The Grief of Bob Ross

Over the weekend I watched the new Netflix documentary about Bob Ross. You know, the dude with the soothing voice and afro that had a wildly successful painting show in the 1980s and 1990s? The documentary, officially titled “Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayal, and Greed,” is currently in the top 10 of Netflix’s programming.

The new Bob Ross documentary taught me a lot about someone I recognized but didn’t know very much about.

To be honest, I knew very little about Bob Ross until Saturday night. The only exposure I received of Ross up to that point was through parody. It was very interesting and entertaining to learn about this talented painter, watch him at work, and hear his philosophies. It was also notable to me to discover that he once lived in Spokane. Crazy, huh?

The documentary also devolved into the last few years of his life. Unfortunately, it was not the happiest period of his time on earth. Cancer ravaged his body and he dealt with business partners who thought he was worth more “dead than alive.”

There was one other part of the documentary that has stayed with me over the past couple days. Prior to Ross getting sick, his wife passed away. The film did a nice job chronicling the marriage between Bob and his wife, Jane. It wasn’t a perfect union as Bob was unfaithful during a certain period but they ultimately reconciled and they certainly loved each other. Anyway, the documentary showed “The Joy of Painting” episode after Jane’s death when Bob looked straight into the camera and opened his heart to the viewers.

He acknowledged the hundreds of cards he received from viewers and how they not only expressed sympathy to him but honored the memory of Jane. This was touching to Bob because although his viewers saw him on a daily basis they never really saw Jane but still cared about her. At the end of his emotional address, he said thanks for grieving with me.

Today is National Grief Awareness Day. Its purpose is to raise awareness of the numerous ways in which people cope with loss. As I am sure most of my readers are well aware, people grieve in different ways. For someone like Bob Ross, he found comfort grieving with others, even those folks he didn’t know. Others prefer to grieve in a much more private manner. Some people might appear not to grieve at all. Some might grieve for years.

Let us always respect the way others grieve, even if we might not understand it. If there is a way we might lessen the grief of others, let’s not be shy to act on it. If there is not, let us have the discipline to not make things worse. Perhaps the one thing we can all do is simply reach out. At that point, we can evaluate next steps…including whether there is no next step at all. Don’t Blink.

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