TV Promo Dread

I imagine before my son died 4 years ago I would have watched the promos for the new ABC television series RESURRECTION and I would have been excited to see a show that obviously explores a scenario loaded with the potential for tremendous dramatic exploration. But being on the opposite side of losing a child, the advertisements have done nothing but filled me with unease and anguish.

There is no use denying it, buried deep beneath my rational mind there is a deep seated fantasy that some day, some way, a knock would come on my front door and standing on the other side would be my son David, smiling and happy, somehow brought back to our family, healing all that was torn asunder when he died. It’s just another version of the scenario that occasionally flashes through my mind when I awaken from a dream in which David and I have shared some time together. As reality clears away these dreams, the realization that he is gone returns, and for a brief moment I cling to the chance that the real dream is that he died and the last 4 years might evaporate into the mist. It’s always disappointing having to even briefly beat back that desperate hope, to cover that ground of accepting the horrible again. But like so many other feelings and disenchantments I have had to become comfortable with since his death, that fleeting waking desire is a part of me now. I know David’s never coming back. I know that is impossible. It’s one of those stages of healing after a death we all have to face so that we can move forward; acceptance.

Acceptance is one of the hardest hurdles for many to overcome after the death of a loved one. It’s especially difficult if the person we have lost was taken suddenly from us. We struggle with the random nature of the world that allows the unthinkable to happen. It seems surreal and unnatural. So we cling to another unnatural and surreal idea; perhaps the impossible can happen. For some that slippery slope away from the reality of daily life can lead to alienation, chronic depression and in extreme cases even breaks from reality. For those unable to accept the painful truth life may never move forward.

Some people go to extraordinary measures to deal with this inability to accept the certainty of death. Author Anne Rice, writer of “Interview With The Vampire” and its subsequent sequels, lost a daughter to leukemia, not coincidentally a disease of the blood, at the tender age 6. It was during the year after her death that Rice wrote “Interview…” which contained a character of a 6-year-old vampire girl. Her fantasies and difficulty accepting her daughter’s death fed her creation of this complex character that never died. Her vampire characters were unique to the horror genre in that they had hopes, and dreams and desires. No doubt all of this came about due to her difficulty in accepting the tragic loss of her daughter. If Ms. Rice had not been the artistic writer she has proven to be, and had not had the outlet to spill her fantasies out onto the page, she too may have suffered greatly from an inability to accept. In fact her writing has stretched from the horror genre to religious fiction as the years have passed, exploring religious themes. It’s not a stretch to draw the conclusion that her writing has continued to be fueled by the heartbreaking loss of her daughter.

Which brings me back to the promos for the new series RESURRECTION. In these coming attractions a man answers his door only to be reunited with a son that died 30+ years earlier, still a young boy, hugging him and calling him “Daddy.” The emotions it ignites in me are numerous and varied. There is no doubt it creates a want to watch the show, to see someone explore my own profound wish to see my boy again. At the same time it horrifies me by the amount of pain and anguish this short bit of video stirs up in me. It makes me want to watch the show while at the same time makes me nauseous at the idea of tuning in. I’m not sure whether it’s the dread of the emotional scars it might reopen in me, or the trepidation that no matter how well written or performed the show is there is no way it will do anything but disappoint me. Having been a writer and actor on television, I know very well how the business of television works. As much as a part of me desperately wants to tune in, hoping to find a show that somehow manages to voice all my wants and imaginings, I am horrified by the idea of tuning in only to find the show using my most private yearnings simply to sell me fast food or a new mop to clean my floors with. I’m not sure I really want to take the risk of traveling down that rabbit hole of pain, only to see the show succumb to average or subpar writing, leaving my heart open and bleeding with nothing healing to cling onto. If I do tune in, it will be with a guarded heart, one willing and ready to turn the channel as soon as I feel overtly manipulated.

Of course there’s always the possibility that within the show will be some universal truth of love and loss that will help me continue to heal. Perhaps the tears it could evoke will be the mending kind, which leave me exhausted yet refreshed at having faced once again the greatest loss of my life, emerging with the knowledge that my wife and daughter and I have the survived through the love we are lucky to have all around us.

I have to be honest; I will probably take the risk and tune in. The artist in me is curious. I want to know whether they are capable of putting the immense depth of the subject matter on screen even to a small degree. I figure I’ll probably DVR it, so that I can watch it on my terms, when I feel ready. If I had to guess, my wife will not watch, or if she does, it will prove distasteful to her quickly and she will walk away. The point is, with the potentially explosive emotional consequences, I recommend anyone that has experienced loss tune in only with your defenses fully in place, knowing that no television show can bring those you love back to you, and that at some point they are going to use your earnest pining to see your departed love ones again to sell you yogurt to help you poop.

Consider yourself warned.

About the Author
Bart Sumner's book, HEALING IMPROV: A JOURNEY THOUGH GRIEF TO LAUGHTER is available in the Grief Toolbox Marketplace. He is the founder & President of HEALING IMPROV, a nonprofit charity in Grand Rapids, Michigan that provides no cost Comedy Improv Grief Workshops to people struggling with finding the road forward. He lost his 10 y/o son David in 2009 to a sudden accident. He is an actor and writer who writes the blog MY STORIES FROM THE GRIEF JOURNEY at the website for
Grief In Action