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Castaway: A Complete Grieving Process

One of the reasons I sometimes suggest that my clients watch the 2000 movie Castaway is because it is the best movie I’ve seen showing a complete grieving process from beginning to end. Tom Hanks plays “Chuck Noland’, a man who survives a plane crash and ends up on an island by himself, trying to survive and escape. This can make for a good illustration for those still grieving their last relationship and help them see how the process progresses and ends. Also, seeing this comprehensive grieving validates and normalizes a lot of the span of emotions we go through when going through a breakup or divorce. It also illustrates that yes, people really can and do move on from heartache, heartbreak, losses, and changes.

Movie Points: A Complete Grieving Process

If you have not yet seen the movie, please stop reading this article. Go watch the movie and then come back and read this at that time. The points below will make much more sense.

  1. Shock: The first stage of the grieving process is the shock we experience when we are initially hit with the news of the loss or change in our lives. This moment is captured in the movie when Chuck Noland’s Fed Ex plane he is on crashes somewhere in the South Pacific. As the plane is going down and he sees the water coming closer and closer, you see the shock on his face. Even more when the plane hits the water and he scrambles to get out of the plane, get onto a life raft, and struggle to the shore of a nearby island.

  2. Denial/Isolation: The second stage of grief is where we are in denial of the full reality of the situation we are in. This is simply where we adjust our inner narrative to soften the grim reality a bit. We might tell ourselves that it isn’t as bad as all that. It is just a coping mechanism to brace ourselves from the reality and suffering adjustments to follow. Same with isolation. That simply involves working to avoid reminders of people, places, and things that reminded us of the loss.

Read more about the grieving process here.


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