The most profound description of grief that I have encountered occurs in the 2011 movie Rabbit Hole. Over the years, I’ve thought back to the dialogue between Becca and Nat, especially when I reach into my own metaphorical pocket of “grief”.
In Rabbit Hole, Becca loses her young son to a hit and run driver. The grief is unbearable. After packing up his belongings and storing them in the basement, she pauses. And then turns to her mother Nat to ask if the grief ever goes away. Her mother also lost a son, albeit an adult son, years before.
The exchange that follows describes how grief accompanies you through your life. Grief changes over time. You “heal”. You move on with life. You slowly forget it, until something reminds you of it.
Nat likens grief to a brick in your pocket. You always carry it around. But you forget that it is there until you reach into your pocket for some reason. And then you remember the brick—the grief. After the initial loss, the grief becomes bearable and even OK—the brick in your pocket reminds you of whatever it is that you lost. In a strange sort of way, the brick is a comfort.
BECCA: Does it ever go away?
BECCA: This feeling.
NAT: No. I don’t think it does. Not for me, it hasn’t. And that’s goin’ on 11 years.
It changes, though.
NAT: I don’t know. The weight of it, I guess. At some point it becomes bearable. It turns into something you can crawl out from under, and carry around — like a brick in your pocket. And you forget it every once in a while, but then you reach in for whatever reason and there it is: “Oh, right. That.” Which can be awful. But not all the time. Sometimes it’s kinda … not that you like it exactly, but it’s what you have instead of your son, so you don’t wanna let go of it either. So you carry it around. And it doesn’t go away, which is …
NAT: Fine … actually.
(Source of the transcript: New York Times)
Video clip of the scene in Rabbit Hole