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Tyler Perry's I Can Do Bad All By Myself: A Pastoral Care perspective on identifying Grief & Loss

Updated on May 29, 2012

Head and Heart

Processing Grief

The process of Grief is that of what that can be devastating and life-changing. We have come to experience grief as a necessary part of the circle of life during our existence on the Earth. Grief has many definitions and in the medical field, it is defined as, "The normal process of reacting to a loss. The loss may be physical (such as a death), social (such as divorce), or occupational (such as a job). Emotional reactions of grief can include anger, guilt, anxiety, sadness, and despair.

Physical reactions of grief can include sleeping problems, changes in appetite, physical problems, or illness." I decided to do something different and allow you to see how a typical pastoral care/chaplain's analysis of grief and loss in the Tyler Perry movie, I Can Do Bad All By Myself. Tyler Perry is known for his stories of pain and suffering within his community. Some have praised him for bringing him awareness to the issue and some have critiqued him for painting his own community's story in such a negative and one dimensional way. What I will do is examine the movie's characters and how they dealt with grief and loss.

In conjunction with this follow, I would recommend you to watch the movie, I Can Do Bad All By Myself, and I will also recommend some books that contain further study in the area of grief and loss and how one reacts to it. I hope you find your way back to your happy. This is not a replacement for therapy this is just a look into the Pastoral Care field and an analysis of the situation of the characters. 1.Identify at least three types of losses experienced by the characters in the movie “I Can Do Bad All by Myself.” Thoroughly explain the losses and elaborated on how the characters’ method of dealing with the losses were helpful or not helpful. Do not forget to write other variables inherit in the losses themselves. Three types of losses experienced by characters of the movie were: the systematic loss of April’s mother, April’s relationship loss with her mother, and Jennifer’s role loss. Mitchell and Anderson define a systematic loss as, the loss that occurs when an individual leaves the family and the whole system of the family must adapt to this loss.

The systematic loss of April’s mother forces the shift in the paradigm of their family. She was the proverbial glue that held that family together, she was their foundation or their rock. She was the one as April recounts to Sandino upon finding out about her death as a constant. She said that no matter what her sister did her mother was always there. After her sister dies of drug overdose her mother assumes the role of mother to the children fully.

She is even referred by the children as Mama Rose. Now they must adapt to a world without Mama Rose. Her death also brought on another type of inherit variable in this systematic loss, which was unanticipated loss and permanent loss. It was a sudden death that occurred. Also another inherit variable in that systematic loss was that the loss was permanent and gave Jennifer the sense that her world was ending.

She expresses this to Madea when she says that her aunt is going to send them to foster care and they will be separated. She expresses her dread of abandonment from her aunt. Jennifer’s fear of separation is fostered by her expression of being tired and not thinking she can make it. She tells Madea she is only sixteen and for her all she has known is taking care of her brothers and without that codependency she feels her life is ended. April deals with her grief through guilt, smoking, drinking, isolating herself, and pouring out her internal grief to Sandino.

Jennifer’s method of dealing with the grief is isolation, anger, and numbness. April’s: guilt, smoking, drinking, isolation as well as Jennifer’s: fear of abandonment, numbness, and anger are all harmful, because they push the individual away from relationship and further the separation. In order to effectively deal with grief one must seek to find another connection to fill that separation hole. They both find comfort in Sandino and Madea they are able to grieve in an environment where they were comforted through patience, compassion, and understanding from Sandino and Madea’s humor, care, and empowerment. Another loss dealt with was April’s relationship loss with her mother.

Relationship loss is for April ended with the mother when she was molested by Lee. Her mother’s response being that she believed him and whatever happens in this house stays in this house. That made it not ok for April to work through that issue because it was taboo. She was not allowed to acknowledge her pain, anger, guilt and her present feelings. Mitchell would say that the death occurred in that, “Death ends opportunities to engage in a wide variety of forms of relating oneself to others.[i]

One of the losses inherited variables was that it was an avoidable loss. If her mother had taken in consideration or even validated her claims she would have been able to avoid the isolation and the incident with the babysitting would not have led to the permanent loss or severing of the relationship between mother and daughter. The rift or issue of babysitting could have been a temporary loss. April’s method of dealing with the relational loss is through isolation and avoidance.

She says she turns away her mother’s request for babysitting and says it wasn’t that she couldn’t baby-sit she just didn’t want to be bothered. Mitchell would say that the collapse of her world and her inherit vulnerability caused her to put up a wall as Sandino observes and isolate herself. She is numb to her mother’s need for temporary assistance because she has disassociated or separated herself from her family. Her method of coping was unhealthy and made it hard for her to admit that she needed to be loved and need relationship just as any other person did.

The third loss was Jennifer’s role loss. Jennifer at the time of her mother’s heightened addiction loss her ability to be a child. She became the surrogate mother to her young siblings. The author says that role loss occurs when, “The loss of one’s social role and one’s accustomed place in a social network.”[ii] She was no longer able to be daughter. Disorientation is a huge part of Jennifer’s role loss, because disorientation is when one loses the ability to know how to behave in social situations.

This is apparent for Jennifer through her attitude even to kindness. When Sandino shows his care and concern for her and her brothers with empathy in the fact that they have no way of getting her brother’s insulin Sandino buys it. She does not even say thank you. When Sandino also fixes the room up for the children and she tells them to go back downstairs to where they sleep on the couch cause.

She doesn’t want them to get their hopes up. She reverts back to her role of surrogate mother. Under girding the role loss she expresses the temporal loss, because by the end her role reverts to her role because her aunt assumes the role of surrogate mother permanently to the children. She also aids Jennifer in bridge building by the shared experiences of their loss of innocence at early ages. She creates a new reality for Jennifer and her brothers where they are able to depend on her.

This is only Part 1 of a 4 Part Series Follow along with the recommended readings, I will provide the books below. Hope you enjoyed our first look.

Sneak Peek of Movie

Doctor Discusses Grief and Depression Differences

Overlooking: Do we overlook grief?

How many Americans do you think deal with unresolved grief on average?

See results

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    • brittvan22 profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      I would totally agree with you 100% Likamarie!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I also think that grief is minimized by society. It's like we are supposed to be able to just carry on.

      I was very excited and happy when I became pregnant for the first time. Other than the fact that *I* was getting sick, the rest of the pregnancy seemed to go fine.

      It wasn't. I abrupted, and due to that, life support to my unborn baby was cut off. I went into instant labor that lasted 21.5 hours. I was 33.3 weeks along, and I had to give my baby to heaven.

      Then there were those that would tell me that he was never meant to be. Or that I can always have another one.

      There are so many other types of grieving too, such as job loss, and there's just too much going on to be so harsh, rather than coming together as a people.

    • brittvan22 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Thanks, I will be posting some more of this. I sat in a class that dealt with African American grief. Alot of the students were angry at Tyler Perry's stories, because they felt that it wasn't his story to tell. Then there are those like me that think, he has to tell his story for healing. We all have to process our grief and losses and we do them in our own time and in our own way.

    • lambservant profile image

      Lori Colbo 

      6 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      I've always found the Madea movies by Tyler Perry somewhat of a paradox of sorts. His gift for writing stories about the painful situations of life is amazing. But intertwined you have all the absurdity of Madea and her family. I used to feel "why put all the funny Madea stuff in the movie with such a powerful drama in the mix. I am coming around to see how it works. I look forward to seeing this.


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