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6 Movie and TV Show Moments That Got Grief Right

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Grief and loss are incredibly difficult and complicated topics to discuss, especially for those who have recently experienced the heartbreak of losing a loved one. When words fail, the experiences of others such as characters in a TV show or film might speak.

For some, a character who addresses what losing a loved one might look and feel like on a children’s show can provide simple language and comfort. Others may find catharsis in seeing characters process their grief onscreen, giving them permission to cry along and feel a little less alone.

To find out what movie and TV show moments got grief right, we asked members of The Mighty community who have been there to weigh in on what characters helped them find a sense of solace during the grieving process.

Here’s what they told us:

1. Big Bird Asking Where Mr. Hooper Went

A lot of “Sesame Street” fans remember the moment that Big Bird went looking for Mr. Hooper, one of the four key human figures who lived on Sesame Street. The two had a special relationship, as Mr. Hooper sold bird seed in his shop. The actor Will Lee died during the filming of “Sesame Street,” and the directors of the show incorporated a lifelong grief lesson for their viewers.

“Because the actor had actually died, the reactions of the rest of the actors on set was genuine and so touching. It definitely reflects how a child should be spoken to about death and that the rest of the cast was living their grief. Even on current shows they still have his picture up in his old store. People are not replaced and forgotten.” – Sarah L.

2. Harry Potter and Sirius Black

In the J.K. Rowling series, the wizard Harry Potter experiences the sudden loss of his godfather Sirius Black, during a battle that took place in “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.” Sirius had been the only father-figure Harry had in his life, and the emotional toll of that loss was viscerally portrayed in the series.

“When Sirius died [Harry] suffered deep depression and had difficulty controlling his emotions, alternating between furious outbursts and silent lapses where he withdrew into himself and refused to confide in his closest friends.” —Ashley McF.

3. Ricky Gervais in ‘After Life’

In the British comedy-drama “After Life” written and directed by Gervais himself, he plays a character named Tony who struggles with adapting to life after losing his wife. While the show is a comedy, many have felt as if Tony’s experiences in the show portray the yo-yo affect of loss.

“I think it does a good job in showing all the emotions that come with grief. After my parents died, I had a particularly hard time admitting my anger over their passing, I thought it was inappropriate to be angry. ‘After Life’ shows the stages of grief in all its beautiful and sometimes ugly ways.”

4. Emma Pilsbury’s “Glee” Breakdown

In its six seasons, “Glee” tackled a lot of difficult issues (and grief in more than one episode). In one season three example, school counselor Emma Pillsbury has a meltdown regarding how much her obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) affects her life, and how little compassion she receives from her parents about it. The scene was a reminder that grief can come in many forms and Will Schuester’s support really hit home.

“I struggle severely with clinical depression, generalized anxiety, OCD, and periods of suicidal ideation. I also have a mom who has never been understanding or supportive of my mental health struggles or of me in general. That scene always gets me because all I want is that kind of understanding, compassion and support.” — Julia F.

5. Anna Believing She’s Lost Elsa Forever

Disney’s second “Frozen” film finds heroine Anna trying to cope with what she believes to be the loss of her sister after the two get separated trying to find answers to the source of Elsa’s powers. Elsa went in search of the voice and just barely sent a message to her sister before freezing. After realizing the likely loss of her sister, Anna’s heart-wrenching rendition of “The Next Right Thing” resonated for many.

“Because it’s a PG Disney movie, I don’t think they could call it a death, but I felt Disney did the best they could to show someone being gone or lost and how a loved one mourns and then can carry on their story. She also sings a song called ‘The Next Right Thing’.” — Maria L.

6. Bella in ‘Twilight: New Moon’

In Stephanie Meyer’s “Twilight,” Bella grapples with various issues experienced by young adults coming of age and falling in love, with the twist being that her male love interest is Edward Cullen, a vampire. Bella is left to cope with grief and loss after Cullen leaves without saying goodbye. where she’s down for the count for several months.

“Although [‘Twilight: New Moon’] was about heartbreak, it resonates with how I felt when my father died. I was utterly numb to the world and everybody in it. I saw everything through a thick cloud of grief. Nothing else felt real for a while. I didn’t have any desire or ability to connect with anything outside of that. Nothing mattered or made sense. I was on auto-pilot in every interaction and everything I did at work for months, just how Bella is in the story.” — Mel W.

If you are personally coping with grief or loss in your life, please reach out to a loved one or counselor who can provide you with a sense of comfort. You are not alone.

Originally published: August 27, 2020
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