What 'Good Grief' teaches us about loss beyond death

The person you love most in this world dies. Then you discover they've been lying to you.

That's the premise of new Netflix film "Good Grief" (now streaming), written by, directed by and starring Daniel Levy ("Schitt's Creek"). Marc (Levy) grieves the sudden death of his husband Oliver (Luke Evans), but when Marc finds out this sickening secret about Oliver, it warps his world. Marc is hardly the only one in the movie who learns complicated lessons about grief – all different kinds: grieving unrequited love, younger versions of ourselves, possibilities.

Grief doesn't apply to death alone. It comes in a series of shapes and sizes different than you might expect. And all can coexist.

All forms of grief are valid, despite that "there's this hierarchy around what grief deserves to get mourned or get honored," Loree Johnson, a licensed marriage and family therapist, previously told USA TODAY.

Our chat with Daniel Levy: Daniel Levy on Netflix's 'Good Grief,' his bad habits and the 'Barbie' role that got away

(L to R) Daniel Levy (writer/director/producer) stars as Marc and Luke Evans as Oliver in "Good Grief," now streaming on Netflix.
(L to R) Daniel Levy (writer/director/producer) stars as Marc and Luke Evans as Oliver in "Good Grief," now streaming on Netflix.

'That isn't how grief works'

Levy's grandmother died within the last few years, the catalyst for his own grief journey. "I found myself getting really confused about what I was feeling," he told USA TODAY in a recent interview. He was simultaneously wrestling with the collective loss amid the pandemic. "Was I feeling enough? My body wasn't reacting in the ways that I thought it should. And that conversation of like, is there an appropriate way to grieve? Are you doing it properly?"

The death of a loved one is not more or less than any other type of grief. "There's a context to think about it, as sometimes we approach grief like it's a pie," grief expert and founder of Grief.com David Kessler previously told USA TODAY. "And it goes wrong if we think, 'wait, wait, you're taking some of the pie on your job loss. But I need a lot of it because my spouse died.' And that isn't how grief works."

Levy aimed to teach Marc this lesson in the film. "One of the takeaways that I wanted for the character of Marc was to realize by the end of the movie that everyone is grieving something in some capacity," Levy says.

What is 'disenfranchised grief?'

Some might call unique kinds of loss "disenfranchised grief" – something not openly acknowledged, socially mourned, or publicly supported, Johnson says. It's grief felt on an individual level not necessarily seen by others.

Plus, "the emotions can be the same, regarding all kinds of loss," according to Amy Morin, psychotherapist and the host of a podcast. For example, "someone who lost their job may feel sad, anxious, and a bit disoriented, which might be the same feelings someone experiences when they lose a friend or relative."

'It is highly personal'

Grief grows only that much more complicated when someone has wronged you in some way. "Grieving someone who let them down is complex," Jessica MacNair, licensed professional counselor, previously told USA TODAY. "There is no prescribed method to navigate this type of grief. It is highly personal and no one can expect anyone else to have a similar experience to one another."

But at the end of "Good Grief," at least, Marc comes to grips with Oliver's transgression. One way or another.

"I don't know if it's forgiveness, but I think it's acceptance," Levy says. "And I think that could be just as powerful."

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Contributing: Brian Truitt

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: New Dan Levy Netflix movie 'Good Grief' touches on all kinds of loss