Epilogue to: What About Meredith?

Once upon a time, she was me…

ICYMI: Here is the link to my previous post.

Well the two-part season finale has come and gone. IMHO, Grey’s conclusion was honest, and perceptive throughout both episodes. Not only regarding Meredith, but those surrounding her, including friends; his sister, Amelia; and even April Kepner. In fact, the episodes could have accurately been entitled “Portraits of Grief.” How one handles the loss of a loved one is not an A-to-B-to-C progression. It is multifaceted. It has twists, turns, and double backs. It rarely stays the same.

Of course, we were riveted by the young couple and their unborn child involved in a horrific accident: Can they be rescued? Who will be the hero? Will they survive? Romance in all its complexities was portrayed by the Richard-Catherine story line: How do two, strong-willed individuals compromise enough to commit to one another? But the underlying current was grief — in all its guts and glory.

We soon learn the Meredith packed up the kids and slipped away in the middle of the night. Gone for a year, we are shown snippets of how her friends deal with her absence. At first they are worried, then frantic. A little pissed off; most of them resign themselves to Meredith being Meredith. What she, the new widow, failed to understand is a concept that took me a while to realize: you are not alone in your loss and are now a role model for how to grieve. Your closest companions, family, in-laws, and colleagues have lost someone as well and are unsure of how to handle it. They need to see that you are OK, that you are coping, moving on — surviving — before they can as well. In a twisted way, their lack of composure is comforting; at least it was for me.

It demonstrated that my husband’s life resonated with others, that he mattered, that he wouldn’t be forgotten.

This is not to say I don’t admire Meredith for her selfishness. I am actually jealous. Her kids aren’t of school age. She had the financial resources to disappear. It was a luxury that few widows have, but secretly crave. All in all, it was a perfect metaphor for the sense of suspended animation you are in for a least a year. The world continues to rotate; life goes on, no matter how enveloped in grief you are. She was able to get off the infamous carousel for a while and just breathe.

Amelia’s grief demonstrated how loss is dealt with when it is initially denied. As the damaged sister, she had her walls in place. She’s been through this before. (father, lover, baby) She didn’t need any help. She was just fine, thank you. Only when she teetered on the edge of losing sobriety, did she finally cry out for support. As I hoped Grey’s would do, she angrily confronts Meredith about not having the chance to say goodbye to her brother. My husband had three sisters, just like Derek Shepherd. Only one was able to speak her farewell to him at the hospital. This was a moment in time that was of utmost importance to her and would have devastated her if it was prevented.

Meredith’s reaction was equally revealing. She breaks down in tears after Amelia leaves. Why such a response? Did she feel guilty? Unjustly accused? Probably a little bit of both. But in that scene, the audience is shown a key component of grief. 365 days— whether they are in reality or the television universe — are but a moment in the life of a widow. Emotions can well up and over at any time. They may or may not make “sense.” Every so often, they are uncontrollable.

Even April and Jackson were caught up in the cavalcade of grief. After losing their child, April runs off to a combat zone to channel her anguish, leaving Jackson behind to grieve alone. She comes back recharged, but different. “I like the new April,” Bailey tells a skeptical Catherine. Jackson later tells April that while he is happy for her new sense of purpose, he did and continues to feel abandoned in their supposedly shared heartache. Dealing with the loss of a loved one, especially a child, is partially a cooperative experience. When someone in the grief collective opts out and decides to go it alone, the rest are left feeling forsaken. The processing of their sorrow may be incomplete. Will their marriage survive this trial? We are left to ponder for the duration of the summer.

These story lines aptly portrayed the ripple effect of death. Losing someone close to you, whether it be a treasured friend or cherished loved one, affects everyone differently — but continually. Grief is both private and public, intimate and communal. It is ugly in its brutality and beautiful in its poignancy. Bravo Grey’s Anatomy. Thank you for getting it right.

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3 thoughts on “Epilogue to: What About Meredith?

  1. Thank you for sharing your personal experiences about the loss of your husband and I am sorry for what you went through.

    The timing to this blog entry comes on the same day that I read “What Derek Shepherd’s Death Says about the U.S. Healthcare System”.

    View story at Medium.com

    The author of that referred readers to your “What About Meredith?” entry and I also came across this entry as well.

    I have lost loved ones but have not lost a brother, sister, mother, father, or spouse.

    I know that you ended this entry saying “Thank you for getting it right” but overall, how well do you feel the writers and producers did at showing the death and effects from about a year of grieving? How could they have made it more accurate?

    I understand that Hollywood dramatizes things in order to get viewers and that every individual grieves differently but I am trying to get an idea.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Douglas,

      Thank you for your kind words! Overall, I think they got it right, especially since they had less than 90 minutes to portray something so complicated.
      In my experience, grief is highly complicated and often misjudged. I have been told I have not grieved properly almost as many times as I have been lauded for being “strong.” Your emotions are not your own for quite some time.
      I particularly liked when they portrayed Meredith’s breakdown even after a year has passed. Typically, society expects you to be “over it” by then. Honestly, even I expected myself to be. I can’t tell you how many times I have had that moment of crying followed by wiping the tears away, taking a deep breath, and going on with the day.
      As for what they could have done, maybe portray some of the more maternal moments – such as telling her children their dad was gone. It’s one of the hardest things I have ever done and I wouldn’t wish that moment on anyone.

      I hope this help your understanding of something that is incredibly difficult to grasp. I so appreciate your interest!

      Like

  2. Pingback: Going Viral with McDreamy, Bill Nye & 288,000 Hours | Abby Explains

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