The Isolation of Grief

Earlier this week, I started watching the cult classic TV Show ‘Twin Peaks’.  My friends have talked about this show in high regard for years, but I’d never made the effort to sit down and watch it.  It was created and guided by the eccentric David Lynch, whose body of work is a twisted map of the strange and bizarre places.  ‘Twin Peaks’ is perhaps his most accessible work, as it was written for television consumption…but it does not escape Lynch’s style.  Weaved throughout his odd tapestry of a small northern town and its inhabitants are genuine human moments, expressions that strike you with their precision and accuracy.  When the episode “Cooper’s Dreams” wrapped last night and Samantha turned to me and asked what I thought, I was moved to tears before I could speak.  Some mild spoilers ahead…

The overall story centers around the murder of a high school girl named Laura Palmer and the subsequent investigation.  The town and the people in it appear normal at first, but as the show progresses things get weirder and more exaggerated.  The parents of the murdered girl grieve in a variety of ways, from quiet sobbing to shrill screaming and thrashing.  The father, Leland, associates an old big band tune with his departed daughter and is seen several times trying to manage his grief by dancing as if his daughter was still there.  He ends up collapsing in his emotion, unable to deal with the weight of his loss.

Near the end of the first season, he attempts to return to work to try and focus on something else.  He is at a social gathering & holding it together fairly well; when a familiar song starts playing, he starts to break down in a room full of strangers.  His boss, Ben, is trying to close an important business deal and cannot have such a distraction take place.  I’ve embedded the scene below:

Granted, the scene serves the greater narrative, but it also stood out to me as a representation of grief on an intimate level.  Leland is a man that has suffered a great and unexpected loss.  Some people in the room know this, but many do not.  When he is overwhelmed with sadness (which has happened several times publicly) he begins acting out in an attempt to temper that sadness with familiarity.  In order to prevent a disruption with his deal, Ben sends someone out to dance with him.  She does, and mimics his anguish as to make it look normal.  The rest of the room, unaware of the true nature of the outburst, joins in and soon everyone is dancing the night away.  Off in a corner, a young girl looks on and weeps openly, the only person that truly sees Leland’s pain.

For months after my father passed away, I could stand in a crowded room and feel completely alone.  Sometimes other people would try to include me or try to fill the gap that had suddenly appeared in my life…but it never quite worked.  As much as I appreciated the efforts of my friends and family, only I could get out of the hole I was in.  Many people had no idea what I was going through.  I fought bitterness as I watched the rest of the world move on at a normal pace.  How could that be?  My entire world had been shattered and people were laughing, dancing, having good times…it was incomprehensible.  It was as if my car had broken down on the highway and I couldn’t understand why everyone else kept driving.  The strangest, random things would awaken that dark beast and it would completely consume me.  I had a few select people in my life that could see how I felt, no matter how much I masked it.  Those are the people that got me through my sorrows.

Everybody grieves differently; I don’t expect other people to see this scene and feel the same things I did.  I have been very careful not to read much about the show as I’m watching it (as to not spoil anything) but I don’t doubt there are people that see this scene as simply a humorous/awkward situation.  Which it is.  But it is also tremendously poignant for those of us that have been in Leland’s shoes.

One thought on “The Isolation of Grief

  1. I can understand your pain. When I lost my baby boy, I would wake up in the middle of the night feeling the weight of his tiny body on my chest. I can feel the characters pain and imagine yours. As debilitating as it might be, life has to have meaning, life must go on. We learn to suffer in silence and shield our pain from the rest of the world. Let’s face it, no one wants to be around your grief, so we learn to put on a happy face mask. No wonder comedians are usually suffering from depression.

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