Lucy DeVito and Alysia Reiner in the movie
James Naughton and Alysia Reiner
Speed Grieving
Feel Your Feelings

A Must See Movie at
The Hamptons International Film Festival

Movie Review and Interview
Every day we hear of someone in the news who has passed away. It could be someone who’s a celebrity or just an average citizen that had a tragic death. We comment how sad it is and move on. We do this because we don’t really know these people and it’s just not close enough to us. But when someone very close to us dies like a family member or good friend, we have a different reaction. Each person is affected in their own way.  We wonder who to go to talk about how we’re feeling and what we’re going through because grief and dying have always been subjects that aren’t widely discussed in our culture. It’s avoided when it can be and then we’re left feeling alone and hopeless.

Alysia Reiner, the actress and producer of the movie short “Speed Grieving”, lost her father when he was in his early fifties. To lose her father at such a young age was devastating but then to lose him so quickly within ten days of finding out he had cancer, sent an even stronger shockwave to her soul. Through what happened following his death led her to the idea of making this movie because the issue of death and grief should be talked about and dealt with.
I had the opportunity to talk with Alysia about the movie and was excited about this because like her, I feel this subject is not addressed enough in our culture as it is in others. She found out that her father had cancer and ten days later he died. She told me that the quickness of it all gave her no time to process what was happening. I really understood first hand what she was talking about. When I was sixteen, my mother had to take my father to the emergency room because he wasn’t feeling right and wasn’t sure if he was having a heart attack. The next day my mom said he was doing great and they wanted to keep him for observation. Later that evening, my mom called me at home to tell me that my father had gone into cardiac arrest and they were working on him. This was his second heart attack in ten years and the outcome wasn’t looking good as forty percent in total of his heart was damaged which is fatal. The helplessness I felt was overwhelming. I wanted to stop the clock and start bargaining with God to save him. I knew there was nothing I could do, so I gathered my sisters together and
Alysia Reiner
in "Speed Grieving"
we started to pray for our father and for strength for all of us to get through this. Alysia and I spoke about our experiences with our fathers and what we felt at the time. You really don’t have time to prepare mentally or emotionally and you can’t process it fast enough. It’s not really happening yet it’s happening too fast. Things that seemed so important become petty. Who do you go to for advice and help?

Alysia shared with me that her original idea for this film came to her in a dream with specific ideas of what to talk about. I don’t know about you but when she told me that, I was wondering if she realized that it was divine intervention at its finest that was happening. When something bad or dreadful happens to someone and they turn it around into a positive that will help other people, I believe this was in part the purpose of why they had to experience that situation. I believe that her experience had the purpose to make this film. You cannot understand what it’s like to lose your parent unless you have. The feelings and emotions you go through are unimaginable to someone who hasn’t lost either parent yet. I know that I could never imagine losing either of my parents until it happened. When you lose someone like that, it’s amazing who you can count on. “Sometimes people who you expect to be there aren’t and then strangers who you don’t expect to be there, are there”, Alysia told me and I emphatically agreed. When the chips are down it’s surprising who is there for you.  Another thing that she touched on was that as a society, “America is youth based and afraid to talk about death.” She noted that the more we can talk about this subject, the less alone people will feel and how great it is to have a friend who will reach out to you. When funeral arrangements are being made and family and friends attend the services, you feel that support system. But the real challenge is after all of that is gone and you try to get on with your daily life while at the same time trying to deal with your loss. Who’s there then? That’s the time you really need someone and need the support and that’s when it matters who is there.
James Naughton and Alysia Reiner
I am thrilled that this film was made because it’s not just a film that will be watched and then forgotten about. Alysia told me that they plan on using this film at hospitals, hospices and showing it to caretakers. They also plan to work with grief counselors and use this as kind of a discussion guide. This is phenomenal because when they started to go forward with making this film, Alysia couldn’t believe the outpouring of people who wanted to get on board and did come on board to help in making this film in honor of someone they love. So many things were donated from a person’s time to the chocolates that the crew enjoyed during their long hours of work.

Our world is changing in regards to spirituality and death. There are many shows on television that deal with death as the next step and not as the end. More and more people are coming forward to talk about their experiences and are more
open with their feelings. Both of my parents have passed and that was hard. But last December I had a very close friend who died that is the same age as me. That was a whole other situation as my mortality hit me right in the face. I could not imagine not being here right now. I was shocked but I wanted to be there for everything. The first night of the wake, there were so many people there and so many people I had not seen in a long time. My friends know how spiritual I am and that I talk about death and moving on like it’s nothing. There were people there who are the same way that I am and there were also people there who just don’t like to talk about it at all. Those were the people who were just outside the room and talking about what was going on with their lives or anything else but what was happening. Keeping what you’re feeling inside just brews and then one day you have a break down and you don’t know why. I was glad to see so many people inside the room talking about my friend Jeff and memories they had with him. Talking about it is a release and you’re sharing it with others who are going through the same thing as you are. If you have ever noticed that the people who talk about it move on in a better way or faster way than the others. Then when the others are ready to talk, it’s awkward because you have moved on from that stage.

