. What we desperately need is a new vision to guide us, a new direction to head, and a new purpose to our lives that will bring energy and excitement back in.

We would all like to live long lives, but that’s not really the point of living. The rock climbers I camped with in Yosemite told me that they saw life as an adventure. To experience it, they felt that they had to risk falls, broken bones, ripped tendons, even death, if they were going to discover what life and they were made of. At the end, they want to look back and be able to say, “Wow! What a trip!”

In these movies and TV show, people took a deep breath and stepped forward into the unknown, even though they were scared, even thought they didn’t know if they would survive. This is what grievers are confronted with every day. It takes an amazing amount of courage to walk into public with grief as you search for a new vision.

Sacrifice, compassion, fear, courage, despair, strength. How many of these are a daily part of your life?

Death is not the enemy. Being dull is.