Grief is weird. And, if you’re like me, you get tired of people asking how you’re feeling or if you’re okay because the answer is no or some flavor of fine, but most people don’t want to hear that. When you lose someone close to you—a beloved pet in my case—you should be allowed to express your emotions however you chose and in whatever way is best. So I’ve chosen movie analogies.
An analogy compares two things which may be similar for better understanding. So, when I say I’m feeling like ‘insert film here’ rather than ‘just okay’ it helps to clarify the degree of my depression, anger, or whatever else I’m going through that day. It creates a shared visual language. Although many of these films contain moments of grief or pain, a lot of them also have happy endings. So I suppose there will eventually be healing or brightness. Life is, after all, not always a horror film.
The following descriptions may contain spoilers.
MIDSOMMAR (2019). Look, it’s the visceral gut check of grief. That unholy wail of pain. Holding in your emotions for others’ benefit (especially in public). Trying to hold it together. Commiserating with others. Feeling held in 2022 when I didn’t in 2018. Staring blankly at a wall at 3AM wondering if I could have done more. Wanting to set my entire life on fire and run away from my problems.
LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING (2001). Mostly for this specific quote by Bilbo here. Grief gives a specific kind of exhaustion. I thought depression was already heavy, but I wasn’t ready for this added weight. I feel old and too young at the same time. Time, recovery, whatever will be as long of a journey as destroying the One Ring.
BO BURNHAM’S INSIDE (2021). A good chunk of the comedy special considers the idea of feeling like shit and what we can do about it. I relate more to the depersonalization of feeling like I am playing my life as a first-person game. Piloting my body around. Going through the motions. Eat. Sleep. Scroll. Check-in to show signs of life. Everything that once brought me joy has gone sour. A funny feeling.
THE TWILIGHT SAGA: NEW MOON (2009). I try to find that perfect mix of hurt/comfort fanfic to capture the angst of Bella sitting in her chair for months as time passes, comatose. Lykke Li’s “Possibility” on repeat. Watching life go on without you as you’re stuck in the past. Nightmares and phantom pains. Feeling like part of you is missing—a hole in your heart.
KIKI’S DELIVERY SERVICE (1989). I’ve been spending a lot of my time wrapped in blankets. Everything that once brought me joy and inspiration or meaning has lost some of its fire. Like Kiki, I’ve lost the ability to talk to one of my cats. Eventually, things will get better, but the journey will change me.
THE LION KING (1994). Blaming myself for something I couldn’t control. Wishing so much that it was a dream and he’d be back. Wanting to run away from my responsibilities and problems. “When the world turns its back on you, you turn your back on the world.” Thinking about death in the desert. Not quite to the “Hakuna Matata” part of the story yet.
PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN (2020). Sure it’s a dark comedy and a revenge fantasy and more, but it’s also a deep narrative about grief and the inability to move on. Back to wanting to burn the world and bash things with tire irons. He doesn’t need revenge, but I do—for what? What will it change? Wanting to leave behind all my “potential” and work in a coffee shop. Old and new grief and trauma are entangled.
BAMBI (1942). Specifically the transition from “Your mother can’t be with you anymore” to “Let’s Sing a Gay Little Spring Song.” Let’s pretend everything is fine. Life goes on as normal. Spring is here and the weather is beautiful. Birds are singing. Valentine’s Day and love—twitterpated. Denial, denial, denial. I want to silence the noise and turn away from it all.
ANNIHILATION (2018). In the beginning, Lena still hasn’t moved on after the disappearance of her husband. She doesn’t spend time with her colleagues. She spends most of her time alone, wrapped in memories of them and their last moments together. “Hopelessly Hoping” by Crosby, Stills, & Nash plays in melancholy fashion. She will venture, change, and adapt through impossibilities to find answers but even that may be beyond.
PET SEMATARY (1989). The basic premise of wanting what’s gone to come back was something I thought I understood, but—until it happened too soon—I didn’t really. I didn’t know the desperation. The temptation of that possibility (even knowing it could end badly). How you could bargain with your soul because it feels like there’s nothing left anyway. When life ends suddenly, traumatically, painfully—why wouldn’t you take a chance to fix it?
I’m not a stranger to grief. Still, the transformations and transitions of its shape and emotions day to day is something I have to relearn to live with. This loss has stirred up a lot of things I had been sub/consciously holding down for too long (as grief does) and now I have to do the hard work of finding a sense of something in this disorder. Normalcy. Routine. Order. If those things existed to begin with. Whatever else, through it all, I have movies—for words when I have none, for escape, for my okay.