Sunday, September 27, 2009

Grey's Anatomy and Grief

I have been a fan of Grey's Anatomy since the first season. It is a show that James and I would always watch together-it capped off our Thursday night TV date night. Throughout the week, we would TIVO all our shows and then watch them all on Thursday. As the seasons went on, he kept saying it was becoming too much like a soap opera for him and he was going to stop watching it. But every week, there he was on the other end of the couch watching it with me.

Like everything else, watching it now without him is just not the same. I still love the show, but I rarely stay up to watch it on Thursday anymore. I find when I do, I still turn to where James should be sitting to comment on it only to find an empty space that reminds me I am watching it alone. Some habits die hard.

On last season's finale, one of the characters, Izzy, was dying from a brain tumor and another, George, was in critical condition after being hit by a bus. The show ended with both flatlining and the rest of the doctors trying to revive them. Of course, thanks to the Internet, it wasn't much of a cliffhanger as who lived (Izzy) and who died (George) was announced within days. Grr.

Each episode starts and ends with a voiceover narrative. Prior to watching the season premiere, I watched the finale again. I was really struck by the words of the narratives; I really related to them and found that for myself they rang true. Below are the beginning and ending narratives from the season finale:

"When something begins, you generally have no idea how it is going to end...We spend our whole lives thinking about the future, planning for the future, trying to predict the future. As if figuring it out will somehow cushion the blow. But the future is always changing. The future is the home of our deepest fears and our wildest hopes. But one thing is certain, when it finally reveals itself, the future is never the way we imagined it.

[We] spend a lot of time foused on the future, planning it, working toward it. But at some point you start to realize your life is happening now...right now. This is it. It's here. Blink and you will miss it.

And from this week's premiere, in which the doctors cope with the loss of their colleague and friend:

"Did you say it? I love you. I don't ever want to live without you. You changed my life. Did you say it? Make a plan. Set a goal. Work toward it but every now and then look around, drink it in. 'Cuz this is it. It might all be gone tomorrow.

Grief may be a thing we all have in common but it looks different on everyone. It isn't just death we have to grieve. It's life, it's loss, it's change. And when we wonder why it has to suck so much sometimes, has to hurt so bad, the thing we've got to try to remember is that it can turn on a dime. That's how you stay alive. When it hurts so much you can't breathe, that's how you survive-by remembering that one day, somehow, impossibly, it won't feel this way. It won't hurt this much. Grief comes in its own time for everyone; in its own way so the best we can do, the best anyone can do, is try for honesty. The really crappy thing, the very worst part about grief is that you can't control it. The best we can do is try to let ourselves feel it when it comes. And let it go when we can. The very worst part is the minute you fell you're past it, it starts all over again. And always, every time, it takes your breath away."

Grief is a journey. It is not a sprint-it is a marathon but it doesn't have a finish line that you cross and say "okay, I am done now" as you try to catch your breath. It doesn't magically go away when you pass that one year mark on the calendar; it doesn't magically go away just because you meet someone else, have another child, make a new best friend or bond with another relative. It is a process and it is one that has to be gone through, not around. I can say this until I am blue in the face and type it until my fingers fall off. So, why then, am I having such a hard time with applying it to my own grief? Why do I keep trying to rush it?

Because my life is happening now. It is not the life I had envisioned and it scares me to know that no matter how much I dream about, hope for and plan for the future, I have very little control over how it is going to actually play out. That is not a good thing for a control freak! So I hope good things are in store for me but I cling tightly to the past. I hold on to the hope that James will one day come home, because that is familiar. And it is safe. I knew what life with James was like; I knew what to expect. After almost 20 months, I still don't know what to expect of life without him. I thought by now I would have a better idea of that-a better idea of who I am as just Heather. I know I don't like this life. I don't like being alone. So I hold on to the one person who kept me from being alone and I hope for a future I am not going to have.

This is my life. And I feel like I am wasting it.


Rick said...

Those are some powerful words for a TV program. Most times when I hear dialog's from a TV show I have a hard time swollowing them because I feel its used strictly to dramatise the viewers, but when I read it on your blog, it was really heart touching. Thank you for sharing!

Your right, grief is a journey and not a race!! It has MANY up's and down's and each person's journey is different, but we all are on the same pathway and need to support each other. This journey does SUCK but it can only get better. I tell myself this everyday.

It will get better for you!!!

Tracy said...

As I watched the season premiere, the whole time my mind was on you and how you were reacting to it. Grey's is known for great drama, but I think this was one of the most personalized episodes that was a good reflection on how people cope (or don't). Pretty powerful stuff.

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