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The One Line in 'WandaVision' That Perfectly Explained Grief

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We were collectively shook while watching the penultimate episode of WandaVision on Disney+. Now viral, Vision’s words to a hurting Wanda had us deep in our feelings. 

Wanda is heavy with sadness after reliving the trauma of losing her brother, when Vision says “But, what is grief, if not love persevering.” In a time where so many of us are coping with the loss of graduations, weddings, connections with aging loved ones, jobs and the lives of people we love, this scene invited us to look at our scars and note the ways in which we’ve been holding our breath.

I still remember learning of my auntie’s passing as a child. She lived in Florida, where my mother’s family is based, and I in New Jersey. Days after she’d taken her last breath, a family member finally told me the news. They said, “We didn’t tell you sooner, because we didn’t want you to carry that burden.” 

Families have different ways of responding to trauma and crises, and mine tend to compartmentalize, use humor and/or dive into busy work. It’s not surprising that I developed an early ability to compartmentalize death. It wasn’t a topic I necessarily avoided, rather I tucked any related emotions away, made them small and grew accustomed to this special flavor of numbness. As I grew, more loss occurred and because of my own healing journey I’ve invited myself to feel and face the emotions– the ugly cries, and the oftentimes, untouchable ache

At some point, I learned about the five stages of grief which were developed by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross: denial, bargaining, anger, depression and acceptance. Initially, I thought one just cycled through this prescriptive set of emotions and dispositions. But, having experienced recent loss, I now know grief is not linear. The Elisabeth Kübler-Ross Foundation says that “many of these ‘stages’ overlap, occur together.” There can be seasons of an inner silence so absolute, that we feel bodiless, weightless and almost non-existent– as if parts of us have died. This, followed by moments of helplessness, or fear of losing others, or an undefinable despair that’s impossible to articulate when someone offers support.

To me, grief is personal, raw, unfair, meaningful and everlasting.

But what of love persevering? How can anything exist beyond death? For me, it’s about the stories we pass down about our ancestors. I’ve been fortunate to learn about the fighters, activists, pioneers, writers, singers, poets and pastors whose pain and triumph run in my blood. We keep these memories alive because they enable us to hold onto hope. To bring us through every next challenge that lies before us. While celebrating things, pets and people we’ve lost, we can carry great pain, experience suffering and at times want to give up. It’s not supposed to make sense, but if you’ve ever lost someone or something important to you, you know what I mean. You’ve worried about forgetting their face if you’re not careful. Something small and insignificant can trigger a thought of them, setting you back and making you late for your next appointment. In all this, and in so many ways, you’re giving life, meaning and purpose to that which you lost.

Earlier in the powerful scene, “The only thing that would bring me comfort is seeing him again.” She laments about how tired she is and how she’s drowning. So when Vision responds with empathy, and shares such a poignant line, he’s doing what many of us need while existing in the liminal space which is grief– listening and giving space.

Lead image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment’s YouTube channel.

Originally published: March 8, 2021
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