What ‘Dead to Me’ Taught Me About Family.  By Daisy Foster

What ‘Dead to Me’ Taught Me About Family. By Daisy Foster

. 3 min read

The recent premiere of the series finale made me think—and feel—a lot about how friends become a part of our hearts.

Jen Harding’s husband has been hit by a car and no one knows who did it. As the 2019 debut season starts, we learn that salty, stubborn Jen (Christina Applegate) is attending a grief group. There she meets sun-shiny Judy Hale (Linda Cardellini) who seems to be determined to form a bond with Jen. It comes out that Judy was driving the car that killed Jen’s husband, while her fiancé Steve (James Marsden) discouraged them from stopping to help. Steve, who’s a pretty horrible guy, is eventually killed by Jen.

The second season continues the illicit—and so funny—hi jinx while you can’t help but hope they get away with murder.

At the beginning Season 3, we quickly learn that Judy (Cardellini) has terminal cervical cancer, and much of the season revolves astutely and profoundly around how to grapple with the impending death of a friend—even when the friend herself has accepted her terminal illness. All this while evading the police and FBI—and then some—keeping the comedy intact while yanking at our heartstrings.

The Season 3 premiere coincides with Applegate’s unveiling of her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame—as well as her diagnosis with Multiple Sclerosis. Clips of her powerful, emotional speech spread through social media as we all cheered for her and cried along. Walking with a cane, her struggle was in full view. We also see her incredible tenacity, sense of humor and resilience. In attendance at the ceremony was Linda Cardellini, as well as members of the Married… with Children cast, including Peggy Bundy actor Katey Sagal, a Dead to Me series regular.

We learn that Applegate was diagnosed with MS during the filming of the series finale and that filming was paused for five months. Applegate claims this will likely be her last acting role, and it’s impossible to watch the final series without bearing all this in mind. The friendship on screen and the act of letting go of someone you love has a deeper meaning. Jen and Judy’s friendship feels completely without artifice. It’s powerful to watch.

Dead to Me is a timeless reminder that we make our own families. Yes, yes—this is just a show. But the themes of love and forgiveness are far more transcendent. There are too many takeaways to list here, so I’ll choose some of my favorites, bearing in mind that this isn’t real and isn’t meant to be. The parallels to real life, though, are very real.

Firstly, they meet under the most random and unusual circumstances, and definitely at a low point for both women. Sure, Judy orchestrates the meeting, but the bond between them is deeply real. So often we try to force our friendships, invest our time, and wonder why it didn’t work out the way we thought it would. Things need to build naturally. Some friends really are meant to be in your life and you can’t bottle that magic. It’s a beautiful—albeit frustrating—reminder, especially for someone who’s working hard to make new friends in midlife, when it’s especially tough to do so. In the show, Jen really didn’t seem open to much at the beginning, but Judy is so open-hearted and hopeful (and very, very remorseful). The friendship happened in spite of itself. Sometimes that happens in real life, too.

In the show, their existing family is absent, either physically or emotionally, and the women have each other. The show is a constructed plot (and these women are bonded by incredibly serious circumstances) but they are resolved to be with each other no matter what. Yes, some friends come and go. But the ones that truly become family are the ones that stick around through thick and thin.

More than anything, and most importantly, a friend who is like family is heartbreaking to lose. But that’s the way with all great things in life, isn’t it? The heartbreak is part of the journey.

If you love me as much as I love you (and I really do love you!), then please help me grow by forwarding this {love} Letter to a friend!  And I'd love to have you join us on instagram, facebook & twitter.

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