Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Why Oprah?

I was a Communications major in college. I specialized in television production. Maybe that is why this whole Oprah thing perplexes me so much.

Why is the loss community so obsessed with getting to be on the Oprah show? And why, when someone like Rev Run does get on the Oprah show, does the loss community pick it apart piece by piece?

I did not see the show yesterday...and I am glad I didn't, from all accounts. Rev Run and his family apparently have a different way of dealing with things than I do. But in reading the post-mortem on this show on other blogs and message boards, I find that there are two points that seem to cause people the most irritation...

First...the family never uses the dead child's name. I think that is sad...but if that is their way of coping then they need to be left alone to do what works for their family. Some people choose not to see their babies. Some people choose not to hold their babies. Some people choose cremation...some burial. It all comes down to personal choice...and healing (which we will get to in just a moment).

And then this...
"Oprah, you know how they say mourn and give 'em space? I'm not believing in that anymore," Justine says. "That mourning gives you more mourning, more blue, more depressed."

"I want the world to know that you're supposed to be grateful in all things," Rev Run says. "I don't understand what God did, why he did it, but I do know that I'm here now, I'm happy now, I'm here on Oprah, I have my children with me, and I don't have to keep remembering this if it's going to bring me down and send me into depression."

You would think this family just told people to go sacrifice chickens or something. Irate doesn't even come close to describing the emotion that comes bubbling to the surface when people (I've noticed it is particularly mothers) hear this. And I suppose I can see the harshness in it if you internalize this message and see it as some sort of judgment of your way of handling grief. But if I take a good, hard, honest look at it...it is pretty accurate. If you sit on your sofa and mourn forever, you will always be sitting on your sofa mourning. Eventually, as hard and as sad as it is, you have to get up and leave the safety of your grief and face the world head on. It sucks...and I doubt anyone would disagree with that. But you will never find joy again unless you actively look for it...unless you push the sadness aside and make room for life and happiness. And THAT, I think, is a perfectly reasonable message.

Which leads me to my point of confusion. If you don't have an inspirational story to tell...if you have no hopeful message to share...why on earth would you want Oprah to do a show about it? I see online petitions all the time for Oprah to do a show on Pregnancy and Infant Loss. Why? What exactly would this show look like? A bunch of bereaved mothers sitting on a soundstage crying and talking about how they miss their babies so much? Click. I wouldn't watch that if you paid me.

I WOULD watch a show about women who have turned their grief into something...Cheryl Haggard of Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep, Infant Bereavement Photography...Lisa Rebman, the MOM Project...Karen of Faith Hope and Charity Stitches, Inc...the women and men leading the charge to get stillbirth certificates issued to grieving parents. Someone with a message of healing and hope...not someone who sits on their couch grieving all day.

Look at what they are working on for future shows...
CHICAGO ONLY: Do You Have Questions About Darfur?
Are You Confused by World Events?
Think you look EXACTLY like your PET? PROVE IT!
Is your home COMPLETELY CLUTTERED inside AND out?
Why Aren't You Happy?
What is Your Secret to Happiness?
Do Your Dance Moves Need Updating?
Creative Moms
How Do You Live?
Specific Question About Clutter?
Lacking Organizational Skills?
Are You in Desperate Need For A Spring Cleaning?
Need Help Downsizing Your House?
Schools That Are Changing the World
Inspiring Ways to Cope w/ the Loss of a Loved One
Ask Dr Oz about your children's health!
Does your child have a question for Dr. Oz?
Did our show INSPIRE you to help others?
Do you have burning questions about The Road?
Do You Have A Funny Home Video?
Is Your Child VERY Overweight?
How are you Paying It Forward?
Is your daughter showing signs of early puberty?
Do you have an Embarrassing Medical Problem?

Solving problems. Enjoying life. Inspiring us to be better people. All the show ideas have the same theme. Positivity. I just don't see Oprah changing the mold of her very successful show...and I don't see why she should.

