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Grief Observed: Using Movies to Move through Grief

by Marty Tousley, Bereavement Counselor

Movies and video rentals that dramatize others coming to terms with their pain may serve as a valuable tool to help you and your family members move through the grieving process. 

Healthy grieving requires that we acknowledge, experience and express the pain of our loss. For many of us, this is the hardest part of grief work, and we may prefer to put it off or avoid it all together. Sometimes we need help to get started, both in getting in touch with the pain and in finding the relief that comes from having a good cry. 

Watching a sad movie can be a simple but very effective way to put us in touch with our feelings and help release the pent-up emotions of grief. Movies carefully chosen and watched with conscious awareness can stimulate discussion among family members, release tears that need to be shed, and even provide hope for the future, especially when their story lines begin in despair and end in triumph. 

In this spirit, this list of movies for those in mourning is offered, categorized by the aspect of grief primarily addressed in a given film or video. For description of movies and reviews, click movie title. 

Mystical Experiences 

A Rumor of Angels (2000), with Vanessa Redgrave & Ray Liotta 

Sixth Sense (1999) with Bruce Willis, Haley Joel Osment 

City of Angels (1998), with Nicolas Cage and Meg Ryan 

Truly, Madly, Deeply (1996), with Juliet Stevenson and Alan Rickman 

Ghost (1990), with Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze 

Always (1989), with Richard Dreyfuss and Holly Hunter 


Guilt 

Moonlight Mile (2002) with Jake Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman, Susan Sarandon 

A Rumor of Angels (2000), with Vanessa Redgrave & Ray Liotta 

Ordinary People (1980) with Donald Sutherland & Mary Tyler Moore 

Sixth Sense (1999) with Bruce Willis 


Spiritual Reaction to Loss 

Shadowlands (1994) with Anthony Hopkins, Debra Winger 

Sixth Sense (1999) with Bruce Willis 

Wide Awake (1998) with Joseph Cross, Timothy Reifsnyder, Dana Delany, Denis Leary 


Finding Professional Help 

Ordinary People (1980) with Donald Sutherland & Mary Tyler Moore 


Understanding Different Grieving Patterns in Your Family 

Moonlight Mile (2002) with Jake Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman, Susan Sarandon 

Marvin's Room (1996), with Meryl Streep, Diane Keaton and Leonardo DiCaprio 

Little Women (1994), with Wynona Ryder and Susan Sarandon 

Steel Magnolias (1989), with Sally Field and Shirley MacLaine 

Beaches (1988), with Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey 

Terms of Endearment (1983), with Shirley MacLaine and Debra Winger 

Ordinary People (1980) with Donald Sutherland & Mary Tyler Moore 

In America (2002) with Paddy Considine, Samantha Morton 


Writing As A Way of Expressing Grief 

About Schmidt (2002) with Jack Nicholson, Hope Davis 


From Surviving to Transcending Your Grief 

About Schmidt (2002) with Jack Nicholson, Hope Davis 

Message In a Bottle (1999), with Kevin Costner and Robin Wright Penn 

Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994), with Hugh Grant and Andie MacDowell 

Shadowlands (1994) with Anthony Hopkins, Debra Winger 

Corrina, Corrina (1994) with Whoopi Goldberg and Ray Liotta 

A River Runs through It (1992), with Robert Redford, Brad Pitt, Craig Sheffer 

Whose Life Is It Anyway (1991), with Richard Dreyfuss 

Brian's Song (1971), with James Caan and Billy Dee Williams 

In America (2002) with Paddy Considine, Samantha Morton 


Loss of A Sibling 

In America (2002) with Paddy Considine, Samantha Morton 


Loss of A Friend 

Midnight Cowboy (1969) with Dustin Hoffman, Jon Voight 

Beaches (1988) with Bette Midler, Barbara Hershey 


Getting in touch with the painful feelings of grief and releasing blocked or pent-up emotions by having a good cry can be cleansing and stress-reducing. Movies can be an effective tool in addressing certain grief issues, especially when your selections are made consciously and deliberately. 

Before you see or rent a movie, take time to read the film's description and reviews to help you decide whether watching it will support you at this point in your grief journey. Pay attention to whatever feelings and reactions come up for you while watching it, and let yourself cry if you need to. If you're not comfortable doing this alone, ask a trusted friend or family member to watch the movie with you, and discuss it together afterward. 


 

 

Browse this section by alphabetical order or return to Dealing with Grief & Loss Self-Help Section Main Page
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Marty Tousley, MS, RN, CS is a content provider for Self Healing Expressions. She is a hospice bereavement counselor helping people find their way through grief following the death of a loved one. As a volunteer with the Pet Grief Support Service in Phoenix, AZ, she also works with bereaved animal lovers, both individually and in groups, and consults with veterinary clinics to foster greater understanding of pet loss among staff members, thereby building better helping relationships with grieving clients.

A frequent contributor to healthcare journals, newsletters and magazines for the lay public, she has written several articles and book chapters in the professional nursing and medical literature, and has authored three books addressing various aspects of loss and grief. Her award-winning Internet Web site, www.GriefHealing.com offers information, comfort and support to anyone who is anticipating or mourning the loss of a loved one, whether human or animal.

Copyright 2003, 2004 Marty Tousley. All rights reserved. If you wish to publish this article, please email contact@selfhealingexpressions.com

 

 




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