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A Tale of Two Fathers

22 November, 2014

A warning – this post includes movie spoilers.

Recently, we sat down for a family movie night to watch How To Train Your Dragon 2. For those who haven’t been initiated into the world of Berk, it’s a small Scandinavian land where Stoick, the chief, rules and his son Hiccup and his friends taught the Berkians to respect not fear dragons.


In the second movie, Hiccup is reunited with his mother, whom he hasn’t seen since he was a baby. Valka (Hiccup’s Mum) and Stoick have a touching reunion, where Valka agrees to return to Berk after 20 years away. However, tragedy strikes. While trying to save Hiccup, Stoick is killed.

There is a scene of a viking style funeral and then everyone gets back to it. Sure, there is fighting to do, but the remainder of the movie is about fighting and Hiccup embracing his role as the new chief. Grief doesn’t really have a place. No one acknowledges the tragedy of being reunited with his wife after 20years only to be killed soon after.

Now, I’m probably expecting too much to think a children’s movie can adequately address grief. However it simply reinforces the cultural and Hollywood belief that once the funeral is over then everyone just moves on. Grief is messy and we don’t know what we do with it, so we ignore it and hope it goes away.

The truth is that grief never really ends. Life moves on and the bereaved learn a new normal, but life is never the same again.

I’ve had an extended family member asked why she wasn’t “over” her husband’s death already, a mere six weeks after he had died. A friend of mine has had “friends” thinking she is after pity whenever she talks about her parent who passed away some years ago. Those who haven’t yet mourned the loss of a loved one are often afraid, because they would rather ignore death, preferring to believe that somehow death will never really touch their lives.

Today marks two years since Dad died. Our lives have settled into a new kind of normal, but there will always be a Dad-shaped hole. We will continue to miss him and notice his absence. There will continue to be milestones that he isn’t here to celebrate because our lives do go on. We will all remember him in our own ways.

If you take one thing from this post, let it be that grieving is normal. It is a hard and messy part of life but it is part of the human experience. Even if you are not grieving I guarantee there will be someone you know who is. Don’t expect them to be sad all the time but don’t expect them to never be sad, to never remember, to never just want to talk about a loved one they are missing. It’s messy to be there with them and for them but it’s worth it.

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