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About the Film

Alcoholism

Memory

Death and Dying

Family History

Dialogue

Conclusion


Copyright © 2000 Trish Williams

Film Overview

The film Losing Tom is a documentary about the life of my father Tom Williams. My father was a very successful and capable man for the first 50 years of his life. He then experienced a severe downward spiral resulting from an illness diagnosed as advanced alcoholism. Around age 57, my father stopped functioning in society. He became homeless, committed crimes, spent time in jail, and incurred physical brain damage from alcoholism. Eventually he could no longer care for himself and was institutionalized in a Veterans’ hospital. Over the year, he was not able to recognize members of his family and was mentally confused. I had personally experienced him as dead for the last decade of his life, since the specificity of my father’s characteristics no longer existed. He was merely a body, without a mind. Although he was still physically functional for quite some time, he was mentally and emotionally absent.

Losing Tom is about the human condition. It is a film that is multi-layered and grapples with issues of addiction and it’s effects on family systems, the pain and suffering that accompanies alcoholism, death and dying, loss, grief, and family secrets. Cultural values of our society regarding the social stigma surrounding alcoholism and social death were issues that brought conflict for my family between our emotional experiences and the cultural expectations and lack of s


Losing Tom
is about the human condition. It is a film that is multi-layered and grapples with issues of addiction and it’s effects on family systems, the pain and suffering that accompanies alcoholism, death and dying, loss, grief, and family secrets.
upport. Making this film was a very cathartic experience that helped me process my father’s futile struggle with alcoholism and his various stages of decline culminating in his death. As the title suggests, it is not about his final death so much as it is about the long process we went through losing him on many different levels over such a long period of time. The film explores both psychological and social concerns regarding alcoholism and disenfranchised grieving—loss we experienced, but which was not acknowledged by society. Although the film tells of my father’s life, it is very much a film about my family. Through my own monologue, and interviews with my mother, sister and a couple who knew my father for 40 years, the film explores how his family and friends experience his addiction and ultimately his death—some with anger and bitterness, some with sadness, some with acceptance, but all with mixed feelings.

This story is my journey about living with my father’s alcoholism, with shared experiences of family and friends — facing losses, finding strength, and overcoming tragedy. It is also a film about my father’s loss of his father from suicide, and how poorly his family dealt with their loss. It is about my reaction to how my father’s family created and supported “family amnesia” and how it became psychologically unhealthy. This film is about families and how toxicity is passed on generationally.

By choosing the medium of film to explore my family issues surrounding my father’s struggle with alcoholism, I am exposing issues of family secrets. The creative process of making this film continues my journey through grief and helped me to gain some further understanding of this situation. I know this project has been constructive because I sense that this film has opened a family dialogue and strengthened our family. I also want my son to know about his grandfather and great grandfather. This was something I was denied, since his family’s amnesia created a void, submerging my father’s thoughts about his father’s death. My father never spoke of his father, and I never saw photographs of my grandfather. I will always feel a void about this part of my family history, because I will never truly know my grandfather, and I will never know my father’s feelings and thoughts (good and bad) about his own father. Therefore, a significant part of my father’s life and feelings were unknown to my entire family. I experienced a kind of parallel memory crisis similar to family members of genocide victims who search for their missing family history and memories.

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