These on-screen ladies are proof there's no 'right way' to deal with loss
Let them help you find your light
Life comes with a lot of punctuations. Some things can feel like a comma. Leaving a job you loved, drifting apart from your primary school bestie, moving away from home. Others are exclamation points – buying a new car, moving to your dream city, falling in love.
But there are moments when it feels like you’ve hit a full stop. Death of a partner, separation in marriage, loss of identity, dignity, respect. Incidents that trigger a loss of any kind can be overwhelming and make you feel like you’re stuck in the eye of a never-ending hurricane. But as philosophical as it sounds, after every storm comes a calmness where you assess your surroundings and find the courage to pick up and move forward. Easier said than done, we know.
Sometimes, it’s the stories of bravehearts we read in the newspaper that give us the motivation to keep trying. We hate to admit it, but papa’s good morning motivational WhatsApps also occasionally do the trick. Today, we’re looking at works of art, TV shows and cinema, to be specific, that stir the soul and inspire us to stand back up and keep our heads held high even when a metaphorical elephant is sitting on our chest. Strong female characters who taught us how to begin again after suffering a loss. And boy, did we find some gems.
So if you’re also feeling stuck, with your sadness meter beeping on high alert, gather a tub of butterscotch ice cream, popcorn, and a tissue box and get comfortable – let these women accompany you on your journey through the storm.
It’s time to populate your watchlist.
11 shows and movies featuring strong female characters who began again after a loss
Never Have I Ever
It’s a teenage drama about a diaspora kid, Devi, trying to navigate being a teenager, school, and her love life. But Never Have I Ever champions its female characters in a way rarely seen on screen. Season 4 features Devi’s grandmother, Nirmala, dating a Caucasian man named Len. But not without her share of guilt and shame. “Respectable widows aren’t supposed to move on…” she says in a scene.
After living as a widow for a long time, she decides to seek a companion, date him and then marry him in a full taam-jhaam event. Nirmala doesn’t need the younger generation to act as a catalyst for her to pursue her desires, nor does she feel the need to do a hush-hush wedding. She’s also unabashedly vocal about her needs and love languages. She calls herself a GMILF (Grandmother I’d…..you know the rest) in one scene. Rarely do we see a dadi cool onscreen, being vocal about her desires and then going after them without being judged by her family. We’re rooting for Nirmala and her happily ever after.
Dead To Me
It’s hard to categorise this show, given its multiple layers and the directions it goes into. Dead to Me is as much an ode to female friendships as it is about grief. Doused in dark humour, the show is a black comedy that follows the lives of two women – Jen and Judy, each dealing with different losses. What seems like a journey of two women coping quickly turns into a story full of twists, turns and mystery surrounding the death of Jen’s husband.
Dead to Me has a different take on grief. Instead of focusing on Jen singularly as a grieving widow, we see her do everything but sit with her emotions. Her focus is instead on solving the mystery around her husband’s death while also trying to move on from her husband’s death in the way she knows best. It goes to show that grief isn’t linear and doesn’t work the same way for everyone.
For those of you who prefer a two-hand distance from emotions and run faster than a road runner at the hint of that choke before tears in the throat, Dead to Me would be the right watch. With supportive friends and some humour, the journey through grief becomes a tad bit easier.
Add it to your watchlist now on Netflix
Made in Heaven season 2
Made in Heaven revolves around a wedding company and the stories of their various clients. The second season sees the addition of two particularly strong female characters – Bulbul and Meher. Bulbul is the accountant of the wedding company partially owned by her husband.
Bearing the physical and emotional scars of an abusive first marriage, she looks for love again and finds a cheerleader in her second marriage. Instead of letting the past force her into loneliness, Bulbul mustered the strength to give happiness a second chance and scored a six.
Meher, a transgender woman, is the production head of the wedding company. She struggles with her sexuality and acceptance among her friends and in the world of dating and romance. She experiences the loss of respect and dignity in these worlds where she’s not accepted wholly for who she truly is. But stands in her power.
What does a breakup look like? (if you’re going through one, this watchlist will help) Messy, unwashed bun hair, oversized sweats, crying into a tub of mint chocolate chip ice cream surrounded by relationship memorabilia. Someone Great says otherwise.
Jenny is a music journalist in New York City who lands her dream job at Rolling Stones magazine in San Francisco. Following her decision to move, Nate, her boyfriend of nine years, breaks up with her, leaving her distraught. Now, typically, you would see Jenny crying it out in the first half and reinventing herself in the second with an enviable blowout. Instead, the movie follows her having one last adventure in NYC with her best friends.
Jenny is grieving her relationship and the romantic future she dreamed of, trying to find closure to nine years’ worth of memories. But at the same time, she’s also excited about her next big step. Through Jenny, we dive into the waves of relationship grief, anger, love, and denial, all together at the same time and know we’ll be okay.
You can watch it on Netflix
Grace and Frankie
Necessity is the mother of invention. And in this case, the mother of reinvention. Grace and Frankie follows the lives of the two titular women after they find themselves in an unusual situation – their husbands of over 30 years announce they are lovers and want to be together.
