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On Grief, Moving On, and the Movie that Made Me Cry Myself to Sleep

Moving on when you're stuck in grief - Grieving is so hard and sad, but it is so true that the only way through it is through it. Words and truths from my life when I lost my mom and watched a movie called Hachi about a dog who waited his entire life for his owner to come home. The feelings of the heart are real, and saying I miss you is natural, but letting go is beautiful and natural and essential.

It has been a very long time since a movie wrecked me and made me cry myself to sleep. It's happened maybe never before, but it happened yesterday.

Grace and I wanted to watch a movie together, and I picked Hachi over her objection. The premise is that a man (Richard Gere {swoon}) finds a puppy at the train station, raises him, and then dies, leaving the devoted puppy to wait for him at the train station for the rest of its life – nine long years.

I have no idea what made me think watching this movie was a good idea. It was clearly sad, the kind of sad that would leave me with a hole in my heart, mourning lost loves and lost pets and my lost mother. And, it is based on the true story of a dog and his owner in Japan, making it all the worse.

But watch it we did. The first half of the movie was beautiful, all about the bond between this man and his dog. At first, he carried the dog everywhere with him, as he was trying to find the real owner. But soon, the puppy grew up, and the man and his dog were inseparable. There's even a scene were the man is giving the dog a deep tissue massage, evidence of his complete devotion to his friend.

The dog, Hachi, goes with the man every day to the train station, where the man gets on a train to go off to work and then comes home on a train at 5 o'clock. Except, one day, he goes off to work and dies there, and never comes back.

The man's now grown daughter comes to the train station and takes Hachi home. He lives with her for a while (years, it seemed), but he is very sad and tries to escape every time he hears a train whistle. She eventually opens the gate and lets him leave.

He runs to the train station. Even now, as I type this a full 24 hours after watching, I am crying a full-on ugly cry. The dog sits in his waiting spot, right outside the doors of the station, watching expectantly for his owner to appear.

The years pass, and the dog still waits. A hot dog vendor brings him dog food and water every day, and Hachi gets some attention in the press as the dog who has been waiting for his deceased owner for years.

As time goes by, Hachi gets scruffier and scruffier and sadder and sadder. By the end of the movie, his head hangs low, and he is all dirty and his fur is matted, but he still waits.

I'm sure you can see where this is going. At the very end, he lays down his head and dies. In his death, he is reunited with his man who finally walks out the doors of the train station and joins his dog in an eager reunion. 

In the movie, Hachi is celebrated as the ultimate ideal of loyalty, but I don't see it that way, and that's why I decided to write about it here.

To me, Hachi is a tragic soul who couldn't move on. He couldn't get past the fact that his life changed, and he couldn't see the beauty of what was right in front of him. He couldn't appreciate the fact that he had a new family with a new human brother who loved him and could have made him happy again.

I see myself in Hachi's tragedy, and I think that's what makes me so very sad.

For the first two years after my mom passed away, I wished she would come back. While I went through the motions of my life, I held on to her. I couldn't let go.

I cried every day. I grieved over lunch dates and playtimes and phone calls that would never happen. I couldn't appreciate the beauty of the family right in front of me because the pain of what was gone was just too much to bear.

I ended up finding a wonderful Christian psychologist who was able to help me. Through weekly sessions with her, I did move on. I'll admit now that there are days when I don't think about my mom or wish she was here with me. There are, of course, days when I do think about her and wish her back, and there are days when I still cry all these five years later, but they are not all that common.

I have a good life now, even without her, and that's okay. That's what is supposed to happen. Unlike Hachi, I was able to move on and stop waiting for my mom's return. 

I think the great tragedy in this story is that Hachi's owner would have wanted him to be happy. I think it would have broken the man's heart to see his beloved puppy just sitting at the train station and waiting for him to come back for all those years.

In the same way, I think it broke my mom's heart to see me stuck and in pain in the months and years after her death. She would never have wanted me to suffer so much.

I think about my mom most during the weeks leading up to Mother's Day, so it was fitting that we watched this tragic movie on that day. It reminded me that moving on is a good and healthy thing, and that staying stuck in your grief is not only painful for you but painful for everyone around you. It also reminded me that loyalty can go too far, for too long, and that it can prevent you from enjoying the beautiful things right in front of you.

If you're stuck in loyalty and grief to someone you've lost, I hope you will find a good counselor or therapist to help you move past it. There's no need for you to live like Hachi, wasting away waiting for the impossible.

Moving on when you're stuck in grief - Grieving is so hard and sad, but it is so true that the only way through it is through it. Words and truths from my life when I lost my mom and watched a movie called Hachi about a dog who waited his entire life for his owner to come home. The feelings of the heart are real, and saying I miss you is natural, but letting go is beautiful and natural and essential.

© 2018, Tara Ziegmont. All rights reserved.

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