Last September, the world was introduced to the Pearson family of NBC’s “This Is Us.” What began as just another fall pilot with the possibility of failing turned into a phenomenon that swept the nation.
One of the most refreshing aspects of the show is the way that the events of the Pearson family, both of the past and the present, hold valuable life lessons. Just as the members of the Pearson family learn these lessons for themselves each week, the viewer learns alongside them as they are welcomed into the inner workings of their diverse family for an hour every Tuesday night.
Warning: Spoilers ahead!
Coping With Loss
The theme of loss is one that is present throughout the entire first season of the show, and has noted in the first two episodes of the new season. Most prominent moment in the show is the loss of a father. Jack Pearson’s death, though explicitly stated early on in the series, has been veiled in mystery since the plot line came to light. Although Jack passed away when his children were teenagers, the circumstances surrounding his death still remain fairly vague. Each of the children as adults deals with Jack’s loss in their way.
In the early episodes of the show, Kate meets Toby while at a weight loss support group and the two instantly hit it off. As the relationship progresses, both Toby and the viewers know Kate is hiding what happened to her father from Toby and keeping her emotions bottled up inside. When Kate says she enjoys watching the Pittsburgh Steelers by herself at her home, Toby decides to create an elaborate watch party just for her, and doesn’t quite understand why she got so upset about it. After leaving Toby’s watch party, which was really just set up for her, Kate returns to her routine of watching the game alone, but also decides to let Toby into her world, revealing that she watches the games with her father’s urn.
Death is something incredibly difficult to cope with, especially when it comes to the loss of someone that a person is close to. The loss of a family member is quite possibly the hardest of them all. It is commonly known that there are five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. It is important for a person to go through each of these stages in order to have some sort of cathartic release to get to a state of acceptance.
One of the biggest parts of coming to term with the loss of someone special is being able to open up and talk about it. Sometimes, it takes the persistence and encouragement of another person to help someone open up, and that’s okay. It only takes getting those feelings out to one person to spark that release, because one person turns into another and another until that final acceptance of loss is achieved. Kate opening up to Toby about her father’s death opens the floodgates (so to speak), and afterward she becomes a little more at peace with the whole situation. Kate teaches viewers how to open up about things that most people might push away, and Toby teaches fans how to be that stable person for someone.
Jack is not the only father who has passed away within the show. During the first episode, Randall reaches out to his biological father, William, who left him at the fire station the day he was born. As the two begin to grow closer over the course of the first few episodes, Randall learns of his father’s cancer diagnosis. When William’s condition worsens, and he decides he no longer wants to take his medication, the two take a trip down memory lane to William’s hometown in Memphis.
Someone’s passing is a time to reflect on their life and to look back on the memories that someone may have shared with that person, and everyone deals with loss in different ways. “This Is Us” doesn’t stray from the harsh reality of the difficulty of loss, but offers viewers with different potential ways to cope with loss in a healthy way. In revisiting William’s hometown in Memphis, and in making new memories with him, Randall creates the foundation for celebrating William’s life. In times of trouble and sadness, it is important to look back on happy memories and think about all of the good times shared with someone rather than focus on the grief his or her death may have created.
Embracing Who You Are
Kate’s largest storyline throughout the show is her day-to-day struggle with her weight and attempts at weight loss. She even toys with the idea of getting a gastric bypass when natural methods of losing weight don’t seem to work for her. However, Kate ultimately makes the decision to stick with her weight loss program and work toward creating a healthier lifestyle for herself, and toward a stronger foundation in her relationship with Toby. Viewers find Kate living her best life and turning her aspirations into reality by auditioning for a house band in Los Angeles. After being rejected, Kate marches back in to give the leader of the band a piece of her mind, saying that he shouldn’t have been so quick to judge her on the way she looked, though it turns out that the person who beat Kate out was just a better singer than her.
It’s important for people to create a strong future for themselves. Today, people are so concerned with popular trends, it’s important for people to never lose sight of their identities. Confidence is key to figuring out where it is a person fits in. As someone who has gone through many phases in her life, confidence and identity are two things that I have struggled with a lot. Over the past few years, I have been rejected by certain organizations I tried to join as well as lost out on positions that I’ve applied for. It turns out, however, that all of the positions that I didn’t get just made way for finding the places where my passion truly lies. Kate’s confidence in herself and readiness to embrace who she is has inspired me to do the same in my life. Just as Kate’s journey is a long and unpredictable one, so is mine, and so are those of all the viewers that Kate has inspired to chase their dreams.
Keeping Family Together
There is so much love running through the veins of the Pearson family. Although the family has its issues (as almost every family does), they seem to make it through. In the few most recent episodes, Jack’s problem with alcoholism was thrust into the light. His problem also coincides with issues in his marriage with Rebecca and is blown up with her asking him to stay with a friend for a while. After realizing that she and the kids need Jack at home, Rebecca goes to pick up her husband and doesn’t take ‘no’ for an answer when he uses his problem with alcohol as a reason for staying apart. She tells him they will do whatever it takes to help Jack with his problem, but they will do it together as a family.
Family isn’t just about blood; it’s about love. It doesn’t matter if two people are connected through genetics or choose to be together, they instantly become family, and at the foundation of any strong family is unconditional love. This means that no matter the ups and downs, someone is able to count on their family on every occasion. It’s easy to flee at the first sign of trouble, but it’s the reward of pushing through the difficult times that makes it all worth it.
My strongest friendship, one that began almost seven years ago and is still going strong, is not one that has always been easy. Our friendship has faced its issues, but neither one of us ever fled, and our relationship is stronger than ever because of it. My best friend may not be related to me by blood, just as not all of the members of the Pearson family are, but she is my family nonetheless. Just as Rebecca accepted Jack and promised to help him through difficult times, I know that my best friend will always do the same for me, just as I will always do the same for her.
The same goes for the relationships within the household. Teenage years are bound to cause rifts between parents and their children, but despite all of the problematic behavior that comes with most teenagers, their parents will love them unconditionally. Once the teenage years are in the past, the bond between parent and child intensifies, which could never have happened if either one quit on the relationship during troubled years.
The love within the Pearson family never wavers. Although they have their issues and fights, it seems as if nothing at all could tear their family apart. Each week, viewers are invited into the multiple Pearson households to explore the dynamics of their family. While “This Is Us” is an entertaining show with twists at the end of each episode, there is so much more to it than that. In the Pearson household there is love, confidence and a lesson to be learned every Tuesday night.