What Korean Dramas Taught Us About Dealing With Loss And Pain

“Although you can’t see someone, it doesn’t mean they’re not with you. As long as you remember, they are not gone.” – Move To Heaven (2021)

We all experience loss at one point or another. In fact, it is a natural part of life. However, facing a loss is not simple for it encompasses intense feelings of sadness and despair. Others go through an overwhelming shock and confusion, especially when losing something or someone is sudden and unexpected.

For example, when Chief Hong in “Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha lost everything he had, he tried to attempt suicide and locked himself in the dark house. Another character who experienced loss in the drama is Jo Nam-sook, the chinese restaurant owner who lived a depressing life for more than a year when she lost her only child.

Loss comes in various forms and pain intensities. According to a study, the death of a wife or husband is ranked as the most stressful loss, while the death of a child is by far the worst kind.

In relationship breakups, women are reported to experience more pain but recover more fully. Job loss is also considered as one of the stressful events in life for it shoulders financial anguish. Other types of challenging loss include losing a friend, parents, home, pet, health, dream, or a project that is used to be a source of joy.

Whatever loss one experiences, the pain is unavoidable and a wide range of emotions can happen mentally, emotionally, and physically.

As an individual goes through the process of grieving, it is natural to go through a rollercoaster of disbelief, denial, confusion, shock, guilt, anger, restlessness, and intense anxiety. One can be consumed with feelings of profound sadness, helplessness, and yearning.

The pain of loss can also affect physical health, manifesting in sleep difficulties, loss of appetite, chest pain, fatigue, weight loss, or gain. Others isolate or withdraw themselves socially.

Such difficult and unexpected emotions are common, legitimate, and normal reactions to loss. However, the most difficult part of dealing with it is acceptance. Some find it challenging to move forward in life and adjust to the new normal.

What Does It Mean to Accept A Loss?

The series “Hospital Playlist” walks us to a place brimming with various relatable stories—the hospital where people face the fear of the unknown, anxiety floods the mind, hope is grim, and where the brevity of human life is intently and soberly pondered upon. It unravels the different journeys and struggles of patients, including facing the loss and accepting a loss.

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, a Swiss-American Psychiatrist, introduced a model of the five stages of grief or loss in her best-selling book, “On Death and Dying”. She described acceptance as the last stage of the framework in dealing with a loss.

However, according to psychologists, reaching this stage is not necessarily about complete recovery from the loss. PsychCentral defined acceptance as more about the acknowledgment of the loss, learning to live with them, and readjustment to changes.

Acceptance is to accept the new reality as the permanent reality, a new norm in which we learn to live with the missing piece. “It has been forever changed and we must readjust,” as stated by David Kessler, a grief expert and co-authored two books with Elisabeth Kubler Ross.

Moreover, Dr. Magdalena Battles, a Doctor of Psychology remarks, “Acceptance involves the recognition that you will never return to that person you were before the loss. It is to be oneself in your new life, a changed you, because your loved one is no longer present physically in your life.”

She further emphasized that acceptance is not the final stage of recovering from the loss, but rather, the beginning of the real healing process, “It is the point in where recovery becomes about the person left behind, and not about the person being mourned.”

Why Is It So Hard To Accept A Loss?

To move forward in life with that missing piece is hard to face in reality. Here are some of the reasons why it is hard to accept a loss.

1. It is hard because every loss is personal and significant to us.

It is hard to let go of something or someone precious to us. When they are taken away from us, the pain can be overwhelming because that loss is once part of who we are.

Move to Heaven” (2021) is one of those rare Korean drama series that strongly stirs emotions, relates to human problems and talks about the underexplored, delicate facets of life. Notably, it leaves a strong impact on the effects of loss or death which moves a viewer to contemplate the shortness of life and the significance of connection in relationships.

Science has this principle called Loss Aversion, developed by Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. It is a cognitive bias or idea that the impact of loss is much greater than the gain of the same thing.

It is also found in a 2007 study that the brain has a stronger response to loss than to gain, “the brain regions that process value and reward may be silenced more when evaluating a potential loss than they are activated when we assess a similar-sized gain.”

