Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is the excellent sequel to Black Panther and takes place after the real-life death of Chadwick Boseman (King T’Challa). The movie does a wonderful job honoring the legacy of the Black Panther (Boseman), to the extent that grief is an unspoken character in the movie.
Shuri (T’Challa’s sister, played by Letitia Wright), has a very interesting response to her grief over losing her brother. The movie opens with the king suffering from a mysterious illness and Shuri rushing to save him. The opening line of the movie has her bargaining with Bast (the Wakandan deity), begging for help.
Shuri, Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett), and other heroes must fight to protect their nation from intruding world powers in the wake of King T'Challa's death. They must forge new alliances and a new path for their kingdom. At the same time, they must process their grief.
In 1969, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross wrote a book called On Death and Dying. She talks about the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. These stages clearly show up in Shuri’s response to her brother’s death. No spoilers, but suffice it to say the theme of loss and grief recur throughout the movie. By the end, Shuri is able to grieve and accept her loss, finding peace.
As Christians, we can relate to the fact that we will most certainly experience grief and loss of loved ones. If you haven’t, keep on living and eventually it will happen. I am thinking of the year that my 90-year-old grandmother went on to be with the Lord. As I write this, my wife received the news that her paternal aunt died, and we will be heading to a funeral next week. If you are currently experiencing grief and loss, here are some things that might help, because there are no quick fixes.
First, FEEL. Name what you are actually feeling. If it is anger, name it. If sadness, name that. If you blame God, tell him! Start to process how you feel, because no matter how you try to steer clear of your feelings or suppress them, they have a way of getting your attention, like a child that refuses to be ignored and will get on your nerves until you look at them and say, “Okay I see you!” Feelings need to be acknowledged. No need to rush this step.
Second, take the problem TO GOD. God is able to take it even if you are upset with him for allowing your loss. Scripture is replete with psalms and prophets who “complain” to God, and he listens.
Third, LAMENT. Lament is when you acknowledge God is good AND the world is broken. To acknowledge the former and ignore the latter is spiritual denial. To acknowledge the latter without the former drives one to despair. Lament holds them in tension, and that’s where we live right now in the “already/not yet” Kingdom of God. Until the day where there will be no more crying, sorrow, or death, we hold these in tension while we anticipate the great day where God will make all things new.
Finally, HOPE and REFLECT. We put our hope in the living God who will resurrect all believers one day, and we miss our loved ones dearly. It’s alright to remember the things that those loved ones said and did that you wish you could have again. It’s alright to sing the songs and tell the stories. It’s alright to visit the places and pull out the pictures. It just might help you get through the day.
Shuri found her ways of grieving, and we have our ways as Christians. It’s helpful for us as moviegoers to compare and contrast the two approaches.
Pro tip: Stay until all credits are done! You will be glad you did. (Marvel. Watch on Disney +, Apple TV, Amazon Prime)