"This Is Us," and its unique family of triplets raised by Rebecca and Jack compels its fans to smile, empathize and cry.
The non-linear story telling style in the NBC hit drama foreshadowed the inevitable that Jack, played by Milo Ventimiglia would die -- linked to a house fire.
For faithful followers of the show, finally seeing how the hero saves his family, and still succumbs to smoke inhalation, was almost unbearable, because of what didn't happen. No batteries in the smoke detector, no call to 9-1-1, and a fatal mistake of going back in to a burning house.
Erie Fire Chief Guy Santone believes people don't realize that most fire deaths are from smoke inhalation and not burns. "A real fire is nothing like what you see on TV," Santone said, "it's far far worse than that, it doesn't take a lot of smoke to be overcome so do yourself a favor and do your family a favor, don't go back in to save a pet or photo albums."
The fire tragedy leaves the big three children: Kate, Kevin and Randall facing grief, and not knowing how to cope.
The Highmark Caring Place Erie location helps real families navigate grief. Program Manager, Kristie Nosich, a fan of the show, says the characters in the story would have benefited from the type of help they offer. "I think the important thing is that after the death happened everybody in the family handled it in a very different way and they didn’t come together and they didn’t get professional support like we offer here at the caring place," Nosich said. "Everybody kind of shut down and grieved in their own way, at least what we’re seeing on the show right now, and you can see as they became adults, without the intervention and supports they’re all struggling in their own areas right now."
In "This Is Us," the unresolved grief of the triplets, known as "the big three," leads to over-eating, substance abuse and anxiety that carries into their adult lives. At Highmark's Caring Place they say it's never too late to come to terms with loss. "When we get phone calls here at the caring place, people think they can't come because the death maybe happened 5 - 6 years ago...but your feelings, the way you feel about that grief they don't go away, so it's never too late to talk about your grief," Nosich said.