Grief is one of the strongest emotions that a human being can experience, and yet, also an emotion that many of us struggle the most with. Because just like love, there is no standard, fixed way of experiencing grief. It’s all-encompassing, and you’re never truly equipped to deal with it in its entirety- at least not alone. Because grief isn’t only about loss, but also about dealing with life after an irreplaceable absence.
But through drama, comedy, romance, or more, these shows managed to explore the various facets of grief, and bring to life the diverse ways in which people cope with it:
A woman’s hilarious, edgy, and relatable take through life, Fleabag started as the protagonist’s attempt at dealing with the grief of the death of her friend and mother. Through the two seasons, it also dealt with the pain of a miscarriage, the loss of relationships, and the reality that death may erase people but it can’t remove their memories or the love we have for them.
2. Big Little Lies, Season 2
In Season 1, the show presented how abuse and toxicity never come wrapped in an easily distinguishable package. Season 2, despite a poorly written climax, explored the stages of grief and how people react to it in extremely varied ways. With undeniably powerful performances by Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman, the show was spot on about how emotions as powerful as grief, love, and hate can not only co-exist, but also thrive off each other.
3. After Life
A British black comedy-drama, After Life explored a man’s journey of coming to terms with his wife’s death. The series didn’t shy away from presenting the ugly side of grief – one where your deep, gut-wrenching loss makes you forego common courtesy, and lash out, especially with loved ones.
4. Sharp Objects
Emmy nominated Sharp Objects is a psychological thriller, where the protagonist (Amy Adams) is forced to confront personal demons. The deeply grim, but engrossing thriller, not only makes for great television but also exposed how grief is never just immediate. It can stay submerged for years until certain forces (external or internal) lay your ragged soul bare.
5. The Haunting of Hill House
If we’re talking about shows that expose submerged and layered grief, the supernatural horror series The Haunting of Hill House has to feature in the list. This wasn’t a show characterized by ‘horror hooks’, but rather by an intensely immersive psychological essence that left you spooked long after the last episode ended. Also, many people theorized that the five Crain siblings were actually a representation of the five stages of grief.
6. This Is Us
Grief holds just as much power as any other emotion, if not more so. And it can leave splinters of discord that can wreck families apart. Or sow seeds of empathy that can bring even the staunchest of enemies together. That’s exactly what the family drama This Is Us explores – through a gripping story of a family not only coming to terms with the loss of its patriarch but also constantly, trying to live up to his memory.
7. Sorry For Your Loss
An emotionally raw and poignant portrayal of grief, Sorry For Your Loss deals with a sensitive issue but with refreshing clarity. The story of a young widow who takes charge of her life after her husband’s death, this is the kind of well-executed drama where even the inevitability of end is presented in a wonderfully balanced tone.
8. Dead To Me
People often presume that grief can only be presented through emotional turmoil. The black comedy Dead To Me easily shoves that notion through the door and presents a humorous but moving tale of friendship formed over mutual grief. The show’s true highlight lies not necessarily in the humor it attempts, but rather in the empowering chemistry that the leads share.
While the multiple tones the show attempted to present left some viewers perturbed, what no one can deny is Kidding’s riveting, rough, and real exposure of life and grief. It is the story of a beloved children’s television presenter, struggling with a difficult personal life. With an unexpectantly nuanced and moving performance by Jim Carrey, this bittersweet family saga gave a name to the pain some of us experience, but often, fail to understand.
10. The Leftovers
The supernatural mystery drama The Leftovers falls right into the group of thought-provoking, character-driven dramas. The powerful storytelling may at times feel purposely aimed at evoking a reaction, but the emotions it leaves you with are no less powerful for being expected. It’s thoughtful, ambitious, and unfolds a very important aspect of grief – moving on.
11. A Million Little Things
Grief is not centered on ‘family’ or ‘partners’ alone. Even among friends, grief can be an immersive, exhaustive, and intensely emotional experience. Just like with A Million Little Things, where a group of friend cope through the loss of a friend (who committed suicide), and journey through an experience that friends don’t really want to share – but know that inevitably, one day, they may have to.
12. Grey’s Anatomy
Throughout the 15 seasons, medical drama Grey’s Anatomy broached a wide variety of topics. While it was overly dramatic at times, the show did talk about grief in a way that was relatable – because the stories it presented were not set in a strange universe or an unexpected reality. Rather, they were the tales we’d seen and lived.
Euphoria may come across as just another series about high school kids navigating life as they know it, dealing with peer pressure, and developing an identity. But, by grounding itself in stark, often disturbing reality, Euphoria manages to present an illuminating tale – one that deeply resonates with the audience it caters to. Because like most emotions, even grief is not bound by age.
14. BoJack Horseman: Free Churro
The very premise of the show is one of absurd reality, that begs you to question the uncomfortable truths. However, with the episode Free Churro, the show – in its characteristic hilarious, shocking manner – presented a hauntingly realistic and heartbreaking reality about grief. That irrespective of how you felt about the person when they were living, death is so final a moment, that the pain it brings is inescapable.
This British crime series was universally acclaimed for its intelligent character development, captivating cinematography, and intriguing plotline. The story starts with the death of an 11-year-old child, but the mystery of the death doesn’t overpower the grief that strikes the town after this tragedy. It showcased how, our emotions don’t really wait for ‘things to calm down’, to be felt.
16. Queer Eye: Elrod & Sons
Every episode of Queer Eye – the reality show that is so much more than just a makeover – is a tear-jerker. In its third season, one of the participants was a widowed father, whose life was on hold since his wife died. But the Fab 5 (the show’s anchors) helped him process his grief and keep the memory of his wife alive for his kids. And it was an important moment because it showed why it was okay to ask for help.
17. Black Mirror S5: Smithereens
In its last season, Black Mirror gave one of the greatest cinematic moments of 2019 TV – Chris Gilhaney’s powerful monologue. But the whole episode was a stark reflection of not just millennial addictions, but the corrosive power of grief and guilt. Wracked over the death of his girlfriend, Chris commits grave crimes – all so that someone would understand why he feels the way he does.
18. Russian Doll
In the comedy-drama Russian Doll, the protagonist Nadia is stuck in an endless time loop and she has to navigate through her own life, in order to escape. With a wonderful blend of humor and mourning, the series showcases why sometimes, it’s only by exploring the root cause of our grief that we can begin to overcome it. Otherwise, we’d be stuck at the same place, unable to grow.
There is never a standard way of dealing with any emotion. Because our emotions are as diverse as the people we are. But these shows managed to at least understand grief in its raw form. And for that alone, they deserve a watch.