How Midsommar Helped Me Process My Grief - VRGyani News and Media


Monday, August 23, 2021

How Midsommar Helped Me Process My Grief

When Ari Aster’s second feature Midsommar hit the theaters in July 2019, it was the talk of the town (or at least the talk of social media). Being the summer’s biggest horror blockbuster, essentially everyone I knew was flocking to the theaters to see the folk-themed feature. As a self-identified horror lover and an embarrassed-to-admit crowd follower, I, of course, had to watch the film as soon as possible. I had excitedly bought my tickets to see the film opening night and after finally experiencing it... I didn’t care about the movie nearly as much as I expected to. I swear, it wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy it! I did! How could I not? It was a flower-filled horror movie starring Florence Pugh. That’s my cup of tea. I just didn’t care about it. The film gave me enjoyment while I watched it, sure, but when it was over it never crossed my mind again.

I didn’t care about the film because I couldn’t relate to any of its features. A bear-obsessed Swedish cult isn't exactly something that resonates with a teenage girl from Florida. I was of course saddened by Pugh’s character, Dani’s, backstory of a failing relationship and a recently deceased family. The issue was that I just couldn’t understand what that felt like. Then, six months later, my father died. Like a sick joke, I had finally experienced a piece of Dani’s torment for myself.

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On December 22nd, 2019, my dad passed away after a six-month fight with brain cancer. I had just turned 18 and I still felt like a child inside. His final days were turbulent and more traumatic than I like to talk about, but his death itself left me more confused than anything. I had never known death or the sentiment of grief. I had never even been close to anyone who had died, and I wasn’t aware of how many conflicting emotions come with the territory. Sad just doesn’t quite describe the many layers to mourning; It’s not as simple as that. Death is a varied bag of unique feelings-- one that I didn’t have the experiences to describe. I couldn’t process emotions that I didn’t understand, and so I was stuck in a sort of loss-fueled limbo. I wasn’t sad, but I wasn’t happy either, and I certainly wasn’t able to move on from my father’s passing.

One day, out of nothing more than chance (and maybe a touch of boredom), I decided to revisit Midsommar. Perhaps my loss gave me some newfound wisdom that made me see things deeper, or maybe I was just in an impressionable mood, but something about the viewing made me feel understood. Beyond the simple fact that both Dani and I were in mourning, I felt as though her experiences were expertly mirroring my own. Elements of the film that held no meaning to me were transformed into objects of recollection. I felt seen. Struggles that I didn’t even know I was going through were suddenly being portrayed on screen in front of me.

After the initial flowers and casseroles that came with my father’s demise, friends and family I had loved for years began drifting away. Phone calls became fewer, texts were rarely responded to, and the support I had expected was gone. Even those who did stick around refused to acknowledge what had happened. It was like they thought if they didn’t mention it, I could just be my old self. As if I could just forget. Like Dani, it seemed that those I was closest to were the ones with the least amount of sympathy. “Maybe I moped too much,” "maybe I made them uncomfortable,"maybe I could have just pretended he wasn’t dead." These thoughts had flooded my consciousness, making me believe that it was my own fault I had been abandoned.

When Midsommar first came out, Dani’s boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor) was pretty much unanimously hated by the internet. Don't get me wrong, I hated him too. Christian was a shitty boyfriend. After Dani’s family’s death, Christian was her main support system and instead of caring for Dani, Christian pulled away. He found his girlfriend too needy in her time of need and wished to leave her. I still don’t disagree that Christian was a bad boyfriend, but I realize now that that didn’t make him a bad person. Much like how my loved ones were not bad people for drifting away. Christian’s behavior is sadly the reality for those of us who have lost a close loved one. No matter how kind someone is, or how connected you are to them, sometimes the burden of loss is too much for those around us.

Until I made the connection between Dani’s relationships and my own, I had just assumed that my desertion was unique. I realize now that it is unfortunately just another side-effect of death. It was nothing I did, it just was, and it happens to anyone who ever loses someone. Midsommar gave me a sense of connectivity through my loneliness-- one that I hadn’t realized I lost.

After this initial realization, I couldn’t help but see myself in Dani’s every action. Every scene, set, shot, line, felt as though it could be manipulated to fit my own experiences. I remember the scene in which Dani walked through an apartment door and was suddenly transported into the bathroom of an airplane. It was a beautifully seamless effect, but that wasn’t what had floored me. I was taken aback because the jarring transition was the perfect metaphor for my perception of reality, one that was clouded by grief.

I had no concept of time. Hours could have been minutes, weeks and months were the same to me, and rarely could I tell you what day of the week it was. The type of time loss I am talking about didn’t feel as simple as normal disorientation. It was as if I was just floating from one moment of my life into another; my life skipped seamlessly into the next scene, just as it had for Dani. At the time of my watching, I didn’t have the words to describe what I was experiencing, or the knowledge to process what I felt. That singular transition, which could have easily meant nothing at all, gave me something tangible to explain about myself.

Sitting here now, I can easily summarize numerous other moments from Midsommar that gave me the same sense of clarity. Dani being coerced into the cult mirrors my own desperation for an escape; her smile after being deemed May Queen matched the mixed feelings I felt after finding out my father was gone. Even the general air of confusion throughout the film paralleled my ignorance towards my newfound emotions.

I'm not sure where I would be had I not given Midsommar that second chance. Maybe exactly where I am right now… maybe not. I’ll never know. What I do know is that I am impossibly indebted to this movie; for it gave me an outlet to learn about myself. About my feelings and about my pain.

I am not going to lie and say that Midsommar miraculously expedited my healing process. Hell, even now, almost two years later, I am in mourning. I still cry. I still panic when I smell the soap that my dad’s hospital used. I am still healing. What I can say though, without a doubt in my mind, is that Midsommar’s portrayal of grief helped me understand myself enough to start moving forward.

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