Sunday is the night. There will be highs. There will be lows. And for many of us, there will be tears. Across the U.S., families will crowd around their TVs and steel themselves for the inevitable.
Jack Pearson is going to die.
What? You thought I was talking about the Super Bowl? For “This Is Us” fans (myself included), Super Bowl Sunday is merely a pre-show. We all know what’s coming: Fans have been anticipating and speculating about Jack’s death since season one. And Pearson matriarch, played by Mandy Moore, has done little to calm our nerves: “It’s gonna be a good soul-crusher,” she told Us Weekly.
Well, thanks Mandy. As if all of the other episodes have been light-hearted and carefree. Did anyone else have a mini heart attack when Tess popped up in the back of Kevin’s car? OK, glad it wasn’t just me.
Last week was such a tease — and as fans, we’re doing the best we can to get through it. (Can you blame us for considering throwing out our slow cookers?)
In all seriousness, as a licensed clinical psychologist, I feel compelled to help all of us get through this tough time together. Here are three recommended survival strategies for enduring what Milo Ventimiglia, who plays Jack, has said is “going to sting. It’s going to hurt.”
1. Practice mindfulness
This might sound ridiculous considering we just saw flames start to spread in the home that Rebecca and Jack built for “The Big Three,” but stick with me. Mindfulness is defined as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment and nonjudgmentally."
In other words: Don’t fight those tears. Be present with all the emotions that you experience as you watch the episode — the fear, the sadness, the love. Resist the urge to judge your reactions to the episode with thoughts like “It’s only a show” or “You’re being dramatic.” You’re not! And don’t let your spouse or roommate tell you otherwise.
Emotions just are! They reflect our aliveness, they make us human, and they connect us to each other via empathy and care. The more we allow ourselves to experience a full range of emotions, the happier and healthier and more connected we are. (Friendly reminder: It’s time to stock up on tissues.)
2. Focus on what you love
What’s not to love about Jack Pearson? He embodies a quality of love that we all want in our lives. Love that offers both protection and nurturing. Love that makes space for another to shine. Love that holds people accountable with love. Love that does what needs to be done. I could go on, and on and on…
When we watch Jack Pearson in action, I think that we are put face-to-face with the awe-inspiring power of a father's love. Some of us have been blessed to be loved like this by an older wiser figure — a father, grandfather, uncle, teacher, coach or religious figure. Some of us have not.
As you watch, allow yourself to ache with the pain of losing that quality of love — in real life and on screen (though right now it might be hard to distinguish the two.)
3. Approach with awe
Do not hate tweet the actors, producers or directors. Amid your tears and your pain, make a little space for awe by letting yourself feel some gratitude for all the souls who worked together to create Sunday’s episode.
Gratitude is a powerful antidote to grief and if it weren’t for all of those people, we would have never met the great, handsome, smart, inspiring and oh-so-lovable Jack Pearson.
I am wishing you well, fellow fans of the greatest show ever. For as hard as this Sunday is going to be, losing Jack Pearson is also an opportunity for us to connect with what really matters.
Alexandra H. Solomon, PhD is a licensed clinical psychologist at The Family Institute at Northwestern University, a clinical assistant professor at Northwestern University, and the author of Loving Bravely: 20 Lessons of Self-Discovery to Help You Get the Love You Want (New Harbinger, February 2017). Connect with her at DrAlexandraSolomon.com.