Up is a moving and delightful animated movie which I had the pleasure to watch recently (Rivera & Docter, 2009). It touches on themes of loss and grief, but also on the healing qualities of friendship and compassion. If your loss is a spouse or a partner, or if you have experienced a loss recently, this movie is likely to trigger some strong emotions or tears. I encourage you to watch it with a friend or a family member who is empathic and sensitive to your emotions.
There are a few important themes in the movie—lessons in life that we all need to go through and learn:
The loss of a loved one can sometimes pause your life, or change your life for a period of time. The objects that represent the deceased person can become like an extension of the loved one. In the movie, it is the house and all the photos and objects in the house (Rivera & Docter, 2009). In your life, it could be presents that you received in the past from your loved one, or videos that you recorded of that person. Sometimes, the objects become so important that you may rather choose them over your current relationships! In the movie, the main character is tempted to choose his house over saving a companion who is in danger (Rivera & Docter, 2009).
The objects that represent a rich, heartwarming bond can be of paramount importance to you now. There is nothing wrong with keeping objects that represent a good, loving relationship. But if you allow the objects to become more important than your life, or other lives, that could be problematic.
When the main character finally chooses to save his companions and let go of his house, he says, “It’s okay… It’s just a house” (Rivera & Docter, 2009). He realizes that his present life is far more important than the house. He had previously put all his effort into protecting the house, since it represents his wife—they had shared very sweet and positive memories there, and there are a lot of photos, scrapbooks, and furniture of hers, arranged just as it had been during their marriage.
But the symbolism of the house is of active, loving kindness. Ironically, by focusing only on the material object of the house, instead of on current new relationships, the main character loses touch with this active, loving kindness! Only when he resolves his grief, and reminds himself of the active state of love and compassion he had experienced in his marriage, could he continue on. He is then able to create new positive moments with others, be a positive influence, and live a meaningful life… (Rivera & Docter, 2009). He probably still misses his spouse a lot, for the rest of his life, but he continues on anyway. He smiles, he laughs, he shares...
I would like to share some ideas about how to manage grief, and about how to help others who are grieving. Just as the movie shows, the foundation of this is to practice healthy self-care, to stay in touch with your core values, and to be empathic towards self and others. But there are several other ideas which are very important, including practicing mindfulness, finding activities such as colouring to help occupy you during your grief, facing your emotions, and finding social support.
Be mindful of your surroundings. Pay attention to a bird, a leave, or a puddle. Sometimes, I can see beautiful pictures on the ground and feel very grateful.
Adult colouring books started to become more popular in recent years. It is a mindfulness exercise that I highly recommend! It could be a fun activity to do with a friend, or by yourself. Research shows that structured coloring helps alleviate anxiety and stress (Curry & Kasser, 2005; van der Vennet & Serice, 2012). Colouring is an activity that many art therapists utilize in therapy. Instead of detaching ourselves from strong emotions, colouring helps us focus on the here-and-now, regain mental focus, and stay present—being in the present moment is therapeutic.
Feel the texture of the paper with your fingers, listen as you flip through the pages, hold your pencil crayon and press gently on the page, observe how your hand moves back and forth as you colour, observe how you are using different colours to make the picture come to life… I find colouring to be soothing and calming in the midst of grief because it does not take as much effort, compared to other types of artwork, yet it still allows you to create, to feel in control, and to experience a sense of accomplishment.
Facing Your Emotions
Being strong is not equivalent to having no emotions. Expressing emotions is a sign of strength! You may not like to focus on your grief at a workplace, or in the middle of a lecture, but you can dedicate some time each day, to face your emotions, to cry, to journal, or to talk to someone about your grief.
Seek help from friends and family who are empathic and loving. Seek counselling help if you are having a hard time coping with your loss.
Your loved ones may probably seek you out and offer help if they know that you are going through a difficult time.
How to Be of Help to Someone Who is Grieving
As a friend, be sensitive to the person’s emotions and needs. A simple condolence, such as, “I am sorry for your loss,” can be enormously comforting to a person who has just lost a loved one. It can also trigger tears in your friend. Be ready for that kind of reaction and be empathic.
Paying visits is a sweet way to show your love and care, provided that the recipient does not perceive that as a kind of stress. Pay visits, bring a small gift, write a card, or spend some quality time with your friend. There are many loving, kind things that you can do to show your care. With sincerity, wisdom, and love, you can help and be part of your friend’s healing journey.
Affirmation: I enrich my life when I take my time to grieve and seek healthy, positive ways to cope with my loss.
Curry, N. A., & Kasser, T. (2005). Can coloring mandalas reduce anxiety? Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, 22(2), 81-85. doi:10.1080/07421656.2005.10129441
Rivera, J. (Producer), & Docter, P. (Director). (2009). Up [Motion picture]. United States: Walt Disney Pictures.
van der Vennet, R., & Serice, S. (2012). Can coloring mandalas reduce anxiety? A replication study. Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, 29(2), 87–92. doi:10.1080/07421656.2012.680047