Following the announcement, the two women move into their shared beach house to restart their lives. As the seasons progress, we see them experiencing health scares, navigating new loves and relationships and adjusting to the changing family dynamics in their 70s. That’s not all. The two women try to set up not one but two new businesses – a convenient toilet with a rising seat and vibrators for older women. At one point, we even see them presenting at Shark Tank for funding.
Grace and Frankie prove that women have no ‘best by…’ date. They can experience love and pleasure and start a new business whenever they want and however they want to. Age is no bar for the next chapter in your life.
A heartwarming black comedy, Pagglait is the story of finding yourself after grief and loss. Sandhya’s husband passes away within a few months of their arranged marriage. Amidst the inflow of relatives and chaos surrounding the funeral and society’s expectations from a widow, she struggles with feeling any emotion at all. If anything, she’s confused.
She knows too little about him to have the emotional attachment to show the kind of grief people expect of her. When she realises that she can finally live the life she dreamt of without being tied to a husband, she leaves her in-laws’ home to start afresh.
Pagglait successfully unboxes the aftermath of losing a partner in a marriage. Through Sandhya, we see that it’s not selfish to want to start the next chapter sooner rather than later and leave the loss behind.
Quirky, fun and uber inspirational, Queen, starring Kangana Ranaut, follows the life of Rani, whose fiancé breaks off their marriage two days before the set date, stating differences in lifestyle and habits. Distraught, Rani decides to go on their pre-booked honeymoon alone.
If you need a push for solo travel, Queen will happily serve you with one. It captures Rani’s adventures as she tries to vacation alone for the first time, make new friends and discover who she is when not defined by a man and her family.
The film attempts to show that nothing in life is a full stop, and you can always bounce back from what feels like the worst thing to happen to you. Through Rani, we see what it’s like to navigate unexpected freedom and massive life changes like a pro. Watching her brave the storms comically is not just fun but also heartwarming in a way that you end up rooting for her till the very end.
Three Widows Against The World (Tiga Janda Melawan Dunia )
‘Woman’ cannot be spelt without ‘man’ but she can certainly live fully without one. And this Malaysian movie is proof. A laughter riot, it follows the lives of three widows, Midah, Ani and Rohayu. When their favourite singer’s last concert is announced, the ladies set up an all-natural, non-additive vape juice business to raise money for their concert tickets. Their business is a hit. What they don’t know is that it has reduced the demand for drugs, jeopardising the business of cartel bosses and putting the three women on their hit list.
The central theme of the movie is based on trying to realise the simple joys in life. Widowhood can often bring questions of why, how, and what if. But it shouldn’t be a defining factor for the little things in life like going to a concert. The absence of a partner is daunting and overwhelming, but it does not have to stop one from enjoying what one loves, no matter how scandalous it might seem to others. You do you.
Not Dead Yet
A quintessential newspaper office with quirky characters and a newly single woman trying to sort through the mess of her life and her apartment. What’s not to love?
Nell is a young newspaper journalist in South California who left her life in the US years ago and moved to London with and for her partner. She returns when her long-term relationship ends, hoping to pick up where she left. But to her surprise, she is assigned to write the obituaries section. She’s bummed about missing out on front-page stories at first, but her new role comes with help from a place she did not expect, turning her life into a ride she did not imagine she would be in for.
Across the episodes, the show touches upon different types of loss and grief as Nell writes the obituaries of different people, learning various lessons about her own life. The show depicts how different people cope with grief, emotions and letting go. Nell is a great example of how starting from scratch can be unsettling but might lead to something extraordinary. Not Dead Yet is humorous, sensitive and a feel-good companion you absolutely should not miss.
And Just Like That
*Cue the SATC title music, Carrie’s iconic tutu skirt and… the men*
The reboot gets a lot of things right that its predecessor didn’t. We meet Carrie, Miranda and Charlotte, now in their 50s, as they try to navigate love, family and friendship in today’s New York City.
After Mr Big’s death in the first season, Carrie re-enters the dating game as an older woman, trying to navigate through the new dating climate. Even rekindling her relationship with an ex-flame. Miranda separates from her long-time husband in the wake of her newly discovered sexuality. Charlotte decides to go back to work after having spent years away from the workforce.
The three women go through different phases. Losing a partner, losing old sexualities and identities and stepping into the new with as much ease and poise as possible for their characters. And Just Like That is proof that it’s never too late to rebuild and redefine yourself. And you can do it while donning a pair of gorgeous Manolos.
Hiccups and Hookups
The world of the Indian web series is a tough sea to navigate. But this particular show hits all the right chords.
A light-hearted Amazon Prime Video watch, Hiccups and Hookups follows the journey of a hatke family unit consisting of a newly separated single mother, Vasudha, her brother Akhil, and her teenage daughter Kavanya. The show follows the lives of these three characters as they try to handle their loves, lives and family with a barrage of confusing emotions.
The plot point that stands out is Vasudha’s curiosity to move on from her separation and explore the new dating climate, prioritising her physical and emotional needs. We do see her go back and forth as she experiences the whole spectrum of emotions that come along with separation. The story allows us to look at her as an individual rather than as a separated mother, giving her character the agency to explore her personal life sans any barriers.