This is Us

In February, after the Super Bowl game my favorite television show had a special episode. All the other episodes led up to this pivotal part of the story. For weeks viewers understood that one of the main characters, Jack, died. We have waited for the details of the story wondering what happened.

(Spoiler alert; I won’t talk about details of the episode in case some of you haven’t had a chance to see it.)

What the episode made me think about was this; everyone handles their losses differently. There is no one single way to experience your loss. And no particular “right way.”

The storyline of This is Us follows five primary characters – three siblings and their parents– in a series of present day adult experiences and flashbacks to their childhood before and after losing a parent. While there are many threads to the lives of the adult siblings and their parents, there are also links to their experience of grief and loss.

What the characters learned of loss early on informs who they become. At the same time, as they’ve continued living into their lives they make on-going discoveries about themselves that echo back to this loss. Even in the present-day experiences, they find opportunities to look upon their grief anew.

As I’ve watched the unfolding stories of these characters I’ve thought of the many ways in which a loss touches us at our core. Our culture today would have us believe that the death of a loved one is something to be “gotten over.” And gotten over as quickly as possible. It doesn’t acknowledge that perhaps the death is instead a watershed moment in someone’s life.

The death of a loved one can be influential in many ways; changing the direction of one’s career, lifestyle or geographical place to live. How many people do you know that moved back home to live near their surviving parent? Or perhaps chose a career to follow in someone’s footsteps? Or even decided that the lifestyle their loved one lived was not for them or was just what they wanted?

I think of how the death of my father influenced my move back to Indiana to live near my mother. Of how my mother’s death lead to healthier choices in my own lifestyle. I consider how the recent death of my younger sister brought me face to face with my own mortality. I cannot know how much time I have left in my own life – and I want to be alert about how I spend whatever time I have remaining. Am I living the fullest life I can live? Am I cherishing family and friends? Doing things that enrich the lives of others as well as my own life?

How has your grief experience influenced your life?

Did an earlier loss help guide you to your present circumstances?

What has grief been teaching you?

Deb Brandt (formerly Buehler) has blogged for Hansen-Spears Funeral Home in the past. She took time away from her writing after the death of her sister in 2017. She is a certified funeral celebrant, certified creative grief practitioner and professional writer. She works virtually and in-person with individuals and families as they tell their stories of grief and loss. Deb co-authored The Hollowed Heart; Inspiration for Women Awakening from Grief and Loss. You can learn more about Deb and her services at or contact her directly at

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