Review: Esther Rantzen: Living with Grief was a poignant meditation on the subject we all avoid talking about

My wife’s clothes still hang in her wardrobe. Nothing unusual in that, you might think, except that she died more than three years ago and I have barely looked at them since, despite a door hanging off my wardrobe, causing my clothes to spill out of it.
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I’m not alone in this, as Esther Rantzen: Living With Grief (Channel 5, Thurs, 10pm) revealed. Death is all around us, at the moment, with the Covid-19 pandemic claiming more than 100,000 lives in the UK alone, yet we don’t talk about those final moments, which all of us will face, nor do we talk about the griefof those left behind.

Esther’s husband, the TV documentarian Desmond Wilcox, died 20 years ago, and since then she has got on with living, rather than grieving.

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However, these strange times have provoked Esther to wonder if her reaction to the profound loss of her husband was unusual – or even wrong in some way – and whether her refusal to confront certain things, such as an outbuilding full of Desmond’s notes and papers, and videotapes of family occasions, have held her back.

Esther Rantzen presented a poignant documentary about grief and lossEsther Rantzen presented a poignant documentary about grief and loss
Esther Rantzen presented a poignant documentary about grief and loss

Talking to others who have lost loved ones – wives, partners, children, parents – Esther constructed a poignant, gentle, contemplative meditation on grief and loss.

The interviews were sad, of course, but you got the sense that they were just as much a way of remembering, that speaking the names of those loved ones means they are not lost, that those memories are not, as Esther says, a ‘fairy tale’.

“You never lose the pain,” Esther says, “but it gets this wonderful context of a celebration.” And that’s what Living With Grief became, a celebration of those we have lost, and those who find the strength to remember them.

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Wartime Britain (Channel 5, Weds/Thurs, 9pm) was a sop to those who say we need the spirit of the Blitz to get through Covid. It was nothing Back In Time For Dinner hasn’t already done, several times.

Behind Her Eyes (Netflix, streaming now) is a pretty bland – or possibly pretty, bland – thriller which carries echoes of those 1980s direct-to-video efforts with titles like Fatal Seduction. Avoid.

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