What ‘Fleabag’ Got Right About Grief and Relationships

I lost my mother and grandmother a year apart from each other. Since 2017, grief has billowed into all areas of my life. It has filled the crevices between my lungs and latched onto my back for me to carry, altering the reality I knew and breathed for 29 years.

Unfortunately, this road that’s paved by grief and death isn’t walked on by many people my age. The path is rocky, lonely, and can make even the strongest stumble and fall. But even though I sometimes feel like I’m the only passenger on this ride, watching Season 2 of Fleabag has made me feel less alone. Between the family battles, forbidden desires, and the not-so-subtle use of asides by Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag, the show perfectly exemplifies the beautifully ugly world of grief, love, and relationships. 

There’s a polarization of choices that appear when your life is altered by death. You can either let it consume you and embrace it for what it is, or run in the complete opposite direction, ignoring it completely. Fleabag attempts to do the latter in Season 1. She deters you from the reality she’s truly involved in by masking the truth she doesn’t want us, the audience, to know about the death of her best friend. But once the light shines on her wounds, there’s no turning back. 

While this wasn’t Fleabag’s first experience with grief, as she had also lost her mother not long before, she showcases the different variations one can go through between both seasons. Most shows and movies don’t really know how to navigate the aftermath of the death of a loved one. The viewer may be graced with a funeral scene and people in black clothing, but the stages of grief are boiled down to just a few minutes. This gives the illusion that grief is a quick and easy emotion to “get over,” and negates the fact that it actually stays with you forever. While death might be synonymous between all life forms, grief will always have its own agenda, and you never know which way it’s going to hit. 

 

Most shows and movies don’t really know how to navigate the aftermath of the death of a loved one.

 

via GIPHY

 

I think that’s what I love so much about the second season of Fleabag — you begin to realize that every decision Fleabag makes is based on her experience with grief and love. From the way she supports her sister to fully embracing a week-long relationship with a priest, Fleabag decides to take a chance on deeply loving all aspects of her life, even when she knows how painful the inevitable outcome will be. And that’s f*cking terrifying. 

Even though Fleabag is navigating life by using grief crutches, she’s still scared out of her mind — but you’d never guess it. You may assume you know exactly what Fleabag is thinking at all times; she gives the audience that impression by developing an intimate connection with them from the start. But it’s easy to lie to yourself and others when you’re in the epicenter of grief. You may believe everything is fine or convince yourself that you should be “strong,” when in reality, accepting that you’re scared and everything is complete sh*t is probably the most courageous and vulnerable thing you can do — and that’s exactly what Fleabag does.

She begins to flirt with the notion of religion, faith, and believing in something that visibly isn’t there. Right when she playfully confesses all of her sins to the priest in a confessional booth, reality sinks in. “I want someone to tell me what to wear,” she begins. The priest plays along with her, but she’s not laughing. Her tone is strong and meaningful, even though vulnerability is piercing through. 

No, I want someone to tell me what to wear every morning. I want someone to tell me what to eat, what to like, what to hate, what to rage about, what to listen to, what band to like, what to buy tickets for, what to joke about, what not to joke about. I want someone to tell me what to believe in, who to vote for, and who to love, and how to tell them. I just think I want someone to tell me how to live my life, Father, because so far I think I’ve been getting it wrong.”

 

Even though Fleabag is navigating life by using grief crutches, she’s still scared out of her mind — but you’d never guess it.

 

via GIPHY

 

Having the strength to move on from grief feels nearly impossible. The rocky path you walk down slowly turns into mud, and you can begin to feel stuck. This will make you second-guess everything in your life. The choices you make, the relationships you have, and yourself. But that’s the thing, you’re not supposed to move on from grief and ignore that it exists. Resisting the pain you feel from the relationship(s) you’ve lost will steer you away from your truth. Fleabag slowly begins to realize this as she decides to build a new path to walk on that’s still made out of rocks, but instead of being melded together with fear, it’s cemented with love.

The thing is, the relationships we surround ourselves with are going to hurt us, whether we like it or not — but people are all we’ve got. If I know one thing, I know that before our lives end, we just want someone to empathetically see through the same lens we do to feel understood and heard, just like the priest did with Fleabag. Before our lives end, we just want to find someone to make love feel like hope, just like Fleabag’s dad does with his wife. And before our lives end, we just want someone to love us enough to run through an airport for us, just like Claire does for Klare. Because isn’t that what grief is all about? It’s there to remind you of all the love you have for that one person, even when you have no idea what to do with it now that they’re gone, no matter how awful or frightening it can be. That’s what makes love so f*cking painful; yet, that’s what makes it so beautiful.

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