Pixar’s Up: A Nurse’s Perspective

By Alex Coleman

We are continuing BYU Nursing’s Movie of the Week campaign with the movie Up! It follows the story of a man named Carl. Right off the bat, the movie takes us on an emotional roller-coaster; in the course of a three-minute song, Carl meets a spunky, buck-toothed young girl named Ellie with a knack for adventure. They grow up, fall in love, and get married. Soon after, they realize that she will never be able to have children. The pain and then the beauty of humanity is revealed, poignant especially for healthcare workers, as we watch Ellie and Carl process the grief of infertility together and learn to thrive with that reality. For our nurses who must observe the emotional trauma that can accompany healthcare challenges up close, the sweetness of this process is readily comforting.

The movie continues with all the tenderness of a happy couple growing old together. When Ellie passes on, Carl must learn how to deal with the heartache of losing a loved one alone. The underlying plot of the remainder of the movie is watching Carl’s grief unfold and eventually heal, again demonstrating the wonder of the elasticity of the human spirit.

photo courtesy of IMDb, Up (2009)

Deborah Lynch, a nurse at Intermountain Healthcare’s Medical Center in St. George, UT, talks about her experience helping patients process the grief of losing a loved one. “Not only do we care for a patient’s physical ailments, we definitely need to help our patients and their families through the emotional turmoil,” Debbie says. “We understand the depths of our patient’s pain, what recovery looks like, what physical therapy looks like.” Because nurses are familiar with those concepts and the reality of man’s mortality, they are placed in a unique position to be able to aid families in the transition to life without their loved ones.

Debbie also discussed her ability to empathize with her patient’s grief due to her experience losing some of her own family members. “I’ve had grandparents pass,” she confesses, “so I’ve gone through the grief of losing loved ones both as a family member and as a nurse. I’ve experienced grief and had to learn to anticipate outcome. I’ve had to learn how to say goodbye and let go, both in my own life and as a nurse.” Even though Debbie has personal experience with loved ones passing, she finds that the passing of patients and helping the families process their death can be a heavy experience at times. She finds that especially in those hard times she finds peace in her own religious faith.

courtesy of BYU photos

Though often without recognition, nurses play a vital part in helping patients as they pass from this life. They help promote patient dignity, as well as providing symptom relief, comfort and emotional support as needed. In addition, nurses are put in a unique position to help lend that same emotional support to those left behind when a loved one passes on. They can answer questions, prepare the family for what to expect, and be a conduit to connect the families to other systems that can support them after they leave the hospital. The movie Up allows viewers the opportunity to observe the stages of grief as Carl processes and learns to live with the reality of Ellie’s death. It helps viewers to empathize with the pain of loss and learn to recognize the humanity in everyone, no matter how crotchety they may seem when you first offer to help them cross the street (if you’ve seen the movie, you’ll know!).

photo courtesy of IMDb, Up (2009)

Published by BYU Nursing

Guided by the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we exemplify the Healer’s art by: leading with faith and integrity; advancing the science of nursing and healthcare; promoting health and wellness; alleviating suffering; and serving individuals, families, and communities. The mission of the College of Nursing at Brigham Young University is to learn the Healer’s art and go forth to serve.

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