MAD MEN: Sally And Her Brothers. Children Who Can’t Grieve

We’re all still talking about Mad Men. And, yes, I agree – the characters often hit close to home with many of life’s painful realities. Yet, I have to say that the tongue in cheek jingle at Mad Men’s finale was a bit too disturbing. Leaving Sally (Kiernan Shipka) doing dishes in the kitchen with a dying mother and no father walking through the door is almost unbearably sad. We’re faced with the fact that one cry, a few encounter groups in an Esalen kind of therapy, just aren’t enough to change the effects of Don’s (Jon Hamm) traumatic childhood. His children are left to repeat his past.

Here’s the heartbreaking truth: children who can’t grieve have an exceptionally hard road in life. Divorce is tough enough. But, losing a mother (and a father), and having their lives turned upside down – that will throw them very off track. This was Don’s unfortunate early fate. Now, since he hasn’t worked out his own losses: it’s his children‘s. Gene will suddenly find his mother gone, without warning or good-bye. Bobby has figured it out – but no one’s talking to him. Sally has no choice but fill in for all the adults who can’t cope with what’s happening, let alone with what vulnerable children need.

There’s no place for feelings. There’s no place for crying, or mourning, or saying goodbye. There’s no guidance for what’s ahead. This is devastating to children. Children need their sadness and loss to be heard. They need strong and reliable adults to help them grieve. They need to know these feelings are not only OK, but that sadness and anger are normal. Having a sensitive grown-up to turn to and cry with makes feelings of loss bearable. The loss will always be there. But, if it is grieved, children can move on. They don’t have to be on the run from their feelings as their father is – over and over and over again.

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