WandaVision and The Grief of Persevering Love
Updated: Mar 19, 2021
In one of the more meme-able Marvel movie moments in recent history, Wanda storms towards Thanos in a ferocious rage declaring “You took everything from me.” For me, I don’t think that truly hit home until I now sit on the other side of watching all of WandaVision. There was a LOT going on in the Infinity War/Endgame era of Marvel, and if I’m honest, the loss of Vision and the impact on Wanda didn’t truly register high on the things that impacted me. There was a really high body count with half of existence ceasing to exist with the snap, in that Vision’s loss honestly was overshadowed for me. There were so many other amazing things that happened across those films like, “On Your Left” or “I’m Still Worthy” or “I Am Iron Man” that their arc just didn’t register high on the things that affected me. Honestly, they probably ranked just below Ant-Man's tacos in my calloused heart.
WandaVision changed that. I remember watching the social media reaction on the first two episodes, as people in my bubble were confused and frustrated at the tone and pace. One post literally said “What was Marvel thinking? Who is this for? Who would watch this?” Then by the time episode 4 hit, all nay saying dropped. As the show progressed to not only entertain and amaze, it also got much deeper and more poignant in terms of the serious subject matter of loss and grief. It went from a corny sitcom to some of the most honest discussion of depression and suffering we’ve seen in mainstream pop culture, and especially in the world of Superheroes. Tom King’s book “Heroes in Crisis,” made some bold swings at this style and depth of storytelling in the terms of recent comics, but Tom King also is part of the inspiration for WandaVison in the first place with his book “Vision.” The reality is though, more people are going to watch a show on Disney Plus than read comics, especially when it’s done well.
WandaVison takes us to a small town where, after being manipulated, Wanda’s grief erupts through her power to the point that she reshapes an entire town and its inhabitants to a world of her making where Vision is once again reunited with her, and the pain of her reality is distant from her acknowledged perceptions. She did what many of us wish we could do, completely isolate ourselves from our problems and pain, while pretending everything is fine. Even as Monica stated in the finale, “Given the chance, and given your power,” if we all possessed the ability Wanda has, then we all possess the possibility that we would react to our grief and pain in powerful, reckless ways.
This series, as it should have, made me care much more about Wanda, and Vision as well. Wanda’s plight was absolutely understandable and I totally empathize, but as with all of our grief, hiding it or hiding from it rarely works, and eventually it all began to truly crumble. Granted, Wanda had an antagonistic witch forcibly trying to burst her bubble, but the result was still the same as our own prolonged efforts. When Agatha finally saw that Wanda was truly unraveling, she pounced. She captured Wanda’s children and held them hostage as she forcibly walked Wanda through some of the most painful formative moments of her life.
Wanda: I don’t wanna go back there.
Agatha: I know you don’t, but it’s good medicine, angel. The only way forward is back
While wicked and manipulative, Agatha had a solid point. Often the painful things in our past will continually affect our future. Examining and dealing with them can be a huge step in actually living beyond the grief that aches over and over us. Our grief even impacts others when not dealt with properly, as Sharon painfully declared to Wanda “Your grief is poisoning us.”
When talking about communion, Paul shares that examining where we are and where we’ve been helps us avoid consequences we don’t actually desire.
“If we were properly evaluating ourselves, we would not come under such judgement.” 1 Corinthians 11:31
Jesus even stated that when you realize you have unresolved issues with others, that you need to drop what you are doing, even worshiping, and go get it resolved.
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” - Matthew 5:23-24
Sometimes we repress out trauma and legit don’t know we are holding on to things, but once we are aware of it, we need to be willing to pursue it. Sometimes though it takes outside forces to truly help you see what it is you are holding inside. That could mean a greedy manipulative witch, or more productive avenues like therapy and counseling. But also, don’t discount the fact that God can actively help you see and deal with the things that loom over you. David in the Bible had serious emotional and mental struggles. Depression, anxiety, fear, issues of self-control and self-destruction, but he made it through all of it, and his willingness to not only acknowledge his struggles but to reach out to God for help and correction in identifying and dealing with those struggles played a big factor not only in his success, but also in his survival.
“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” - Psalm 139:23-24
Here’s the thing though, when we examine ourselves, our pain, our grief, our trauma, it’s not always a simple diagnosis or prayer and things are automatically fixed. It’s a process, and sometimes that process is painful and ugly. Sometimes the pain we are in is something we can’t escape from, but rather we have to fully acknowledge and work our way through it. As Wanda told Vision in her Agatha induced recollection;
Wanda: It’s just like this wave washing over me, again. It knocks me down, and when I try to stand up, it just comes for me again. It’s just gonna drown me.
Vision: No. No, it won't.
