Saturday, July 25, 2015

Cake: good grief

Jane and I had nothing to do last night, so we decided to see if there were any mediocre movies on Netflix. We stumbled onto the movie "Cake." I don't think I had heard of it, but Jane said she'd heard it was supposed to be good. It has Jennifer Aniston and Anna Kendrick in it, so I thought "How bad can it be?"

Wow. It is powerful! I wouldn't exactly say it is a "good" movie... It's dark, emotionally gut-wrenching, and should leave you weeping... It was very worthwhile and thought-provoking though.

The iMDb storyline reads:
The acerbic, hilarious CLAIRE SIMMONS becomes fascinated by the suicide of a woman in her chronic pain support group. As she uncovers the details of Nina's suicide and develops a poignant relationship with Nina's husband, she also grapples with her own, very raw personal tragedy.

I particularly liked one reviewer's comment:
Our culture asks us to forgive. Sociopaths want us to forgive and forget. "Cake" explores the difficulty of navigating the real and brutal emotions we face when a tragedy crashes in to our lives.

Yes. That is how I felt while watching this movie. My mind went over the 5 stages of grief coined by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. I was trained in understanding these at seminary and as a pastor. I've heard countless professionals and church leaders talk about helping people deal with and move through the process. Unfortunately, when Jane and I were trying to navigate a very ugly period in our lives (being let go by our church), we saw very little of this extended to us by those very same people.

I can still remember the person who was/is supposed to be my "supervisor" (the pastor to the pastors) repeatedly telling me, "Dan, you just need to get over it and move on!" This was just a couple weeks after the incident happened. I was trying, but it hurt. At one point I lost it and apparently said a "cuss word." He basically cut off all contact with me after that.

Yes, I understand that it is not healthy to get stuck in any one of the stages, and that we are still accountable for our actions... But do we really want to acknowledge ALL five stages? There seems to be a hesitance to allow for the middle three: Anger, Bargaining & Depression. I know I have trouble accepting those myself, in others. We want the grieving process to be almost... neat. We certainly want it to be peaceful, and probably nice (especially among church leaders).

I know I do not always handle things well. I didn't handle the church departure well. What I still have a hard time with, more than anything, is the alienation by supposed friends and colleagues because I had the audacity to wear my grief openly - to actually go through all five stages. Maybe someday it will make sense. Maybe not.

Anyway, the movie 'Cake' does a good job of showing the grieving process in a very raw and probably honest way. I can't imagine losing a child or a spouse. I'm sure movies don't do it justice. However, I was moved by watching 'Cake,' and glad we spent that time together last night. In the future I hope to be better at not only accepting the behavior of others going through the grieving process, but also showing support to them while they do. I know I am thankful for the few people who have and are assisting me. May God bless them.