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October 14, 2015

Five ways Six Feet Under helps me cope with death

by Jane Boursaw, posted Jul 4th 2008 1:02PM
Six Feet Under - a beautiful thingThis post might get a little esoteric, but I'll just lay it out there and, as always, you can either take it or leave it. If you don't like talk about death and dying, stop reading here.

If I was asked to say just one thing about Six Feet Under, it's that they don't shirk from anything. The Fisher family is complex and messy, but the writers and actors put it all out there, whether it's gay sex, drugs, mental illness, or, of course, death.

That last one is a good thing for me, because I go to a lot of funerals. In the past few years, I've lost two aunts, a dad, a father-in-law, a grandma, a sister-in-law, two cousins, and at least two dozen friends. I've written scores of obituaries and played my violin for dozens of funerals. I'm on a first-name basis with most of the funeral directors in town. And you know what? It's OK! Six Feet Under has helped me to see that. Read on for five ways the show helps me cope with death.

1. The show makes it "OK" to die. Six Feet Under's tagline says it all: "Everything. Everyone. Everywhere. Ends." As soon as we come to grips with that, it makes life easier. After all, we'll die some day, too. Maybe sooner than we think. Since I didn't grow up in a funeral home like the Fishers, I used to hate the idea of death. But I've gotten more comfortable with it in recent years. Part of this is the sheer number of funerals I attend. It's not that I've gotten numb to it, but rather that I accept that everything ends.

2. You can choose not to grieve. In the second episode of season five, "Dancing For Me," a high school buddy of Nate's gets run over by a truck. During the funeral, Nate meets another former buddy and they get together for drinks. While talking about the death of their friend, Nate said he was tired of grieving and didn't want to do it anymore. He just wanted to make every moment of life count. I get that. If I carried the grief of everyone I've lost in recent years, I'd go hide in a cave and never come out.

3. People die in lots of various ways.
While most of the people I've lost haven't died in such "colorful" ways as the folks on Six Feet Under, they've certainly run the gamut -- drunk drivers, icy-road crashes, suicides, terminal illnesses, and old age. When you've lived in the same community for 40-some years, you get to know people. The older generation dies off. People come and go. It's a fact of life. And if there's one thing Six Feet Under touts, it's that people are going to die, and there's not one thing we can do about it. Nowhere is that more clear than the pilot episode, where Nathanial Fisher Sr. dies in a tragic car crash, sending the family into a turmoil of change.

4. It gives you a new appreciation for life.
As cliché as it sounds, experiencing a lot of death has given me an appreciation for life. Of course, I grieve, but the fact that I have so many people in my life to grieve for is a blessing. Yes, I miss the people, but I'm happy to have had them in my life. It's a beautiful thing.

5. It helps you put things in perspective. I started watching Six Feet Under during a particularly funeral-laden part of last winter, and there's something about watching funeral directors deal with death on a daily basis that helped me put things in perspective. I guess Alan Ball felt that way, too, since he created the series after losing his sister.

So, hey, if you're in one of those inevitable periods where you're losing a lot of people, try watching Six Feet Under. It could be very cathartic.

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My grandparents had so many brothers and sisters that died when I was growing up I feel like I qualify as an honorary Fisher family member. We spent a LOT of time in funeral homes.

We also spent a LOT of time celebrating life. Being Polish on the east coast meant a party after the funeral. A real, lavish wedding type party. I learned that death means a coming together of friends and family.

Six Feet Under understood this. The writers were clued in to the nuances of death. We will all die, we will go in many different ways, and we always leave others behind. It didn't teach me about death, but it did prove that I was not alone in my views of it.

Dammit....this week means I have to watch the entire series. Every episode had such a fantastic death at the beginning, it's worth hitting every episode.

July 05 2008 at 12:44 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

6FU helped me appreciate wild young red heads who transition from whiny young brats to whiny young adults.


July 04 2008 at 5:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mj green

I'm a nurse, and I've grown used to death. It doesn't worry me. Maybe because I've dealt with a lot of hospice people, and have adapted their way? I know death is coming. I have all my instructions ready. I even have a journal of all my funny things for my kids to read and laugh over. I don't want them moping. I also don't want a funeral or anything like that. Cremate me, and toss the ashes in the mountains. Then go have a good time.

July 04 2008 at 2:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I can understand how shows like this and Dead Like Me give you an appreciation for life. I was watching the second season a couple of weeks ago when a loved one passed. At first I didn't think I would be able to watch a show like this for a while but I kept watching and I didn't feel so bad.

July 04 2008 at 2:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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