Reflecting on ‘This Is Us:’ How TV shows help us grieve


Photo courtesy of NBC.

It’s been one year since NBC’s hit show “This Is Us” last graced our television screens. It’s also been one year since my grandmother passed away. 

I still remember the first time I watched “This Is Us” when it premiered in 2016. My family gathered in the living room with our eyes fixated on the TV. We knew right then this would be a show unlike any other. 

Centered around the fictional Pearson family, “This Is Us” featured storylines that felt all too real and matched experiences I had been going through at the time. Specifically, the storyline in season one when Randall — played by Sterling K. Brown — lost his biological father, William — played by Ron Cephas Jones — to stomach cancer. It’s something I went through with my grandfather only months prior.

Though my grandfather died at 82, he had a passionate zest for life and was taken from this earth before he was ready in a way no one can prepare for. My grandfather’s loss paralleled Randall’s relationship with William, who barely got to build a connection with his biological father before it was time to say goodbye.

“This Is Us” allowed me to grieve my grandfather in a way I hadn’t been able to in the prior months. Though Randall and William are fictional characters, their story helped me recognize that there are real people out there who have gone through or will go through the same thing. It reminded me my father had lost a parent and my grandmother had lost her best friend. 

Married for 58 years, my grandmother grieved for my grandfather until her last breath, much like how Rebecca — played by Mandy Moore — mourned the loss of her husband, Jack — played by Milo Ventimiglia. However, no similarities between my life and the storyline of “This Is Us” hit quite as hard until my grandmother was diagnosed with Dementia and Rebecca with Alzheimer’s. 

My grandmother’s bout with Dementia began quite similarly to Rebecca’s battle with Alzheimer’s. She often felt confused, would misplace items and talked of my grandfather as if he were still alive. As my grandmother neared the end of her life, Rebecca and “This Is Us” were also about to say goodbye. 

Just as “This Is Us” had grabbed and held our attention when it first premiered, the show had my family gathered in the living room with bated breath. We watched as the Pearson family bid farewell to their matriarch, and we felt the pain they were experiencing through losing our own. When Rebecca reunited with Jack in the afterlife, we felt my grandmother had reunited with my grandfather.

While I am grateful to “This Is Us” for helping me grieve the loss of my grandparents, I am also thankful it has reminded me of the importance of family and to appreciate my loved ones while they are still here. When they one day leave this world behind, their memory will live on through me. 

The Pearson family and my grandparents were only in my life for a short time. However, the lessons they have taught me will last me a lifetime.