My wife Lora died in February 2021, more than two years ago now and nearly nine months after her diagnosis.
Following her death, I made a series of rash decisions. I changed careers. I quit a job and went unemployed for months. I traveled, putting myself in dangerous situations against all common sense. I stopped holding back on being honest with people, even when it wasn't beneficial. I lashed out at people who cared about me. I struggled with accepting and acknowledging the care and labor my neighbors provided during the worst times. I ghosted friends for weeks, months, years at a time. Instead of processing my grief, I numbed myself to it, and to life, and the outside world. When I felt genuine joy, I couldn't get past the guilt of feeling something Lora couldn't anymore.
I sought, and was fortunate to find and privileged enough to afford, an effective therapist who helped me through these times. When I finally committed to doing the work I started to find my way back, but painfully, slowly, frustratingly to the people around me.
The show Shrinking is about a middle-aged man. His wife Tia dies.
Following her death, he damages his career. He makes rash decisions, putting himself in dangerous situations against all common sense. He stops holding back on being honest with people, even when it isn't beneficial. He lashes out at people who care about him. He struggles with accepting and acknowledging the care and labor his neighbors provide during the worst times. He ghosts friends for weeks, months, a year. Instead of processing his grief, he numbs himself to it, and to life, and the outside world. When the grieving people in the show feel genuine joy, they can't get past the guilt of feeling something Tia can't anymore.
The progatonist seeks, and is fortunate to find and privileged enough to afford, an effective therapist who helps him through these times. When he finally commits to doing the work he starts to find his way back, but painfully, slowly, frustratingly to the audience and the people around him.
Anyway, to avoid fridging Lora, I need to go back into the hole where I'd stopped writing, thinking, or doing anything creative in public, especially things that relate to Lora, or my grief, or the loss I and everyone she influenced in life still feel.
Fridging is bad. Openly and compassionately depicting how American men can't figure out how to grieve without professonal help, and the miserable culture that gets us all there, is not fridging. What Shrinking does is not what 65 or John Wick or Death Wish or Green Lantern do.
Writing a plot that isn't about grieving and motivating it with a woman's death is fridging.
Writing a story explicitly about the process of multiple people grieving the loss of a loved one is not fridging.
(There's a good post out there—somewhere—about how Bill Lawrence/Brett Goldstein's Ted Lasso is worse on gender than their Shrinking, or how the actual dangerous cliche in Shrinking is how excessively it focuses on physical and external violence in its depiction of masculine grieving, but it seems like I'd better not be the person to write it.)