Wednesday, November 22, 2017

THIS IS US -- FROM A PREGNANCY LOSS SURVIVOR


The show This Is Us has become my weekly therapy session. I usually get cozy in bed with my big box of Kleenex, ready for whatever they're going to throw at me next. And for whatever reason, it always feels so good to cry alongside the characters. From the very first episode with the doctor's monologue about life handing us sour lemons, to Kate's body image issues and her strained mother-daughter relationship, this show is so emotional for me because it hits on so many relatable aspects of my life. And tonight, well, it hit the hardest.

From the second Kate announced her pregnancy a few episodes back, I literally remember yelling at the TV "Oh no This is Us, don't you do this to me. Don't you dare." I knew this show was willing to go to great lengths to pull at my heart strings, but I still held onto hope that we'd get to follow in Kate & Toby's journey to parenthood.

Well that dream got crushed fairly quickly. Last week ended with "Kate lost the baby," and I was left covered in a bunch of mascara-stained Kleenex. I actually gasped out loud. How could they send me right back into that dark place? Could I even watch the next episode? How was this going to play out? How deep will they go? There was too much curiosity drawing me in. I decided that I had to watch.

So tonight, James and I got in bed with a big box of Kleenex between us, and we watched This Is Us together. And once again, this show delivered.

Miscarriage. On one of the most talked about shows. During Prime Time TV. 

What a huge step forward for pregnancy loss survivors everywhere. Tonight's episode was beyond hard to watch, but at the same time, felt so healing to watch. Now, I'm a little further out from my losses, so I'm sure my experience watching it was different than others. But to me, it was comforting to know that many of the thoughts and experiences I had were similar to the characters on the show. I was also so happy that awareness was being spread on such a tragic experience many of us go through in isolation. Perhaps this episode will get us all one step closer to making this topic a little less taboo.

I only watched the episode once, but I wanted to share some of the things I thought This Is Us did well, from a fellow pregnancy loss survivor.

They showed the many faces of grief.
Denial, confusion, sadness, strength...I really liked that they were able to show so many aspects of grief in just a 1 hour show. It would have been easy for the writers to simply show Kate crying in the bathroom, then quickly move onto the next storyline. But they didn't. They took that raw emotion and they just let it linger, and I think they did a really good job showing the steps it takes to process such a loss. Just as Kate went to sing at her show, I actually remember going to Home Depot the next morning to buy flowers like it was just another day. I remember feeling somewhat normal digging through different potted plants to find the healthiest looking leaves, I remember getting home and unloading my new the flowers onto the driveway, and then I remember it hitting me smack dab in the face out of nowhere. It was (and is) a lot to process all at once.

They showed how hard it can be on a marriage.
The argument between Kate and Toby is one I've had, almost word for word. It happened to me, not you. For me, it was so isolating because I felt like no one could understand the pain I was feeling, including James. At times, our pregnancy losses brought us closer than ever, but other times, it felt like it completely tore us apart.

They showed how you can find comfort in unexpected places.
Kate found comfort from her mom, which tied in beautifully with what we learned from the flash backs. That was such a surprising aspect of my losses, too. Those friends that I thought I'd lean on to provide comfort, I ended up pushing away. Instead, I found comfort in those that could relate to my experiences. I loved that Kate and her mom were able to connect and bond over their losses, too.

They showed the indescribable guilt.
When Kate looked at her mom and said "But what if it was something I did?" my stomach knotted up. When Kate put her head on Toby's chest and said "I feel like I've let you down," I pretty much just lost it. For me, the guilt was consuming, and I appreciated the writers touching on this aspect of it all.

They showed the irrational thoughts.
By the end of the episode, Kate said she wanted to try again. I'm not sure how this will end up playing out in episodes to come, but I found this detail interesting. After my miscarriage, I really felt like I didn't ever want to try again. But after losing Grace, I actually remember telling James that I wanted to try again right away. I'm not sure why I felt so differently after each loss, but I did. And I liked that they decided to include this in the narrative.

While it's absolutely impossible to represent everyone's experiences with miscarriage in a 1 hour drama, I think the writers of This Is Us did a pretty good job giving the audience a glimpse into this horrific experience. I'm glad they were brave enough to go there, and I hope that others like me found some comfort in this episode. I'm looking forward to seeing how this experience continues to unravel over time, and how it shapes the character of Kate.

I'm interested to hear from my fellow pregnancy loss survivors -- what did you think of this week's episode?

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