Dead To Me. This show’s title is catchy and ended up catching my attention a year ago when I was running a grief group during my internship year. I was curious to see what Hollywood would do with a premise that surrounds a grief group because it is a different time in one’s life when one is actively grieving a loved one.
The show’s premise goes off on some pretty offbeat tangents, but it begins with the two main characters — Jen and Judy — meeting during a grief group for people who have lost their spouses. Jen has literally been hit by the loss of her husband who lost his life to a hit and run driver, and Jen is mourning her fiancé to natural causes. The two of them approach their grief very differently. The former is intense, bereft, and angry while the latter is soft, optimistic, and positive.
However, there are definitely Hollywood plot twists to this story that takes you far away from the happenings in a grief group and into the drama of the story. I suppose the drama of grief and how we process it is not enough to keep the attention of the audience. Whatever you think about grief, American society is not very good at grieving. As such, people turn to grief groups for support.
Although the plots twists and turns in this show, and much of them are comical and unbelievable, I almost feel it is a metaphor for what unfolds when we grieve in our daily lives. For a time, we may become obsessed with the loved one who has died. The person may be on our mind and we may find ourselves looking through their personal belongings and trying to learn more, figure out more in an effort to maintain closeness. The show takes this idea to an extreme, but it makes sense when we grieve.
Also, we may find ourselves being with people who are not who we would regularly choose to spend time with or who regularly match us as we consider friendships. Jen and Judy would probably never have become friends without the loss of their partners, but this loss is exactly what bonds them together and, as a result, opens them up to a completely new person. Whether these relationships will continue past the time of grief or not is yet to be seen, but new people who are not typical of those who surround us may become an important part of our lives for a period of time.
Emotions run raw and high when in acute grief and even as the acute phase dissipates and the low, aching dull feeling of loss comes in to stay awhile. Dead to Me shows both phases as Jen and Judy process their losses. At some point, they are the only two people who sort of get all of the emotions the other is running through. This is a show that provides people actively grieving with the companionship they need as they feel their emotions.
Whereas people in America have a set way to grieve, the funeral rite, the food, the passing shoulders for comfort, and then the sharp turn toward, “It’s time to get out there, your person would want you to live” starts to be the recurring mantra, which actually goes against the natural course of grief. Society is uncomfortable with loss to death. What better way to avoid it than to push people to get back to life.
This show is worth a watch. It goes to some crazy places with major plot twists, but I also think you will find the threads of what it is to be in grief during a significant loss in one’s life. This is the underlying rhythm that plays against all the plot’s craziness. And this is why it seems to work.