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Super Heroines & Super Grievers: What Happens When We Take Shortcuts

Wonder Woman possessed superhuman strength, the Lasso of Truth, bullet-busting bracelets and an invisible plane, but she was powerless over death.

Spoiler alert ahead: Despite her remarkable powers, she couldn’t bring her true love back from the dead. But oh boy, at the beginning of the latest movie, she certainly wished she could.

Photo by Keenan Constance

The story portrayed in Wonder Woman 1984 released last month to movie goers is fictional, of course, but anyone who has lost a loved one can understand her plight.

It’s instinctive, almost like if we wished hard enough, we could bring them back. We play with the “what ifs,” as though we could time travel. We’d fix the events to avoid our parent’s death.

Or our father’s. Husband’s. Brother’s. Sister’s. Our grandmother’s.

Grief Gone

Wonder Woman got her wish with an assist from an ancient object. She reveled in the return of Steve Trevor, who’d died in the 2017 Wonder Woman movie that featured actress Gal Gadot.

That grief she’d been holding onto for decades – gone. She didn’t look back, until she discovered the power that granted her wish wanted something precious from her in return.

That’s when we begin to understand the why of the movie’s scene on Paradise Island. It shows us Wonder Woman as a girl competing on horseback in a contest of skill and speed. Full of herself at taking the lead, she looks back at the other competitors. And then falls from her horse.

She regains the lead by skipping the course and taking a trail. She’s denied her win, however, and then lectured about lies and truth.

“You took the short path,” her Amazonian Aunt Antiope says, “… you cheated, Diana.”

Have you ever tried to take a shortcut with grief?

Photo by William Daigneault

Maybe you’ve pushed reality from your mind. You refuse to cry or dwell on the death. Or maybe you’ve locked away any physical reminder of your loved one’s absence. Put their clothes and precious belongings in storage. Or maybe you’ve plunged yourself into work or pleasure to distract your sorrow. Or perhaps pitched yourself into drinking or sex or drugs.

The power you wield will want something precious in return.

Incomplete Grief

What is sometimes called incomplete grief will take a toll on the mind and the body. Disordered sleeping. Depression. Anxiety.

Psychology Today published an article by licensed clinical social worker Robert Taibbi in 2017 that listed irritability, anger and lashing out among self-harming and high-risk behaviors as evidence of incomplete grief.

Bottom line: What’s inside is going to find a way out.

So, what did Wonder Woman do?

Photo by Keenan Constance

In a few words, she faced reality. She embraced the truth. She told Steve Trevor goodbye. He disappeared, and then Wonder Woman walked off to save the world.

“This world was a beautiful place just as it was,” she said. “You cannot have it all.”

Please note, I’m not advocating a quick solution to grief.

If Only She Was Alive

I remember the ache of wishing so hard for my mother to be alive that it felt like I could indeed wish her back. I wished it for years.

I wanted the shortcut so badly, but it was out of my reach. If only I could have wished her back, my grief would have ended. My world would have been right again. That’s what I believed.

After more than a decade without her, however, I’ve set my sights on seeing her in heaven. I continue to grieve but with a shift in perspective. I wrote about the process at https://tonilepeska.wordpress.com/2019/07/16/a-decade-with-grief-eight-behaviors-that-transformed-pain-into-peace/.

What if I had not faced my grief head-on? What if I had refused to believe this world still offered beauty? I would have missed so much.

We may not be as physically strong as the fictional Wonder Woman or as well-equipped, but we are all capable of her noble spirit.

With God’s help, we can all be Wonder Woman in the valley of the shadow of death. We can walk the course with grief, and when we do, we will find a sense of healing along the way.

We find beauty. Joy. And yes, wonder.

What form did your shortcut take? What is one step you will take today to get back on the path to healing?

Copyright © 2021 by Toni Lepeska. All rights reserved. http://www.tonilepeska.com

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