Spiral Time

Lessons I Learned About Grief and Loss from Doctor Who

October 16, 2017

First thing you need to know about me: I’m a nerd and I love BBC’s “Doctor Who.” If you don’t know what “Doctor Who” is, I’ll get to that in a moment.

Second thing you need to know about me: I lost my son Emmett. It’s been a difficult 18 months trying to navigate this new, scary and overwhelming world after loss. I’ve found solace in many things – making new friends in the pregnancy and infant loss community, blogging, baking, swimming, and, yes, binge-watching TV shows to occupy my mind sometimes.

I first started watching “Doctor Who” back in 2013. I quickly became addicted to the show’s fast pace, appealing characters and riveting story-telling. Over the years, it’s become something my husband and I watch together weekly, and has led to making new friends (fellow “Whovians”) at work conferences.

Doctor Who t-shirt

Getting back to the aforementioned Doctor…He has the ability to travel through all of time and space in a police box, called the TARDIS. Different companions accompany him and they go on wild adventures. The Doctor has the ability to “regenerate,” or change his appearance. (Basically, it’s a way for show producers to change the title role’s actor every few years.)

So, how can this fictional sci-fi character have anything to do with grief and loss? Surprisingly, there is a lot of loss in “Doctor Who.” I’ve pulled together some of my favorite moments and lessons I have learned from the Doctor and his companions.

Six Lessons I Have Learned About Grief and Loss from “Doctor Who”

Your Emotions Define You

“Pain and loss, they define us as much as happiness or love.”
– Sarah Jane Smith, “School Reunion” (2006)

I was recently watching Disney/Pixar’s “Inside Out” when I came to this realization. For most of my life, I was just like Riley with “Joy” taking the lead. Yet, “Sadness” has always been there, too. I’ve come to value how Sadness has helped me embrace the pain of grief and loss. It has also opened my heart to an infinite amount of love, something I never knew could be possible, between me and my baby.

In an Instant, Things Can Change

“It all just disappears, doesn’t it? Everything you are, gone in a moment; like breath on a mirror.”
– The Doctor, “The Time of the Doctor” (2013)

My son’s story changed suddenly one day after an ultrasound when we heard the words “fetal hydrops.” We went from having a perfectly joyous pregnancy to our world and dreams shattered. During this journey, we have realized how important it is to never take anything for granted because, at any second, your life and your reality can morph into something completely unexpected.

You Have to Take the Good with the Bad

“Every life is a pile of good things and bad things…The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa, the bad things don’t always spoil the good things and make them unimportant.”
– The Doctor, “Vincent and The Doctor” (2010)

I’m currently reading a book by Dr. Alan Wolfelt called “Understanding Your Grief: Ten Essential Touchstones for Finding Hope and Healing Your Heart,” and it carried this same theme in a section. Much like you can’t have joy without sadness, your life will always be a mixture of good and bad, and you can’t escape that reality.

Grief and Loss Will Change You as a Person

“We all change. When you think about it, we’re all different people all through our lives, and that’s okay, that’s good, you gotta keep moving, so long as you remember all the people that you used to be.”
– The Doctor, “The Time of the Doctor” (2013)

I now realize there are two quotes from Matt Smith’s regeneration back in 2013. Apparently, it subconsciously meant a lot to me. He was my first doctor that I watched. Emmett’s loss has changed me indefinitely. Much like the Doctor does every few years, I’ve regenerated into a new “me”. It’s now a matter of coming to terms with this new version of me while I still remember and cherish those old iterations.

You Will Find a Reason to Live

“We’re all stories in the end. Just make it a good one, eh?”
– The Doctor, “The Big Bang” (2010)

One of my favorite quotes. Deep down I think Emmett wouldn’t want me to be sad all the time and would want me to continue to live a good life. Therefore, I’m trying to write a life’s story that he would be proud of and say, “My mommy is really cool.”

And the Courage to Go On

“Courage isn’t a matter of being frightened…It’s being afraid and doing what you have to do anyway.”
– The Doctor, “Planet of the Daleks” (1973)

I have to admit that I haven’t watched all of classic “DW”. However, this quote from the third Doctor still resonates with me. It takes courage to grieve after the loss of your child because you’re forced to face each new day knowing that a piece of your heart is no longer with you. But, you can do it. It may not seem like it today, or tomorrow…but some day.

Have you watched any TV shows or movies, and what have you found you have learned about your own grief and loss? Share with us in the comments!

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