This Is Us is beyond brilliant, but when will the show address the death of that third triplet? The writers seemed to have avoided writing about the actual pain or effects of losing a child, and replaced the couple’s misery with an orphaned newborn whom they effortlessly adopt. The couple expected three babies to come home, and three did, but it seems like the Pearsons left their deceased baby, and the looming shadow of grief, at the hospital. If you are like 1 in 4 of “us” in the “child loss community” then you know that grief will forever be present in your child’s absence. When are they going to address this forever grief? Will they? Will the writers avoid the topic and continue to force Rebecca and Jack to “move on” or will they be able to break their silence and grieve in waves on future episodes?
During the pilot episode, Rebecca and Jack Pearson have planned and prepared for the arrival of their triplets but despite the fact that it was Jack’s 36th birthday and he willed “only good things will happen in this room”, their plans and lives change against their will as Rebecca’s regular doctor was unable to attend the delivery and Dr. Nathan Katowski was forced to stepped in. He delivered two healthy babies, and a stillborn. Bereaved parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, watched in both horror and delight as the taboo topic of child loss was addressed on a platform with 4.5 million viewers, and Dr. K’s message was heard and felt around the world as he turned his personal story heartbreak into heartfelt advise for grieving father Jack. He said, “I’d like to think that one day you’ll be an old man like me talkin’ a young man’s ear off explainin’ to him how you took the sourest lemon that life has to offer and turned it into something resembling lemonade. If you can do that, then maybe you will still be taking three babies home from this hospital, just maybe not the way you planned.”
The next day, there were more “Lemons to Lemonade” memes on social media sites than could be counted, and conversations about infant death, stillborn babies, and other types child loss that were not happening the day before because such an amazing show addressed such a sensitive issue, our issue; enduring the death of a child.
This is Us has millions chanting, “This is Us, This is Us!” Yet others, like myself, are left saying “This is somewhat us,” and wondering, “Will the writers take a sip of the lemonade they have created or spit it out because it seems too sour?”
You will need a lifetime of sugar to sweeten the sour taste of child loss, and even still life can seem so bitter. If you are a fellow loss mama or daddy then you know exactly what I am talking about and have probably tasted the bitterness of grief even on your sweetest of days. Your child’s absence is always present, always felt, but not always seen or understood by others, especially if they have not survived the death of their child. They can imagine. They can surmise. They can put themselves in your shoes, but they cannot comprehend the magnitude of love, the depth of grief, or the resounding void that fills a life lived without the child you intended to raise. Should they sit with you, listen to you, and ask you questions about your child then they will somewhat understand. Should they accompany you to your child’s grave, hold your hand during your darkest moments, and listen to your heart when you have no words, then they will have a glimpse into your grief. Should they look away, forget to call, and ignore the pain then they probably cannot handle the weight of your grief. Avoidance does not elude the void. Ignoring the tragedy of child loss is yet another one of its many subsequent tragedies. Grief refuses to be ignored, and must be faced head and heart-on. In life and on television.
Epidsode 12 addresses the love and bond shared between mom Rebecca, and son Randall but the story is not complete. What the viewer will see is a bereaved mama trying with everything she has to avoid displacing the love for her baby that has died onto her new baby whom she has adopted. You will hear her need to give Randall his own name, rather than the one intended for the third triplet, Kyle. You will feel elated that this mom’s empty arms have been filled with a beautiful child to love. Your heart will soar when you see three babies lying beside one another. But will you remember that there should be four Pearson children? Will you remember that Kyle should be there too? Will the writers think more of Kyle, the character that did not get to play a physical part in the Pearson family story, yet should play such an emotional role? Will Randall continue to be portrayed as a replacement to fill the hurt, a body to fill that void? The writers addressed the topic of child loss but will they delve deeper? Will we see a glimpse of Rebecca in the delivery room as they whisk her boy’s lifeless body away? Did she get to hold him? Did she ever get to see him? Did Jack get to see him? Did they have to plan burial or cremation services? Will Rebecca wear Kyle’s ashes on a necklace, carry a tuft of hair in her pocket or hold a stuffed animal in his absence? Will we see her open a box and break down as she holds special treasures from her still born, still loved son; a hospital i.d., Kyle’s blanket, a special coming-home outfit? Will Jack see a kid who “looks like Kyle might have looked” as he takes the other kids to school?
Will Rebecca have a grief attack at Kate, Kevin, and Randall’s high school graduation? Will they portray the magnitude of such grief during the upcoming seasons, or continue to write off the tragedy? Will Kate and Kevin ask or be told about their brother who passed away at birth? Will Randall know about Kyle? Will the Pearson family gather together at the cemetery or will viewers catch Rebecca in a moment of solitude, standing over her son’s grave? Will they tell a lie at the park, saying “Three kids.”, or confess with a sigh, “Four. One died.” Will Jack take his angst and grief with him to the grave, or did he release his sorrows within the comforts of a secret grief diary? Will the couple’s known divorce be a result of some twist in the plot (Rebecca falling in love with Jack’s best friend Miguel) or some twist of fate (the effects of grief on a relationship)? Will Kyle’s death forever lie in the undercurrent of their lives? Will the characters wake and walk, sleep and breathe, live and die in honor of their fourth child? Will we hear Rebecca and Jack reflect upon what “Kyle would be, could be and should be doing” during certain seasons of their lives? Will these issues be addressed, Dan Fogelman? If so, then bereaved parents around the world will tune in and say, “This IS pretty damn close to Us!”