Grief hit the big screen in the recent movie Ford vs Ferrari. Watch it and witness the emotions of Raw Grief and Fragile Grief. And feel the obvious discomfort of grief-phobic colleagues wrestling with their response to grieving teammates. Wondering what to say. What to do.

We are a grief-phobic nation. We treat grief as a problem to be solved or a contagious disease to cure or avoid.

Ford v Ferrari and grief

If you saw the recent movie Ford v Ferrari movie, you witnessed typical grief-phobic responses to deep loss. We don’t know what to say or how to be.

The movie portrays how Carroll Shelby was forever impacted by the death of his friend and racing teammate, Ken Miles. He felt the loss deeply. And he didn’t follow a grief timetable like others expected.

Other teammates thought he should be “back to normal” after a period of time. They wanted to fix his grief. Some became impatient, even barking, “It’s been six months!” They had moved forward using their business to honor their friend.

Everyone grieves in their own unique way and time

There is no set timetable for grief. Even though Dr. George Bonanno’s research reveals healthy grief is a two-year process, not everyone fits the two-year mold/timeline.

In the movie, we also watched how Shelby was caught in grief. He visits Ken’s wife, now a young widow. But he’s unable to connect. Shelby doesn’t move towards her to offer support. Nor does he allow himself to cry with her. To allow the comfort of shared tears.

Then Peter, Ken’s son, approaches on his bicycle. They stop and talk. Shelby tears up. But there were no hugs. No simple words of comfort for Peter. No one comforted Shelby. He wouldn’t allow it. He drove away having done the best he could.

Is this the best we can do?

To me, these scenes portray our grief-phobia and how inept we are at grieving. Perhaps more movies showing Raw Grief will highlight our need for learning new skills.

Some skills we could learn

  • To accept grief and not run from it.
  • To acknowledge that others grieve differently – and it’s ok.
  • To not become impatient when another’s emotion is still raw after 6 months, 1 year, or 2 years.
  • To be compassionate when people look better years later but are still barely holding themselves together in Fragile Grief.
  • To know how to comfort and receive comfort.
  • To know how to stay present in the face of grief.
  • To learn to breathe and check-in with yourself. To say and do nothing until you feel calm and grounded.
  • To keep the pitch of your voice low. Check the level of loudness.
  • To not ask, “How are you?” Rather, “I am thankful to see you. How’s your level of grief today?” (Raw, Fragile, Gentle) or “How are you in this moment?”
  • To make eye-contact with eyes full of love instead of pity.
  • To text a “thinking of you” message or heart emoji on the day of the week their loved one departed. Do it for the first ninety days. Then once a month for the next nine months.

When we know better, we can do better

Are you or someone you know experiencing grief this Holiday Season?
Share this message with them. Let them know you’ll call in 1-3 days.
Then call saying “Hi. I’m checking in as I said I would.” And listen.

It is up to us, those who’ve moved through the grief journey into Gentle Grief, to model what’s comforting. And then comfort others.

Love all around, above, below, to the left and to the right, before you and behind you,