(*SPOILER-Note, this post contains a small amount of spoilers, most notably from the lastest two episodes of This is Us.)
I began watching NBC's This is Us the very first night it premiered. It stole my heart immediately. From the loving portrayal of Jack and Rebecca Pearson's relationship, to the beautiful way the show tackle's family, sickness, addiction, loss, race, adoption and just about every story-line you could ever imagine. I’ve been hooked from the first moment it crossed my screen and have never missed an episode.
A few episodes into the first season, we learned the beloved patriarch of the family, Jack Pearson, passed away at some point prior. Because of the intriguing way the show is filmed, the timeline flashes backwards, to forwards, to middle and everything in between. Although, we knew for a long while that Jack met an untimely demise, we never quite knew all the why’s of how it happened-until now that is.
I, like many of you, watched this week's episodes with my heart in my throat and tissues in hand as we explored, for the first time, the details of Jack’s death and the family’s immediate aftermath. This was personal and it home for me in more ways than I ever could have imagined.
Why? Because, just like Jack’s wife Rebecca, I, myself am a young widow.
- Just like Rebecca, I too crumbled on a hospital floor at the site of my lifeless spouses body before me.
- Just like Rebecca, I believed the events unfolding around me where too horrific to be true.
- Just like Rebecca, I looked around my car, home, and saw the smallest reminders of a life-here one moment, gone the next.
- Just like Rebecca, I pushed my pain aside at times, in order to be strong for my children in their loss.
- Just like Rebecca, I attended a funeral for my late husband, who at the age of 35 had left us far too soon.
- Just like Rebecca, I fumbled my way through a reception, where everyone around me was moving and I was standing still, in the greatest grief fog I’ve ever known.
- Just like Rebecca, I thought I wasn’t strong enough to do it alone.
But just like Rebecca is already finding out, I was stronger than I thought I was.
At the funeral Rebecca sat outside on a bench confiding to a friend. She share’s over and over again, how she couldn’t do it without Jack. He was fearless, she surmised, she wasn’t. But the interesting thing about fearlessness is sometimes you don’t realize your own bravery until life forces your hand. Rebecca would’ve never chosen to do it without Jack, no. Yet, Rebecca is finding out, she has more than enough inside of her; she is braver than she ever thought she could be.
And then... we are hit with the closing scene of the most recent episode.
Earlier we saw a flashback of Jack, Rebecca and their children in a car. They are driving to their destination but in order to get there they have to cross a bridge Rebecca has always been afraid of. Ever the amazing Husband, Jack warns Rebecca the bridge is coming. He implores her to shut her eyes, while he holds her hand until they make it over the bridge-together. Even the kids get involved, singing a silly song to distract Rebecca from her very real fear. It was difficult for her, but she made it over the bridge, in large part due to Jack patiently guiding the way.
Later on, after the funeral, Rebecca has to cross that very same bridge. This time, it is a starkly different scene. Her kids don’t give much thought to the fact that this is the same bridge that’s always given Mom trouble. They’re lost in their own thoughts. But the largest difference is there’s also no Jack. There’s no Jack holding her hand, leading Rebecca forward. There’s no Jack to whisper words of encouragement when she needed it the most. There’s no Jack behind the wheel, it’s all Rebecca now at the helm. There’s no Jack. There will never again be a Jack in situations like this. Its just Rebecca now. The contrast is heavy, and heartbreaking.
But you know what-Rebecca made it over the bridge. And she barely even winced. The bridge she barely was able to get over with the help of her Husband Jack, she was now able to conquer on her very own.
Why? Because she had too.
Rebecca never would’ve chosen to find her fearlessness in the midst of her emptiness-but she had no other choice. When people tell me all the time how brave of a widow I am, I wish they understood that just like Rebecca, I simply had no other choice. I had to get to the other side. It didn’t matter how afraid I was, onward I trudged, into the scariest of unknown’s.
Why? Because I had too.
Being brave doesn’t mean you’re not afraid, sometimes bravery is simply refusing to run away, no matter how scared you are. It’s making the choice, to keep moving forward, when moving forward is the last thing you feel capable of.
These are the moments, few understand, unless you’ve lived it. And these are the details this show portrays with beautifully, devastating realness.
The rebuilding. The overcoming. The grief, the heartache, the loss, but ultimately the triumph.
Well done, Rebecca. Truly, from one widow to another, you inspire us all.
About the Author: Sarah is an author, speaker, vlogger and blogger at www.journeyofsarah and the Huffington Post. Her first memoir “From Depths We Rise” we recently released. She is the founder of the Choose Joy Project a “random acts of kindness” initiative. This former widow is now married to her High school sweetheart and together they have 5 amazing children. Sarah is a one-time NYC transplant who now makes her home in Oklahoma, where the best sunsets on earth are found.