Last month, my husband and I saw the movie Gravity. It was a huge deal for me to go, because I am terrified of space (shut up) and I abhor 3D movies. Since my husband looooves both of those things, I went along. Also, he promised me zebra popcorn. The movie completely destroyed me. Not because of the space stuff (because that was scary for sure), but because Sandra Bullock’s character is, like me, living after the death of her daughter.
The death of the character’s daughter is presented very plainly, in only a few sentences, almost as an aside. It wasn’t done for cheap tears; rather, it establishes that the character has no one back on Earth waiting for her. More ominously, as the character is fighting for her life, her daughter’s death looms in the background: You Have Nothing To Live For (so why are you trying?).
Am I projecting? Maybe. The most common thing I, and other bereaved parents hear, is “I would never survive if my child died.” I think it’s meant to be taken as a “You go, girl! Look at you, not killing yourself!” but it’s hard to not feel like those people are saying that they love their kids more, that they would grieve harder, that death is really your only option when your child dies.
Gravity is a thriller but to me, the movie is actually a huge metaphor for living after loss. Every parent who has lost a child has to make the choice to live when it seems like your only reason for living is gone. At one point, Bullock’s character thinks all hope is lost, and she prepares to give up. but then she, like so many bereaved parents, remembers her child and chooses to live – for her child AND for herself.
When Bullock’s character lands back on Earth and is literally stumbled by gravity, she carefully stands up under the weight of it all and purposefully steps into the uncertain distance. Grieving parents know that weight and those steps all too well.