Reed Faster Speculates: Processing Grief Through Media

CW: Discussions of death and grief, as well as funerals/memorial services. 

 Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall” comes on. Suddenly, I’m transported to a small house in Ohio, sitting on the floor in my pajamas with my toys. The Wall is playing and I see row upon row of hammers moving up in down in military parade of surrealism. (Yes, I was far too young and I only remember a slight sense of fascination and dread watching them.) I don’t remember how old I was, but I do remember the smell of that house (in my head, it’s patchouli). I can see my cousin smiling and laughing, her short hair rumpled. I worship the ground she walks on - she’s so cool to my young mind. I remember receiving her copy of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, with her personalized book plate that had her name with a realistic unicorn and rainbow in the background.

Even the thumb nail gives me tingles.

My cousin passed away from HIV/AIDS and complications with pneumonia. 

I turn 40 this year. My cousin died before my youngest brother was born - he was named after her. Yet, this is a vivid memory for me and the trigger for it is that particular Pink Floyd album. It’s been 32 years and I still remember. 

In the past month, I have lost two acquaintances. Processing the losses have been difficult, especially since one was (suspected) mental health related. I am hitting that age where people I know are more likely to pass. We all process grief differently - be it through loud celebrations of life to somber, quiet remembrances. The business of life goes on, but there is an absence. A person-shaped hole where your friend, your lover, your family used to be. Even years later, your memories of that person can be triggered by a song, a movie, a book… and this is how we honor those we have lost. 

One of those losses was preceded by a lengthy stay in a hospital. She was loved by many, but none more so than her best friend. I have listened to her speak at length about the person who passed. That was her person, the one she could call or text any time to share a laugh or frustrations about life. After her passing, my friend spent time watching Meg’s favorite movies. Home Alone, Mary Poppins, Beauty and the Beast, as well as anything with Channing Tatum (especially Magic Mike and  21 Jump Street) are on the list as Meg’s favorites. Backstreet Boys were Meg’s favorite (and I remember her delight at getting to see them live for their reunion tour when it came through town). 

Can we admit that we all still know all the lyrics to this song? (Some of us even know the dance moves…)

None of these are really movies that talk about the loss of a loved one, but we watch them anyway to remember them. To remember the shared laughter, the quoting of lines as they play across the screen. Singing at the top of your longs to “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” while cruising down the road. 

We relive those moments and remember the people we love. We let the tears of  sadness or anger (or both) at the loss fall while we watch or listen. They say the best thing you can do for someone who is grieving is to sit with them and let them feel. Watch the movies with them. Play the songs. Read their favorite poems out loud. Share with the world the bits and pieces of the person you have lost and fill the hole with their memories. Even decades later, you will remember. 

Keep safe, my friends. Remember to take care of yourself, to reach out if you need help, even if it is scary or embarrassing or you feel like you aren’t worth it.  

Thank you for reading. Remember, when the last page is turned and the last chapter is read, I shall be here with another suggestion, should you need it.