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Ricky Gervais' New Netflix Comedy 'After Life' Doesn't Sugarcoat the Reality of Suicidal Thoughts

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Editor's Note

The following post contains sensitive language that might be triggering to folks who have experienced suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

Ricky Gervais’ new Netflix series “After Life” uses comedy to address the difficult topics of cancer, grief and suicidal thoughts — without sugarcoating the reality of what it’s like to experience them.

The show follows Tony (Ricky Gervais) and how he copes with the loss of his wife, Lisa (Kerry Godliman), to cancer. The primary emotion we see him experience is one familiar to many grief survivors — anger.

In response to Lisa’s death, Tony struggles with suicidal thoughts and takes out his anger on others. This manifests in things like being rude to his co-workers, yelling at little kids and flipping off strangers.

In a striking scene from the official trailer, we see him answer his therapist’s, “So, how are you?” with, “a good is day is when I don’t go around wanting to shoot random strangers in the face and then turn the gun on myself.”

Many have responded to quotes like this with concern for the way suicide will be handled in the show, prompting Gervais to respond.

“I don’t think suicide is the topic. I think the topic is grief, and grief makes you think lots of things.” Gervais told the press in a panel interview. “I don’t think suicide is any more the topic than him getting drunk every night.”

He elaborated that he understood the concern, and assured fans the topic would be treated with respect:

I treat it respectfully… Everyone assumes comedy about something is disrespectful. So I’ve heard roundtables on radio shows discussing why Ricky Gervais shouldn’t be making jokes about this subjects, and I’m like, “Well you’re talking about it, I’m just doing it in a funny way.”

Losing a loved one is hard, and often makes people do and say things they wouldn’t normally as they process the anger that often accompanies grief. This is something Mighty contributor Sarah Caito wrote about in her piece, “The 5 Stages of Grief and Ways to Cope With Each Stage“:

As you come out from the fog of denial, you may find yourself entangled with many emotions. The most prevalent emotion is typically anger. You may not know who or what your anger is geared towards. Is it the person who died? Is it the hospital or doctors? Is it your family or how other people reacted to the death of your loved one? Is it at your higher power (if you have a higher power)? Is it at yourself? No matter who or what your anger is directed towards, it’s a healthy step in the healing and grieving process. Anger is such a common emotion, and most people don’t know how to cope with their anger.

If you’ve ever struggled with grief or the anger that often comes with it, you’re not alone. If you find yourself struggling now, the following stories might be helpful to you. If you are in crisis and need immediate support, you can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

“After Life” will be available for streaming Friday, March 8 on Netflix.

Header Image via Ricky Gervais Facebook page

Originally published: March 5, 2019
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