Wanda: Yeah. How do you know?
Vision: Well, because it can't all be sorrow, can it?
A simple reminder for us that though the pain is absolutely real, though the trauma is absolutely true, there is still hope and life waiting beyond it. One of the most encouraging verse in scripture for me is in Revelation 21:4 as it describes the death of depression and heartache. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:4
We want to arrive in a place like that, and Wanda literally tried to create a place like that for herself, but it’s honestly not a destination or state we can just jump to or bypass the journey of. We need to let that be a source of hope, but not at the expense of actually dealing with what is in front of us.
In a recent song on his solo project “7”, Judah (Also the lead singer of Judah and the Lion) and Lindsey Cook, sang these lyrics “Take me to my trials And teach me again My joy is waiting At the other side of them Take me to the waters With my enemies close behind And I'll be like Moses "Waters be opened wide"
'Cause maybe the point is not the getting over But the getting through 'Cause when I surrender All of my trust is fully in You Then the waters open and then close When I get to the other side And I'll look back at no bridge So my enemies can't follow behind”
We try so many things to get over our pain, grief, trauma, or hurting, when in reality, getting through them is going to be much better for us than simply avoiding the trouble our struggles present us with. I’m so grateful for this reality though, because sometimes, I'm the problem. I’m the source of grief or trouble that other people are dealing with, and I’m grateful they persevere through rather than abandoning me.
During Wanda and Vision’s conversation about grief, Vision makes what it is, in my opinion, the most profound statement in the series, and in reality, most of recent pop culture.
“What is grief, if not love persevering?”
I saw this quote on more Facebook quotes than anything else for days after that episode dropped, and the affect it had on people was vast and tangible. I think it gave many people a vocalization and validation of pain they felt but didn’t know how to properly address. For me the one thing it really hit home, is that it spoke a new layer to me into the story of Jesus. I don’t just mean in a generic Sunday school answer way, like it helped me better understand a moment and mentality of the gospel. Before the cross, Jesus was in agony. He knew it was coming. He knew He was facing physical death, spiritual isolation, and pain beyond imagination. His grief was real. His anguish was real. In Luke’s account, Jesus was even sweating blood it was so real. His holiness and spiritual connection to the Father did nothing to take away the sheer wave of hurt that washed over Him.
“32 They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. 34 “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”
35 Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 36 “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
37 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Couldn’t you keep watch for one hour? 38 Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
39 Once more he went away and prayed the same thing.” - Mark 14
Jesus was faced with grief I shudder to imagine, but because of His love for His Father, and for us, He persevered. His grief, literally was love persevering. He submitted and worked through the painful process of what laid in front of Him so that we could stand in life and freedom on the other side of His pain. His soul was overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death, He was sweating blood, He was begging God to find another way, yet He persevered. That grief was love.
For some of us, our persevering through our grief isn’t likely to produce world changing events like Wanda or Jesus, but it will dramatically impact the people who love us now, and the people who will love us in the future, along with all the people we will impact in between. We all deal with grief differently, and it’s alright to not be ok, but be careful not to live in a place where you aren’t allowing yourself a way to grow or heal.
My friend Danny J Quick, who created/writes the comic book series “Aceblade,” brilliantly went through to point out how clearly the show displays that Wanda walked through the 5 stages of grief throughout the series.
Denial in the first two black and white episodes as she ignores any acknowledgement or reality of what is actually hurting her.
Anger in the Brady Bunch episode as she hurled Monica through several walls and out of her hexagonal bubble for reminding her of the truth.
Depression in the Office/Modern Family episode as she could clearly see that things were falling apart and she couldn’t fix them.
Bargaining in the finale as she battled with the reality of what her actions had put others through, the fake peace she was offering them, and her attempts to grasp at holding on to her character/integrity/soul vs her family.
And acceptance as she finally was willing to drop her control, her façade, and sacrifice what she loved for the greater good.
I greatly appreciated this perspective from Danny and it really helped me value the show even more, when it’s laid out for us like this, it’s easier to see, but for ourselves, we usually don’t get the luxury of having our lives in well-crafted sequential episodes, so please, take care of yourself.
In Wanda and Agatha’s climactic battle, Agatha jabs at Wanda;
Agatha: This world you made will always be broken, just like... you.
That’s the reality, if we ignore our pain, trauma, grief, and depression, whatever false reality we build for ourselves will never allow us to actually heal.
Be open to taking healthy steps to deal with your grief and trauma. Examine your heart and actions. Reach out to people you can trust who can listen and encourage you, even if they can’t fix anything. Seek professional help. Pray. Seek to get through, not just over.
Persevere through your grief and take hope that it can’t all be sorrow, it’s not that kind of show.