Trauma, Grief, & Family in Finding Nemo

In the movie, Finding Nemo the audience is immediately met with tragedy within the first few minutes of the film. To begin, Marlin and Coral are overjoyed to become parents with the multitude of eggs they produced together. A barracuda attacks the nest that Marlin and Coral have built, and Coral out of her motherly love and instincts reacts to save her future children. In the midst of attempting to save her children, Coral get’s eaten by the barracuda along with all of the eggs, except for one. This illustration demonstrates the deep love and care a mother has for her children.

The following scene is the epitome of what a father who has lost his spouse and his children feels – grief, shock, confusion, agony, and sorrow. Even in the colors depicted within the movie, the tones of the movie shift from vibrant and radiant shades to dark and melancholic.

The remainder of the movie is drastically changed by the events that occurred at the beginning. This recognition is extremely important as we take a closer look at how traumatic events can shape how someone views the world around them and the way they interact with others. On a similar note, there is beauty demonstrated within the relationships built and the uplifting of one another from other characters within the movie. Understanding that family structure and the importance of not only biological family members, but also individuals who aren’t blood relatives but become like family is crucial in the process of healing and growth.

Another tragedy occurs when Nemo is taking away by a scuba diver on a boat. Marlin begins to panic and denies that this occurrence has happened. This is when he runs into Dory, who ends up coming alongside Marlin in the search of Nemo for the remainder of the movie. Nemo get’s taken to a dentist office where he meets some other marine animals who have been taken from the ocean. Despite the reality of being away from his father, Nemo is taken in by this crew who eventually helps him get back in contact with his father.

The necessity of other members who are outside of the family to help take care of children (or fish) is a key component and theme throughout the movie. Dory becomes like Marlin’s family when Nemo is missing, and his wife has passed away whereas the marine animals within the dentist office become Nemo’s family when he get’s placed in there. The importance of this is highly crucial not only to individuals within the movie and supporting them, but in real life as well. As humans, we need to be connected to others in and outside of our family to flourish. Especially in circumstances when there is a tragedy.

Families aren’t only important within the deepest valleys of life, yet also within the joyous occasions of celebration. At the end of the movie, we see Marlin and Nemo reunited with Dory as well as the other aquatic fish who helped Nemo escape from the dentist office. Without the help of others and the recognition that we can’t go through life alone, Marlin and Nemo were able to conquer the most horrific and difficult season of their lives.

Remembering that although grief is pervasive, there can still be joy in moments of frustration and pain. Recognizing that loss is the reality that we all face within our lives at some point is key in empathizing with others in their struggle to overcome adverse experiences. Even though it is extremely beneficial to have others alongside us in the journey of healing, the trauma that is endured is something that stays with us for many years, and possibly even a lifetime.

There are two types of trauma that individuals may endure, and those are little “t” traumas, or big “T” traumas. Little “t” traumas include events that are no life threatening for example the death of a pet, bullying or harassment, or the loss of significant relationship. Big “T” traumas include events are associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) like serious injury with the threat of death, sexual violence or assault, or other life-threatening experiences. Individuals who have witnessed big “T” traumas are vulnerable to PTSD because of how closely they work with individuals who have a major trauma.

As mentioned above, the loss of a loved through death, as well as the exposure to a life-threatening experience put Marlin and Nemo at a high risk for developing PTSD. Both of them experience symptoms like worry and distrust that are associated to PTSD symptoms, however, it is not definitive whether they would be clinically diagnosed with this disorder. Symptoms with the DSM-V TR would need to be occurring for at least one month post the incident that occurred in order for it to be classified as PTSD, as well as it must meet the needed criteria. If we are only looking at the information we know currently, both Marlin and Nemo may have significant enough symptoms to classify their diagnosis as acute stress disorder.

One response to “Trauma, Grief, & Family in Finding Nemo”

  1. Thanks for visiting and following my blog. Now I understand why this movie was so appealing to all ages.


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