Actor Matt Damon Plays An Astronaut In the newly released movie, The Martian
My 25-year-old son went to see the new Matt Damon movie, The Martian, the other night and he was telling me that he enjoyed it a lot because it made him think about his deceased father.
The Martian is a new movie about an astronaut who is mistakenly left on Mars, presumed to be dead after a fierce storm. It’s a warm science fiction, adventure techie kind of movie that pokes fun at the geekier side of life.
My son’s Dad was an award-winning journalist who covered science and space issues for decades for The Washington Post and other media outlets and he loved the world of space exploration and scientific discovery. My son was thirteen when his Dad tragically died but my son still has fond memories of talking with his Dad about stars and space and astronauts. “I think Daddy would have liked this movie,” My son said. “Especially the parts where they talked about the Jet Propulsion Lab in California.” I took this to mean that the movie alludes to real science and not made up Hollywood mumbo jumbo.
We were reminiscing about his wonderful Dad and his quirky sense of humor and his unique way of doing things and we made each other laugh with stories or things that we knew he had said to us or to others that were just so him.
As I tapped off my cell phone I thought about our conversation and remembered, vividly, what it was like in that first year after my husband’s death. A very rocky road to say the least. A lot of crying (on my part) and a lot of anger (on my son’s part).
Although I didn’t know it at the time, this was all normal and natural and painful stuff and we both received outside guidance to help us search for answers and for ways to process the shock of our loss and find a way to go on with our lives. My initial priority was to help him survive his father’s death at this young and precious time of his life and to continue to always have honest conversations and give reassurance that somehow we would process our grief in a healthy way.
You may know of a child or teenager who has lost a mother or father or friend or relative and feel awkward about what to do to help or what to say them. I think it is always a good idea to take your cue from the person who is grieving. Some people want to talk. Others don’t. Some children lose themselves in music or sports or even schoolwork.
I could go on about my own experiences but I think it would be more helpful to offer information I recently found on a wonderful site called A Cup of Jo which I highly recommend. The talented writer and editor, Joanna Goddard, offers a great post about how to talk to children about death in a tender and realistic manner. As the mother of two young boys, she is sensitive to the questions younger children often ask and how adults can respect their needs.
If it difficult for us as adults to find constructive ways to handle the death of a loved one. Imagine the confusion, instability and misery that a child may feel.
Honest conversations can go a long way to giving children of any age a safe place for them to talk and explore their feelings of vulnerability.