The third season of Ricky Gervais’ tear-jerking Netflix comedy After Life aired on Friday (January 14), and it’s funnier and more heart-warming than ever. For anyone who’s grieving a loss, this is a show that takes us through all the difficult moments we might experience - and how we might come out the other end.
You don’t have to believe in an after life to feel your departed loved ones
Beliefs in Heaven or reincarnation can be a comfort to the dying, or those who’ve lost loved ones. But if you’re a staunch atheist with no spiritual beliefs whatsoever, that doesn’t mean you can’t still speak to them. Tony, like Gervais himself, doesn’t believe in anything, but he still feels like his wife Lisa is there with him. When older widow Anne reveals talking to her late husband out loud helps her, Tony discovers that you don’t have to rationalise or explain everything. If it helps you heal, that’s all that matters.
When you’ve got nothing left to lose, help others
It’s easy to lash out at everyone when it feels like you’re the only one in the world suffering, but using everyone else as a punching bag will never give you the sort of satisfaction that offering kindness to others will give you, as Tony finds out.
Punishing those who don’t deserve it doesn’t change Tony’s feelings, but he does feel better when he gives Lisa’s life insurance money to charity and to his friends that need it. Deep down you know that you’re not alone in your grief and your pain, and even if it doesn’t feel like you’re getting better, maybe your unique understanding will make all the difference to somebody else’s life.
Pain lessens when you focus on others
Having a project that involves making the world a better place for other people is an amazing way to shift your focus. You’ll never forget about that person that you love, but sometimes you can forget your grief just for a moment, and those moments keep us sane.
When Tony visits the children’s ward in a hospital and meets a child with cancer, he does what he can to comfort him and admits that meeting the boy made life a tiny bit more bearable.
No-one can replace your loved one, but that doesn’t mean you have to be lonely
Seeking comfort in new companionship can make you feel guilty, particularly when it’s a best friend or a romantic partner who has passed on. But the great thing about being human is that we have the ability to love and cherish lots of people, and nobody who ever loved you would want you to sacrifice your relationships for the sake of their memory. One of the worst things about dying is worrying about the people you leave behind.
Tony’s friendship with his late father’s nurse Emma is probably not destined for romance, but he does begin to realise that he doesn’t have to feel guilty if it was.
Acknowledge those who share your grief
It’s rare that when a loved one dies, you’ll be the only one who’ll feel the pain of it. If you happen to be the closest person to them, the majority of people will mostly be thinking of you. But it’s important to remember that their siblings, parents, friends etc. will also need support, and being there for them will make healing much easier for you as well as them.
Once Tony acknowledges that his brother-in-law Matt never properly got a chance to grieve, their relationship improves, and Matt finally finds the courage to pay his respects to Lisa in his own way.
Appreciate the small things in life
You never know how long you’ve got left on this Earth, that’s the truth of it. And it can be depressing to think of your life and all the things you’ve failed to achieve. Perhaps you haven’t travelled much, never had the career break you dreamed of, or never had children. That doesn’t mean your life is any less important than someone who seems to have done it all.
It’s the little pleasures in life that make it worthwhile; Tony most misses spending his evenings drinking with Lisa at home, and the videos that he captures of their time together - the ones he cherishes more than anything else - are rarely much more than that.