Even if you dressed it up as an educational show...what would we really be educating about? It takes about ten seconds to deliver the message...It happens more than you think and it CAN happen to YOU. Beyond that, what would you talk about for the other 59 minutes and 50 seconds (minus time for commercials)?

If Oprah is so darn important, then there needs to be a concerted effort to support those people who HAVE done something positive with their grief. Instead of cutting down Rev Run and his family, we should be supporting them and their story. It might not be a perfect example of how WE choose to grieve, but few things are perfect in this life.


DD said...

I don't watch Oprah because of the schedule so I'm going by your impressions:

Too many people have the perception that grieving is sitting around sobbing for several days and moving on, but just more subdued. Life seems to have become tainted.

If Rev Run wanted to host a square dance in the cemetary and then every family member had to jump naked into freezing water, who are we to judge whether their mourning is appropriate or not?

I have days where I'm not at all sad. My life feels good. Sometimes even very complete. Does that mean that my losses are not as painful as the next person who does as you say, sits on the couch and mourns and mourns?

You're right. So many things in life are not perfect. Death and grief are just a few of them. What's perfect is when someone acknowledges them respectfully and honestly. I think this also shows in your email exchange with Karen.

Aurelia said...

Once again, my comment is so bloody long, I've turned it into a post. It'll be up in about 10 minutes or so.

niobe said...

I agree with pretty much everything you've said here. And that's rare for me --I'm "oppositional," as my mother might say.

But I thought Oprah (and, btw, I find it hard to take seriously someone whose name comes from a dyslexic reading of Orpah, though I guess that's not really her fault) was planning a show on stillbirth and neonatal loss.

Although perhaps this was it.

Sara said...

Catherine, I just linked to your post after responding to your comment on Aurelia's blog. While I still agree with what I said about people listening to her, I completely agree with you that I just want to scream WHY!?

I wish she weren't so influential.

rach said...

I just posted about this too.

vixanne wigg said...

My response got too long...


Now I am off to read the other responses, which I am very interested in.

Lori said...

I hear what you're saying. And I certainly apologize if my posts sounded like I was "cutting down" this family.

But there is a flip side to your question. Why should Oprah do a show that highlights pregnancy/infant loss? Why shouldn't she? Sure, she can keep deciding not to, but why can't bereaved parents continue to ask? Many of her topics have come because enough people lobbied for them. And it must work, because she is in fact planning a show that will center around stillbirth, miscarriage and infant loss. And yes, I do believe it could be an informative hour of television.

I think messages of hope and healing are important. If Rev. Run actually did talk about what they have done with their grief, I would have been very interested to hear that. But he didn't. They didn't talk about the ways in which they are continuing to work through their grief, or support others facing similar losses, or doing some sort of work in their daughter's name. He said they just essentially stopped grieving. Do I believe they really did? No. So why say it like that? Who is that really helping? And HE is the one who claimed to want to send out a message to people that this is how to deal with a loss like this. He made himself a spokesperson. I didn't make him a spokesperson. If he had spoken only for himself, I probably would have never said a word.

Catherine said...

I don't hate Oprah. I love Oprah. I think pregnancy and infant loss is a topic worth exploring by any and all means. But, if all we can do is pick apart anyone and everyone who goes on the Oprah show to discuss their own stories...if all we can do is find ways to disagree with how they handle their grief...then what is left to talk about? Nobody will be the "perfect" poster child for pregnancy and infant loss awareness. Would wailing and breast-beating be more ideal?

My point seems to have been missed entirely. Rev Run appeared to discuss his story...and people picked it apart. What should he have done? Gone on the Oprah show to cry and talk about how awful the whole thing is? Would that have made him more acceptable in the "community?" Maybe. But I would argue that people would not have watched that kind of appearance. It would not have helped get ANY message out because people would have simply changed the channel.

