Weekly review of the new Elizabeth Olsen show about grief on Facebook Watch.
The first four episodes of “Sorry for Your Loss” debuted today on Facebook Watch, and here at Legacy we’ll be watching and discussing the show right there with you every week. Who’s “we?” Well, here in the recap blog, I’m Linnea Crowther, and I’ve been writing about life, death, and grief since Legacy was founded almost 20 years ago. Meanwhile, over on our Facebook page, our new grief correspondent Shelby Forsythia is doing a video recap chat you can watch live at 11am Eastern/10am Central (or anytime afterward, starting later today).
The half-hour dramedy is the story of Leigh (Elizabeth Olsen), a young widow whose husband, Matt, died three months before the show’s action begins. Her network of family and friends includes her mom, Amy, her sister, Jules, and Matt’s brother, Danny. The action shifts frequently between the present day and flashbacks to points throughout Leigh and Matt’s relationship.
Let’s jump right in with what happens in episodes 1 (“One Fun Thing”) and 2 (“Keep, Toss, Giveaway”).
As the show opens, the focus is very much on Leigh navigating her grief. I mean that literally: The first scene is a tight close-up focusing on her face, then widening to show her at her weekly grief support group. But it’s metaphorical too, in the way the first two-thirds or so of the episode are all about how Leigh is dealing — and not dealing — with her husband’s death. But that begins to change as the episode comes to a close and we see the impact of Matt’s death on the other people in his life, particularly Danny.
In episode two, the focus widens out even further as we see how even Jules and Amy are still wrestling with grief. And the loss of a beloved family member isn’t the only thing weighing on Jules and Amy. Jules is in recovery from addiction, doing her best to hang on to her sobriety as she grieves. And Amy is a single mom trying to keep a business afloat.
One of the themes of the first two episodes of “Sorry for Your Loss” is who owns the right to grieve a loss. Human nature drives us to make most things all about us, and someone deep in the throes of grief can have a hard time understanding how anyone else could be feeling that grief as intensely as they do. Leigh lashes out at the suggestion that other people get to think of Matt as “their dead person” — the right to mourn him is Leigh’s and Leigh’s alone, she believes.
Danny is just as protective of his own grief, believing things are worse for him than for Leigh because “You can get another husband, but I can’t just get another brother.” But even as Leigh and Danny battle over which of them has it worse, the others in their lives are struggling too. “We’re allowed to feel heartbroken,” Amy reminds Jules.
Episode one also looks at how easy it is for us to say ineffective, even tone-deaf things to a grieving person in the name of condolences. “Condolences,” in fact, is a word Leigh puts on blast as she talks to Danny about the things other people say and do that feel hollow in the face of their grief. “I hate when people use the word ‘condolences,'” she says.
“I hate it when people tell me I’m in their prayers,” Danny replies.
They go back and forth, calling out people who expect them to get over their grief quickly, and people who ask Danny if he and his brother were close, and people who are so much at a loss for what to say that they avoid mentioning Matt at all. Most people who have gone through an intense experience with grief will be nodding along, recognizing these frustrations and remembering other tone-deaf things people said and did to them while they grieved.
(Related: What Not to Say When Someone Dies)
Leigh’s own family isn’t exempt from saying real clunkers, enraging her even when they’re just trying to be positive and helpful. But “Sorry for Your Loss” doesn’t make this exclusively their fault. They say tone-deaf things, like we all do, because we’re all humans trying to navigate our complicated worlds. And Leigh lashes out in response, rolling her eyes and muttering sarcastically, because she’s human too and doesn’t always have it in her to be gracious when someone has hurt her.
In episode two, Leigh finally steels herself to go back to the apartment she hasn’t entered since just after Matt’s death, clearing it out and deciding what to do with Matt’s stuff as well as her own. Sometimes she’s so paralyzed that she declares she can’t see any reason to keep anything in the apartment. Then she’s jealously guarding certain artifacts of Matt’s life, unwilling for anyone else to take them as remembrances. It’s a scene that’s likely to ring true to anyone who’s had to assess every possession a loved one left behind — it’s hard to behave as rationally with their stuff as we do with our own.
That’s one of the biggest strengths “Sorry for Your Loss” has going for it — its humanity. Its creators have given us realistic characters who behave like we do. They’re not always nice, but who has it in them to be always nice — especially after a loss?
Also just like real life, “Sorry for Your Loss” is not exclusively heavy. There are emotionally charged, difficult moments, but there’s also laughter and joy — both in the flashback scenes and sparingly in the present day as Leigh struggles with her grief. Those things might not be very present in the first raw days and weeks of grief, but they slowly start to return, whether you’re ready for them or not. Leigh declares that nothing makes her happy, but she begins to experience small moments of happiness and fleeting good moods.
We’ll take a look at episodes three and four later this week. If you’re not sure how to watch a show on Facebook Watch, here’s how to do it.