I tend to approach any TV drama about bereaved parents with a sense of trepidation. There is of course the fear of resurrecting all those awful memories and emotions of losing Nathan but there’s also a sense of dread that yet again, a bereaved parent will be portrayed as someone to be feared, a shadow of humanity that goes on to commit unthinkable acts in the name of their dead child.
Only rarely do I come across a drama that ‘gets it,’ and I’m glad to say that Mary and Martha shown on BBC this week was one of them. Written by Richard Curtis and with outstanding performances from Hilary Swank and Brenda Blethyn, it’s about two mothers who have lost their sons to malaria while visiting Africa. The story is intensely moving and has been produced unashamedly as part of the Comic Relief campaign to raise awareness for the prevention of malaria but at the same time it also gives a great representation of being a bereaved parent.
There was one particular scene that really encapsulated how perceptions of the world around you changes after losing a child. Hilary Swank’s character Mary returns to ‘normal’ life after losing her son and she’s listening to her friends complain about their daily lives and problems which clearly aren’t problems at all, not to someone who has just witnessed the needless loss of children’s lives in Africa.
Losing a child not only changes your perspective and your priorities but it changes you. For some bereaved parents, getting through the day is a challenge and in our darkest hours we look for hope. We find inspiration from those who have been through the same kind of loss and have gone on to do extraordinary things. Mary and Martha may only be fictional characters but they represent an army of parents who have fought many different battles but with the same objective, to prevent other parents from suffering the kind of loss that they have suffered. These are people who see beyond the trivia in daily life and want to make a difference so the world is a better and safer place. They are a force to be reckoned with not to be feared.
If you haven’t see Mary and Martha yet then please watch it and I dare you not to be moved by it. The drama is packed with heartrending statistics and you will most definitely want to support the Comic Relief campaign. It will move you and it serves as a good reminder to us all that too often our so-called complaints aren’t complaints at all. So I ask again, what’s your problem?