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Love, Loss, Longing: A TV Show Which Throws New Light On The Pandemic

Station Eleven might be the only pandemic-related TV show which portrays loss with such sincerity—a narrative of unspoken grief

Love, Loss, Longing: A TV Show Which Throws New Light On The Pandemic
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To be loved is a calamity. Love will try to see the words before it’s finished.

— Miranda Carroll, Station Eleven

Station Eleven (2021) might be the only pandemic-related TV show which portrays loss with such sincerity that at certain moments it is almost impossible to watch because it is so real—it weaves a narrative of the unspoken grief we experienced during the pandemic but were too scared to share with our loved ones, for we lacked the language to communicate it. Watching this show at the end of 2021 made me feel too many things at the same time.

The show made me realise a very pivotal thing about the pandemic, that it started without a starting. The beginning of the pandemic felt like the second act of a very philosophically amb­iguous play where I was neither an actor nor the spectator. I felt like I was the feeling of doom its­elf which was gradually succumbing the whole world into a place of incomprehensible grief. And like everyone else, I was afraid of losing this one thing which was most precious to me...love. There was something about the fear I was feeling within my nerves, for it was different from what I feel when I am anxious. Usually, I can sense or assume the ‘worst’ for myself, but this time, I was blank and it was one of the scariest feelings in the world because, in that moment, I unconsciously knew that love won’t be enough to save me from the uncertainty that was about to dawn upon my life in the form of this apocalypse which was going to change how I feel about love forever!

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Photograph by Tribhuvan Tiwari

Survival is insufficient

The world was not a ‘world’ to me anymore as soon as I was locked inside my own home. It was not the physical entrapment which bothered me (at least, initially), it was the emotional ambiguity that was exponentially transmuting itself into a feeling of loss that I hadn’t experienced yet in that moment. I was trying to hold on to my loved ones as desperately as possible, and I made sure that no matter what, I would not give in to the horrors of loneliness and try to find my way through all kinds of hardships.

But it was too late to have hope as a coping mechanism. I was not only scared of being alone, but I was also scared of dying alone, and as I was trying to encapsulate and preserve the sanctity of my interpersonal relationships, I forgot that I was doing all this ‘out of fear’. I told myself to believe that things would eventually get better. It was in that very second, I lost control over my life and the very feeling of love which kept me alive till that moment. Thus, the beginning of the apocalypse felt like an ending, where all of us were the victims of our own circumstances and no one knew ‘how to love’ anymore. Suddenly, the whole language of love changed, because how we saw and felt the world also changed. Love was not a four-letter word to me anymore that I could say while feeling solace in my heart, it was an unresolved burden that I couldn’t share because other people were also feeling the same in their own subjective ways.

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Hell is the absence of people you long for

For the first time, our generation collectively exp­erienced love in the form of loss, and Station Eleven focuses on this very particular experience and attempts to show this side of our hum­anity which we are still trying to understand while processing the trauma that pandemic had caused to our psyche. I saw people losing their loved ones to the unfair logic of the apocalypse, and one day I lost someone close to me. The abs­ence of our loved ones became the only way to emb­race their lost presence in our hearts in the form of their memories. I was left with nothing but grief and I had no idea where to take it. I was lost and, to be honest, I wanted to remain lost for a while because it was too hard for me to find any meaning in the world. While watching the characters of Station Eleven dealing with their grief, I was able to see why I wanted to remain lost for a while, it was because ‘lost’ was not a feeling to me anymore, it was a place.

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What I mean to say is, the more you remember, the more you’ve lost

The meaning of loss and love completely changed for me when I started losing people I loved during the pandemic. I thought I would be able to preserve them inside the intangible paradigm of their memories. But with each passing day, it was beco­ming more and more ambiguous. The more I tried to remember them, the more distant I felt from their absence. There comes a point in Station Eleven, where you’re bound to realise a very strange thing about grief: that when you lose someone, you’re not holding on to them anymore, you’re holding on to your own pain. It’s the only thing that makes your loved one’s absence real and that’s what we are so scared of losing...our pain. Pain gives meaning to grief. What is grief if not the pain that we intentionally never process.

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I remember damage. And escape. Then adrift in a stranger’s galaxy for a long time. But I’m safe now. I found it again. My home.

Watching Station Eleven  is like revisiting your own grave. It’s a show which acknowledges that a particular part of our personhood permanently died during the pandemic. We cannot be ourselves anymore. That’s what an apocalypse does to hum­anity, it destroys our sense of self so that we can reflect upon the different lives we lived ever-so-ign­orantly. I understood the meaning of belongingness when I was completely alone. I realised the significance of love when I couldn’t do it transparently. I saw the meaning of language in my inability to communicate my grief. All I could remember was the damage instead of the person whose loss I was grieving. And as I travelled through this spectrum of contradictory realisations, I was finally able to embrace my solitude watching Station Eleven. I found home, or maybe a sense of home, in the fictional world.

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The beauty of this world where almost everyone was gone. If hell is other people, what is a world with almost no people in it?

I feel the essence of Station Eleven is also the ess­ence of our collective experience of love, loss and grief in the last two years and even if the apocalypse hasn’t ended yet, but after watching this show, I am willing to confront my emotional reality and move forward in life in search of new forms of love and solitude. It would take time for me to find myself again, but I still have some love left within my grieving heart. I know I will find a way, if not closure, to move past this apocalypse and it can only happen when I will learn to share my solitude with other people, for there is no room for loneliness in an apocalyptic world. With time, we have to learn to be alone together. My time on Earth is as brief as my ability to love and I don’t know what lies ahead or beyond death, but I want to make sure that I live through all my hardships with the truth and not hope because it’s like what Arthur said in Station Eleven at one point, “I don’t want to live the wrong life and then die.”   

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(Views expressed are personal)

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Siddharth Rawal is a writer and an editor in a film archive

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