According to Discover Magazine, “the traumatic loss of a loved one is like experiencing a brain injury.” It is mediated by relationships that reside in the mind and the painful response to loss is driven by these relational patterns laid down early in life.

For a fact, the loss of a loved one is a traumatic experience. Dr. Lisa Shulman, a Neurology Professors implies that “it has profound effects on the mind, brain, and body, where stress hormones result in abnormal heart movements, chest pain, and shortness of breath.”

Certainly, we are relational beings that need each other and depend on one another for connection, meaning, and purpose. Once it is severed by death, break-up, removal, or abandonment, it can feel like a part of us is also dying.

The death of a beloved is an amputation.” – C.S. Lewis

2. It is hard because every loss needs a valid answer.

Why? It is the most excruciating question a griever asks. It is a painful question of someone mourning over the loss of a job, dream, friend, or the death of a loved one, pulled down into a place of unfathomable feelings of void and misery. It is the profound and disabling emotion of someone struggling alone in the cave of depression.

Chun-jae (a.k.a. Oh Yoon), the frustrated singer in “Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha”, struggles with his shattered dreams and whose hope is left behind in the past. He keeps holding onto his lost dreams because he needs validation.

It is hard to accept the loss when expected answers do not come or when there is no validation of the pain or suffering. It seems to haunt us for the rest of our lives.

For in grief nothing ‘stays put.’ One keeps on emerging from a phase, but it always recurs. Round and round. Everything repeats. Am I going in circles, or dare I hope I am on a spiral? But if a spiral, am I going up or down it? How often – will it be for always? – how often will the vast emptiness astonish me like a complete novelty and make me say, “I never realized my loss till this moment”? The same leg is cut off time after time.” — C.S. Lewis

3. It is hard because change is agonizing.

Move to Heaven” l(2021) reflects that there is so much insight into how a single life simply leaves a mark and how a loss unravels moments, hidden desires, and thoughts through personal objects or possessions left behind.

Hence, change is agonizing for it requires a massive effort and time to adjust and adapt to the new norm. It is hard to reorganize life, thinking that the person is no longer there. So we cling to every detail that reminds us of the person.

Chief Hong in Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha experienced this kind of feeling, “I guess it hasn’t sunk in yet. This is not my first time but I can never get used to it. It feels like she’s still here with me. So I don’t want to let her go yet. Just for a little while longer, I want her by my side.”

According to grief studies, a process of adjustment is experienced when a loved one leaves or dies. But sometimes, it can feel like the griever is stuck somewhere in the process, consumed in the past or imagined future.

Others refuse change because of unfinished business or regrets. So we keep on holding on to the past to try to make things right or finish what was supposed to be done.

Grief is in two parts. The first is loss. The second is the remaking of life.” – Anne Roiphe

Therefore, pain is valid and demands to be felt.

You know, they say when you lose a loved one, you should mourn plenty. If not, the grief travels all through your body, and it bursts later,” states in the drama, Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha (2021).

It is psychologically valid that accepting a loss is hard. It cannot be hurried or forced. At the same time, it cannot be avoided, repressed, or prolonged for dealing with it is an inevitable part of well-being. “Grieving is not a linear process. It is insidious, imposing, and demands to be felt,” states Katherine Schafler, a Psychotherapist.

It’s Okay To Not Be Okay” (2020) is another drama that has significant life lessons to draw from. It encourage viewers to face their pains, express themselves, and receive healing, “When you are tired, get some rest. When you are sad, go ahead and cry. It’s okay to do that.”

How long is it healthy to grieve for a loss?

As psychology suggests, there is no specific time for grieving or a normal timetable for recovery. It differs from person to person. According to American Psychological Association (APA), everyone reacts differently to a loss. Some may take months and others a year to recover from it.

As grief takes time, accepting a loss also happens gradually. Once an individual learns to accept the loss, it is natural to feel occasional pains as a part of the healing process. However, recovery is possible and one can begin again, however painful the loss is.

So, hang in there.

“You’re bound to meet unexpected situations in life. Even if you use an umbrella, you’ll end up getting drenched. Just put your hands up and welcome the rain.” – Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha (2021)