People try to keep themselves busy so they don’t have to deal with the person who has just been taken from their lives. They try to speed through it which is why the title to this movie is so accurate, Speed Grieving. People need to confront their feelings as they’re happening. They need to really feel. That is what makes us human. I was sixteen when my father died and the first time I saw him lying there in the casket, I lost it. It was like the waterworks were turned on full force and they didn’t stop. My mom was so great because she just hugged me as we walked up to casket. She didn’t say a word because she knew I had to just get it out. My aunt on the other hand, ran over to us and wanted to take me to go sit down. It was like she was pulling me away from my dad. Then the words you don’t want to hear came out of her mouth,” It’s ok, come on let’s go sit down. Ok just calm down.” What? Are you serious? I just pulled away and said,”No! Leave me alone!” As much as I couldn’t take seeing him lying there, I had to. I had to because I needed it to sink in. I needed to feel the devastation and the reality that this was it, he wasn’t coming home and no matter that he looked like he was sleeping, he was not going to wake up.

I remember asking my dad one time what kind of funeral he wanted and he told me. He didn’t tell my mother or anyone else so when we sat with the funeral director to make arrangements and the question was posed as to what kind of funeral to give him, my mom was at a loss for words. I looked around the room waiting for someone to say something and when no one did, I sort of started laughing and then all eyes went on me like I was crazy or something. I apologized and then said,”I’m so sorry I don’t mean to laugh but my dad is funny”. They all still stared at me. “I know what he wanted but I don’t feel right doing this”, I said. Then I went on to tell them that he told me that when he died, he wanted us to cry on the way to the funeral and get it all out. Then after he wanted us to celebrate and have a big party for him. He wanted us to have the party to celebrate the fact that he was going to a better place that was far better than any place on
The grieving also can come years later when you least expect it. I had shared with Alysia that about five years after my dad passed, I was watching the news and they were showing shoppers who were shopping for their dads for Father’s Day and out of nowhere I started crying. I guess it hit me all over again that I couldn’t go shopping for him and I wondered how many people took their dads for granted. Alysia knew where I was coming from with all the mixed emotions because with the loss of her father, she had all these feelings happening at once. It’s such a rollercoaster ride that she was on. One minute you could laugh about a memory you’re having and then the next minute you’re crying because you miss that person. We talked about how there are constant reminders around us all the time and there’s no rhyme or reason to things when it comes to death and losing someone
who’s so dear to you. There’s no medical research that can say this is how we’ll feel or this is how you will get through it. Though the death of her father was the saddest event that could happen, the happiest event took place when she gave birth to her daughter. Imagine dealing with the grief of losing your father and at the same time having such joyous feelings about your baby girl. One thing I really admire about Alysia is that this film is part of her grieving process. And to share this with the world is a gift that she is giving to everyone. When you go to see a movie, you always talk about it afterwards. The same applies here when you see this film. It will get people talking about their experiences and sharing with each other. “The main goal of this film is for people to feel free to feel all of their feelings” she told me because the process never ends.

She has done such a wonderful thing by making this film and sharing with everyone. When the day comes when you are confronted with a loss like this, I hope you will see this film. Even if you have not had to deal with a loss in your life yet, you should see this film. Everyone should see this film because it will help in so many ways. I hope that when people are attending the various film festivals that this movie will be shown at, that they will go see this. Death is not an end; it’s a transformation of our journey. Your human life on Earth will come to an end but your soul will go on to the next chapter. As a matter of fact, I’m finding that at the funerals I have attended in the past few years, people are actually smiling because instead of looking at death as a negative they are celebrating that person’s life. I think that is such a wonderful thing because their life should be celebrated through shared memories and speeches where people say good things about that person.
Earth. He said that he would be the one crying for us because we were stuck here and he got to check out. The room was quiet and there I was still kind of laughing at my dad’s views on life. Then it hit me that he was right and then I started to cry. Yes, that rollercoaster of feelings was happening again. So you see, it is so important for us to talk about this subject more because it is a release and a sense of healing for our own soul.

Talk more, share more and don’t look at death like it’s something that’s taboo. Youth is a state of mind and the fact is that we don’t remain young forever so enjoy your journey here for as long as you can. Take it all in. Feel the feelings that you’re supposed to feel because after all, you are human and one of the joys of being human is to feel both the good and the bad. Be free with who you are and don’t listen to what people say when they tell you to calm down. Cry your eyes out and feel the hurt because you can’t avoid it so you might as well deal with it. And always remember that there is no speedy process when it comes to grieving. Thank you Alysia for making this film and for sharing it with everyone.

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