Ways Not to Grieve

I just watched the trailer for Jake Gyllenhaal’s upcoming 2016 film, Demolition, about the aftermath of his character, Davis’s, sudden loss of his wife, Julia. Loss can take many forms. As the trailer shows, Davis unravels. He can’t pull himself together. His father-in-law tries to encourage him to rebuild his life. To do so, he demolishes the house he lived in with his wife – in an attempt to move past his old life and go on.  Grieving really doesn’t work well that way.

It’s an interesting premise. Yet, as a psychologist who works with grief, I can’t agree that dealing with loss by tearing down the past is helpful – either at a literal level or an emotional one. I have to ask myself, what is it that Davis played by Jake Gyllenhaal is trying to get rid of inside himself?

If I had Davis in therapy, I’d want to understand just what internal forces are tearing him down.  Is it guilt? Is it a past loss or trauma he’s never resolved? To truly move on after a loss, deep grieving needs to happen. Understanding any guilt that might arise and its roots is also important. As is working out the personal and unique reactions that inevitably occur – including earlier losses that, as yet, have not been processed.

The film won’t be released until Spring 2016. So I’ll have to wait to write more about Jake Gyllenhaal’s character, Davis. I’m sure there’s much to think about.  One thing I know for sure, when it comes to grief, demolishing the past isn’t a wise idea. In the best of grieving, the person who has been lost is kept in memory for all the good things provided. Or, if the relationship wasn’t good, remains as a reminder of what not to repeat.

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Dr. Sandra E. Cohen

I’m Dr. Sandra Cohen, a psychologist and psychoanalyst in private practice in Beverly Hills, CA. I work with creatives in therapy, story/character development, and entertainment consulting. If you are a writer, actor, or director and want help with a character – or a chance to do some of your own personal work - call at 310.273.4827 or email me at sandracohenphd@gmail.com to schedule a confidential discussion to explore working together.