I realize that there ARE ways that the topic could be dealt with somewhere in between "I'm over it" and "I'm wallowing." And I said I would love to see shows about that...about individuals who grieve and use their grief in positive ways. I think that would be a message that would sell. But first we need to stop nit-picking at those people willing to talk. The treatment Rev Run has received has made me think twice about whether I would want to talk about my experience with Oprah.

vixanne wigg said...

I posted a response to you on my blog. I didn't mean to attack you in any way, and I'm sorry if you feel I misrepresented what you were saying. I just got the vibe from the post that you think all the people who wish she would do a show on the topic are being silly. That we just want to see women crying about their losses for an hour on the couch.

And I really don't know what I would want to see or expect to see. I would certainly love to see people who have done positive-helpful, creative, etc... things with their experiences. How about Lauralu's friend who wrote the play? But I guess I would also like the public to be more educated about what can cause stillbirth. The importance of doing kick counts. Speaking up to your doctor. Etc. Etc. And I think that just hearing stories can normalize it and maybe take away some of the stigma.

kate said...

Man am i out of the loop....sigh. Two days without time to sit at the computer and the whole damned world passes you by.

I guess i will give up on catching up on this issue and just go post pictures of my garden...

delphi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
delphi said...

Wow, I missed out on this one, too. My uninformed opinion is this - I hope that it was made clear at some point in the show that the grief being presented was one family's way of dealing with things and that we are all different. I just couldn't stand people thinking that I didn't want C.'s name mentioned or to talk about him because that's what Rev. Run wanted on the Oprah show.

Sherry (Hallesmom) said...

I thought of you when I caught this on tv the other day. As someone who hasn't lost a child (feel like I should say *knock on wood* here, heaven forbid, or some other ritualistic thing), I was rather shocked that from the first moment their living children walked into the room their Mother and Father were in, the father immediately started in with 'we're a family, we were before, and we still are now. I have all of you so all is good' stuff. It actually makes me scared that someone is just totally pushing any and all grief aside from moment one, and almost pretending it didn't happen? I don't know, I didn't see this whole families life of course, but I was caught off-guard by it. The parents didn't hug their kids as they told them, and you're right, I never did hear the little baby girl's name :(

vixanne wigg said...

I watched the segment with Run and his family. I didn't think it was bad. I thought they were honest. They probably did have darker moments but, that doesn't mean that they're going to show that on television. I also didn't have a problem with them not using the baby's name. It's personal. Overall, I think it was great that they raised the subject, and I also liked that they said that it changed their viewpoint on having children--that it didn't always happen like you thought it would--that it's part of life.

The only thing I didn't like was that Justine said she didn't believe in extended mourning. That may be what's right for her, but that doesn't mean it's right for other people-and she did give the impression that she was giving advice. Since she's religious and already has 5 older kids, she has a certain perspective. But everyone has different perspectives and circumstances.

But overall I thought it was great that they went on and talked about it.

kate said...

I made my uninformed comment (having not seen the show or read the article) about this on the BabylossDirectory thread about it.
In a nutshell my opinion is that everyone can grieve as works for them, but i fear that this kind of publicity will lead to more people saying we should 'just get over it', rather than more people being understanding about the truths of infant loss.

I would have to say also that i personally think that anyone who has a reality show has to be a little 'off' in some way. I mean, i simply cannot imagine wanting to appear on TV at all, or in that way, and especially having such intimate family moments as the time after the death of a child videotaped for future broadcast. I just don't get the whole mindset. But that's me...

Jen said...

well i haven't seen it. but if oprah is having a show on stillbirth, i want to be on it. why? b/c i think i have message to send, i have a hope i want to share, and i want to honor catti's life, her legacy with something positive. it's so soon after she died (just a little over 2 months) but yet i know her life was for a purpose, and that i am going to do things that i would never have done if not for being catti's mama. those are the sorts of things i want to share. mainly a message of hope. and yeah it's sad, and yeah we are still grieving but there is HOPE and PEACE and if i can share and encourage anyone by sharing my story with as many people as watch an oprah show, all the better.