Sunday, January 2, 2011

Completely Normal

For my recent birthday, the Other Family Human took me to the theater to see "Next to Normal", which has won a Pulitzer Prize as well as a Tony Award. It must have deserved them, because I haven't been able to stop thinking about it. All its publicity leads you to believe that this is a story of a family grappling with the mental illness of one of its members. As the story unfolds, though, it becomes increasingly clear--spoiler coming here if you haven't already seen it--that our society treats grief as if it were a mental illness. The character in the play is heavily medicated, subjected to electro-convulsive therapy and treated by both her family and the medical establishment as if she was crazy because she cannot get over mourning the loss of her child. She also cannot mention his name, or admit to her other child that he ever existed.

Everyone dies, so everyone will eventually grieve for someone they love. Given that, wouldn't you think that we could figure out better ways to deal with sorrow than medicating it out or rewarding those who repress it? "Next to Normal" is a theater piece that may change how society thinks about bereavement. Here's hoping someday it becomes completely normal.

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