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  • “Grace is Gone” – A Non Anti-War War Movie

    Posted on September 27th, 2009 Michele Sun No comments

    Last week at the United Nations meeting, President Obama delivered a global call to address the changes he said his administration has undertaken in the first eight months of his presidency, which included the banning of torture, the order to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, the winding down of the war in Iraq, a renewed focus on dismantling and defeating al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan..etc.

    As of June 30, all U.S. troops have left Iraq’s cities — except for Baghdad where municipal borders were redrawn so a U.S. base doesn’t have to move, Mosul where some troops will remain as “advisers,” and other cities we haven’t heard about at this point.

    A year from now, the U.S. will still have upwards of 50,000 ‘non-combat’ troops in Iraq — a rather bizarre concept to any soldier who has been in a combat zone. Not until the end of 2011, two and a half years from now, are U.S. troops finally scheduled to be gone, and even that distant deadline could change.

    There is a 2007 released movie call “Grace Is Gone”, an exceedingly sad story based on a true event, about one family’ s painful loss. Stanley’s wife was sent to Iraq, ever since then he had to stay in Minnesota and played the role of mom and dad Grace, to take care of two young children. Then Grace, the wife, mother and solider was killed during a military engagement in Iraq. Upon receiving uniformed visitors and hearing those dreaded words, “I regret to inform you…” Stanley, played by John Cusack, finds him unable to deal with his own emotions of losing his wife, not to mention those of his two young daughters, twelve year old Heidi (Shelan O’Keefe) and eight year old Dawn (Gracie Bednarcyk).

    He decides to take the two girls on a road trip, during school days, to a place of their choice. Little Gracie wants to go to “Enchanted Garden”, an amusement park several days away by car. The 3-day journey to a fun theme park becomes a metaphor for the grieving process as Stanley learns to reconnect with his children and find a way to share the bad news.

    Stanley initially thought the girls would not be able to handle the sudden loss, but the twelve-year old Heidi had always followed the Iraq war news and had suspected something had gone wrong. She had been losing sleep and dozing in classes for a while, but the Dad had never found out nor realized the cause to it. I see this as the difference of Dad and Mom; a mother would notice the behavior and emotional changes way sooner than a father.

    So is this approach going to work? When addressing sad news, should we take children on road trip, and wait till they have their fun and gets all tired and windup to announce the bad news?

    I think the way Stanley handled the situation is quite mature; first he ensured the two girls are completely loved even if their mom had been absent. Then he waited for three days, after the tragedy, to recompose his own emotional pain and then delivered the bad news; in a way I think he was re-breaking the bad news to himself as well, and the trip is not only for the young children, but also a road trip of discovery for him.

    The deepest fear for young children must be losing beloved family members, to help children to adjust and ease from separation anxiety, the surviving relatives or parent must ensure the children feel secured and loved.  Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, a psychiatrist and the author of the groundbreaking book On Death and Dying, would say “parents have transformed into butterflies and move to a different world”   when telling children about death of their parents. I think this is a more comforting and less traumatic approach to delivery sad news.

    “Grace Is Gone” is not an anti-war movie, but a beautiful heart-wrenching movie about loss and love.


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