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How Randall From 'This Is Us' Helped Me Process My Grief After Losing My Father

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After seeing the previews for “This Is Us,” I vowed not to get sucked into a TV show that would needlessly waste my time. Obviously, I broke my vow. Within minutes of the first episode, I was hooked. The lighting, the intensity, and the life-changing moments all grabbed my heart and pulled me in whole. I instantly fell in love with the show for many reasons, but Randall’s story strikes a nerve.

I lost my father two years ago to cancer. I haven’t coped well. My depressive and anxious tendencies surfaced and compiled to formulate complicated grief. Juggling work pressures, parenthood, children’s activities/needs, marriage, friendships and hobbies frayed my ability to function.

Over the past two years, I attempted to process the trauma. I rested, began therapy and did my best without medication to take care of myself. That didn’t stop the stresses of daily life. The racing thoughts, the grief, the pain in my heart — they are all too much sometimes. Repeatedly I felt my soul break under the various and multiple pressures.

I didn’t want to burden anyone with my troubles. Worse yet, I took on their stresses so they wouldn’t feel as low as I did. I’d willingly support them because I know what it feels like to not be supported. Knowing how awful the pain could be, how it hurts and drains the spirit, I wouldn’t inflict my pain upon anyone I loved.

I watched Randall repeatedly deny himself what he needed for everyone else. He knew his girls and wife were watching. He had to be strong for them. He juggled meeting his biological, terminally ill father at the age of 37, along with family and work. I watched him continue to jump higher and higher in the work place. Afraid of failure, Randall rose to the expectations, until it was inevitably physically impossible. And then it happened. He broke. After putting everyone else first, carrying premature grief and the pressures of his ideas of perfection and expectations, he broke. There he was, in the corner, frozen.

Enter Kevin. There were many times, and continue to be, that I so deeply long for someone to hold me tightly as I crumble, to let me fall apart just so I can be put back together. Watching this scene, I knew exactly what Randall was feeling. The pressure, the pain, the fear, the hurt, the worry — all of it becomes so heavy that it simultaneously shatters and debilitates you.

It was then that I realized, I am Randall.  I. Am. Randall. I put everyone before me, all the while putting pressure on myself to be strong, to be well, to not worry or burden anyone when my world is falling apart. I cried. I cried as I did when my father passed. Hard without breathing. It all still hurts. It all still feels too much. But then watching Randall, I had someone with whom I could identify. It was deeply comforting.

Later came William’s last episode. The last 10 minutes was like a flashback from my own experiences. Although in my experience,  I was joined by family, there were moments when I took my turn to be the leader. I had to put on my “big girl pants” and just do it. I hated those pants and every moment “wearing” them. It was the most difficult tasks I’ve ever completed. I was equally thankful for those “big girl pants” and extremely bitter towards them. I was so fucking sick of those fucking “big girl pants.” I wanted to burn them; watch them go up in flames. Yet, no matter how painful the pants or moments were, I wouldn’t trade them.  During the scene in which William passes, I debated whether to turn away or force myself to watch. Neither was the result. As I watched Randall and William, I surrendered. It was familiar, yet gripping. I was immersed. Again, I cried my grieving cry, almost surprised how much the emptiness and loss still hurt.

The show has been therapeutic. I am so grateful for “This Is Us.” I am grateful to the writers, actors and crew members for so eloquently and beautifully telling these stories of life. I am grateful for the truth in the characters as they tell their stories. I am deeply appreciative for this therapeutic journey on which I could identify with the character of Randall. I saw myself mirrored as I watched Sterling K. Brown’s portrayal of Randall, and in ways that I hadn’t yet realized. Thank you for giving us, those who silently endure and power through, a face.

You, Mr. Brown, gave us a voice. You gave us validation, exactly what we so desperately need. You did so with talent, grace, and dignity. Thank you, Sterling K. Brown. Congratulations on your well-earned Emmy!

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Photo via “This Is Us” Facebook page

Originally published: October 25, 2017
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