Hurt People Hurt People - This Is Us, episode 18 Season Finale

If nothing else, This Is Us shows us how many different ways we can interpret and try to cope with our pain.  The various choices for how we deal with pain are presented to us as they are - without judgment – and then we connect the dots to the aftermath.  We get to see who owns their pain and who doesn’t, and how that plays out in their lives.  And to me, Kate and Deja are perfect examples of both – Kate carries her pain like a heavy cross on her back that only she can bear and Deja carries her pain like a loaded weapon* ready to be discharged at anyone who comes too close.  Either way, it’s all pain.

Fake It 'til You Make It - This Is Us, episode 15

After this past Sunday’s episode, I was really watching for what Rebecca would do because I knew the kid’s ability to begin grieving would hinge on whether or not she could muster some of that Jack-style confidence, compassion, affection, strength and guidance.  It came a little too easily if you ask me (I mean, it is a TV show), but it got me thinking about a phrase people often use, especially in the world of therapy:  fake it ‘til you make it.  It’s always the place to start when you don’t know what to do and don’t know if you have the strength to do it.

Parenting as a Widow - This Is Us, episode 14

And so, again, Rebecca is devastated.  She now had to wrap her mind around the death of her husband in the midst of having no home to return to and three kids to take care of.  This is a Herculean task by any measure.  How would anyone survive?  Rebecca may appear to be the poster child for the quote “You never realize how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have,” but let’s take a look at some of what she would have had to face.

Making Amends with Guilt & Shame - This Is Us, episode 13

Kevin, who always felt excluded, did not even get to share the most life-changing day of his family’s existence with them.  He was an outsider even to his own father’s death.  And I couldn’t help but think once Kate found him and told him what happened, his thoughts probably went right to the last thing he said to his father and I’m sure he was knocked breathless with not just the knowledge of Jack’s death, but the enormous guilt over their last interaction.

The Beauty of Family Therapy - This Is Us, episode 11

I love family therapy.  I simply love it.  Why?  Because the gloves come off in family therapy!  Usually, in individual therapy, the client is on their best behavior.  A teen alone will say that they are “always” respectful to their parents and a parent will explain how they just want the best for their children.  But in family therapy?  When the whole family is face to face?  They can’t fake the funk for long. 

What Have We Done To Number One? This Is Us, episode 8

We see that from birth Kevin was molded and shaped by a type of masculinity that ended up becoming an emotional trap. Everyone around him aided in the development of this masculinity throughout his childhood and adolescence – from Jack and Rebecca to his coaches, girlfriends and peers. Social scientists now realize that teaching this type of masculinity is deeply damaging. And it’s been named toxic masculinity.

The Most Depressed Man - This Is Us, episode 7

This episode had a strong focus on men, and what seemed to me to be overwhelmed men. But there are two men who seem overwhelmed and unable to cope – Kevin and William. While others became frustrated or disappointed with their behaviors, all I could see was two men struggling with what could be unrecognized clinical depression. Depression often looks different in men, and we need to talk about it.

Jack, the Parentified Child - This Is Us, episode 5

As I watched the snippets of Jack’s interaction with his little brother Nicky, I was struck by how caring his voice became when his little brother woke up. And then it all hit me – THIS is why Jack is such an amazing father and caretaker. This is why Rebecca told Jack his fathering and spousal support was a “miracle.” He was a parentified child.

Bonding Fails - This is Us episode 4

We know family includes a strong focus on genetic ties, but we cannot ignore that bonding is what really holds a family together. Bonding happens in so many ways – through talking, rituals, activities and overall extended amounts of shared time together.  Insides jokes, shared memories and even grieving together can create “family.” Everyone has to work at creating family … and sometimes we fail like we saw in this episode.

The Thing About Trauma & Pain - This Is Us, episode 3

We got to see what humans can do with pain – become overwhelmed by it like with Jack, where even alcohol couldn’t control it’s intensity, lock it away like a monster in a closet and never allow it to escape as Kevin tries to do, or have it hit so hard it envelops us like a fog and impacts our ability to feel and be present in the world like we see with Deja, the new foster child. 

This Is Us, ep. 2 - The Mother/Daughter Dynamic

We have seen all through season 1 the dynamic between Rebecca and Kate.  We see what looks like an accepting mother, but learn that she is fundamentally not attuned to her daughter’s needs and emotional experiences. This episode gives us a bigger glimpse into their strained relationship when they have a confrontation after Kate’s first gig. Mothers and daughters will always bring out some interesting dynamics.