Tonight I saw Wild, starring Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern.
Everyone processes grief differently: some hide and retreat for the privacy; others weep every day until their tears run dry. Cheryl Strayed (Witherspoon) coped with the loss of her young mother (Dern) by having extramarital affairs and shooting heroin.
When those recreations weren't satisfying her anymore, she divorced her husband and hiked the Pacific Crest Trail from California to Oregon—completely alone. She wrote a book about her journey, which is what this film is based upon.
Of course, because she wasn't a nature enthusiast or even regular hiker, Strayed wasn't truly prepared for what was in store. She read guidebooks and bought fancy supplies at REI, but when she got to the trail, her bag was too heavy, she didn't know how to pitch a tent or use her stove properly and her shoes didn't fit. Admirably (or stupidly, depending on how you look at it), she pressed on.
She encountered everything from foxes to snakes along the trail, and with the exception of one pair of creepy men, several human beings who were nothing but kind. Watching this just may restore your confidence in humanity.
Witherspoon does a stellar job of making Strayed's pain seem authentic and her mistakes almost necessary. What judgmental folks who scoff at the path she took will overlook is that at the heart of everything, she was searching for an experience to expel the grief that she couldn't let go of in any normal scenario.
I've never lost a parent, but I have lost love in life and it took me years to recover from it because I wasn't able to completely lose myself in that grief and step outside myself to process it.
Strayed gave herself a great gift by completing her trip and she gave us a great gift by sharing that journey. More than a story of pain, it's a meditation on healing.
We could all learn a thing or two from her courage.