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How Episode 2 of 'And Just Like That...' Nails Grief

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Editor's Note

This is a recap for “And Just Like That…” Season 1 Episode 2. There will be spoilers beyond this point. Please proceed with caution (because we don’t want to be the ones who spoil you!).

Well, Big is gone… so, what does Carrie do now?

Before we continue, just another reminder that there will be spoilers beyond this point for “And Just Like That…” Season 1 Episode 2.  Not up to date? Read Season 1 Episode 1’s recap here.

Now that Big has passed away, Carrie is left in the impossible position of planning an unexpected funeral. She mobilizes her friends to support her, but finds that in many ways she ends up being the caregiver in her moment of grief. Meanwhile, Miranda continues to struggle to find her footing as an ally, falling into what her professor Dr. Nya Wallace (Karen Pittman) calls “white savior complex.” After planning the “perfect” funeral, Carrie finds herself navigating the reality of being a widow while everyone struggles to find some kind of meaning to what has happened.

Let’s break down some major themes in this episode:

The “what ifs” of grief

This is not an uncommon initial reaction to the death of a loved one, and perhaps it’s something a lot of us wonder when faced with mourning a loss: What if? We try to find a reason for why it happened, we try to figure out who to blame, we seek some kind of solace in being able to reconcile the irreconcilable. Carrie struggles with feelings of anger because she wasn’t home when Big had a heart attack, Charlotte thinks it’s her fault that Big died because she made Carrie come to Lily’s piano recital, and Steve blames the Peloton.

But the “what ifs” are ultimately covering a more uncomfortable feeling, and that is helplessness. Loss can bring us face-to-face with the reality of our own fragile humanity, and most of us aren’t able to sit with those feelings. So, we try to “fix it” by saying meaningless platitudes like:

“It’s so hard.”

“I know what it feels like.”

“Sorry for your loss.”

Or my favorite, “It’s wonderful that you get to see family and friends and make something beautiful like this,” which was particularly egregious because it was used as a means of almost shaming Carrie, a kind of comparative suffering, because Carrie was able to have a funeral with guests which wasn’t possible during the COVID-19 lockdown. It comes across as pity, not empathy and it’s not doing anything to soothe the person in mourning.

Coping with grief

“I’m fine.”

Carrie keeps saying this phrase to anyone who asks. She immerses herself in “busyness” in the initial phase after Big’s passing. Her focus on planning the “perfect” funeral allows her to feel some sense of control, which is a powerful coping strategy. But as Steve notes, “She’s not even crying,” to which Miranda replies, “But is that a good thing?”

Once the funeral is over and Big’s ashes are unexpectedly delivered to her apartment, the reality of everything sets in and we see Carrie settle into her feelings. She’s uncomfortable, angry, and sad. Her restlessness morphs into insomnia and she notes, “And just like that… I learned how long five hours could be.”

So many who have experienced the death of a loved one can relate to this sense of time becoming almost like molasses. The weird thing about grief is that it’s capable of morphing reality into some senses being heightened while others seemingly becoming dulled. But it takes stillness to experience it… something Carrie doesn’t arrive at until the end of the episode.

Different folks for different strokes

The one thing Carrie has that many don’t is an incredible circle of loving, caring friends. And we see her turn to them in her time of need. What’s interesting is how she recognizes each of her chosen family have unique places they occupy in her life. Her “ride or die” Miranda is the reliable rock — the first one she calls after Big passes away, the one who can be by her side through hard things and remain strong, yet comforting. If she needs a laugh or someone to cheer her up, she knows Stanford is her guy.

This does create some friction between Carrie and Charlotte, who gets “overly emotional.” When Carrie goes funeral home hunting, Charlotte breaks down and is inconsolable because she thinks Carrie blames her for Big’s death. The funeral home sales rep actually thinks Charlotte is the widow and not Carrie and this leaves Carrie in the position of taking care of Charlotte instead of the opposite. Later, when Carrie doesn’t invite Charlotte to her apartment to console her after Big’s ashes are delivered, Charlotte is upset because she feels left out. Carrie articulates why different friends occupy different spaces in her life and how this isn’t a reflection of that person’s value in her life. This is a lesson I think we all need to be reminded of.

Honorable mentions

There have been several scenes showing Miranda turning to alcohol to help calm her nerves, in this case, before delivering the eulogy at Big’s funeral. This hints at a storyline about substance use that may become relevant in future episodes.

Also, there is some very noticeable chemistry between Miranda and Che Diaz (Sara Ramirez), Carrie’s queer podcast cohost, at the funeral after they have a fiery run-in over Che offering Miranda’s son Brady a hit of pot.

Which begs the question… what is happening to Miranda? Is she experiencing some kind of midlife crisis? Is her drinking a coping strategy for numbing her feelings about her life? Stay tuned.

Lead image via Fabio Kardashian’s Youtube Channel

Originally published: December 31, 2021
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