A course in which I was enrolled, Death and Dying in Cross-Cultural Perspectives, was the inspiration for this project. I developed insight and understanding, intellectually and emotionally, of the concepts and complications surrounding different types of loss and death. I made the connection that my father was suffering from what is deemed social death, meaning that though he was physically alive, he was dead socially and spiritually. Therefore, his role as my father had died also. This finally gave me a mature understanding as to why I had always envisioned my father as dead. He was living in an institution and no one outside our family seemed to care. Social death is common to many people who are institutionalized, such as people in nursing homes, mental institutions or prisons. I came to understand that I had experienced symbolic loss, and moved through the feelings of abandonment and grief, although my father was still alive.
Personal and Universal Connections
Although I initially made this film for my own benefit, I now realize that not only did this exploration of these myriad issues help me to label my own feelings and experiences, it also helped my mother and sister in their re-examination of some of these same issues. Beyond that, I realized the need to expose these family secrets so that my son and I could break a cycle, learn from the past, and not repeat the dysfunction. Removing myself from dysfunctional family dynamics has been an issue for me since my fathers alcoholism progressed into chronic self-destruction. My family began to confront the issues surrounding alcoholism, and my mother examined her role as a co-dependent.
A significant portion of our society must face similar issues due to the prevalence of alcoholism. Losing Tom is very powerful tool in helping others who are alcoholics, or their family members, in re-examining their own lives and actions and how alcohol affects everyone around them.