Actor Aaron Eckhart pretended to lose a child in order to attend a bereavement support group meeting. All for the sake of his art. Eckhart, who has no children himself, made this revelation on the Howard Stern show last week. At the time, he was preparing for a role in 2010’s Rabbit Hole; a film also starring Nicole Kidman. The movie is about a couple dealing with the loss of their child.
Some might say that this was a smart way to prepare for a role. Method acting, if you will. For me, and others like me, it is more personal. As a bereaved mother of more than five years, I found it insensitive. My two bereavement support groups became a second family to me as I was grieving the loss of my baby boy. These groups are often a very tight circle. We share our most painful and intimate experiences of our losses. There are many tears and raw emotion. I guess you could say I am very protective of my fellow bereaved parents. I definitely felt a sense of violation when learning of Eckhart’s actions. And I wasn’t even there.
After initial gasps by both Stern and his co-host Robin Quivers, laughter ensued. They were in admiration of how Eckhart handled himself. As if he got away with something. For us bereaved, it is nothing funny. However, I will admit he did indeed get away with something. He got to go home without the devastation of knowing what it was like to lose a child.
This being said, listening to the interview brought me back to the larger issue at hand: the taboo nature of our loss. The way our losses are handled and treated by other people in our lives. The huge disconnect that occurs in doing so. While being interviewed by Stern, Eckhart said that he being so engrossed in the experience that “you really believe that you just lost a child.” Method acting aside, this is where I really disagree with Eckhart. Unless you have experienced this horrendous loss yourself, you have no idea. Period.
It is possible Eckhart thought that by lying he was taking the easier route. Maybe he felt he would have been unwelcomed otherwise. I, for one, would have preferred an honest approach. What a lot of people don’t understand is that we love talking about our children. We often like to share our story with others. It is very therapeutic. It is a way to keep our children’s memory alive. Would someone who hasn’t lost a child ever fully understand? Never. But, they might gain some helpful tips on how to help a friend or family member who has suffered a loss. For us, it is also always helpful to gain some perspective from an outsider as well. Or perhaps a new sense of compassion and respect for a community that has been overlooked for way too long.
This is a reader submission.
(Image: getty images)