Coming home was easy.
Letting go is hard.
An army veteran turned counselor must reconcile her grief or succumb to an addiction fueled existence meant to numb the guilt of lying to her husband.
When I finished my tour of duty and military career, I thought nothing could bring me down. I was wrong; it took over seven years for me to admit something was off. Even then, accepting that there was an issue was the hardest part. A faulty belief in my invincibility had caused problems both personally and professionally during those years.
This film is based on real-life experiences. However, when we first began discussions about a male veteran at the middle of our mental health story, a new question arose. What would happen if our protagonist was female? So, we broke away from the common narrative of only men suffering from PTSD and mental health issues. After consulting with women veterans, grief counselors, and mental health professionals, we realized April needed to come alive on screen.
Writer and Producer
Runtime in Minutes
Jennifer Lindsey Grindall worked as our consulting veteran, coaching and supporting Victoria on set. Her personal story also informed the movie. As an army veteran diagnosed with PTSD who was married to another Army vet, this story became meaningful to her. She hopes this movie brings visibility to women veterans and their unique challenges. "We have stories, trauma, and experiences, too."
It seems like a lifetime ago when Jason and I embarked on the journey of creating an "untitled film" that has now evolved into the powerful narrative known as THE GRIEF COUNSELOR. Looking back, I can see how far I've come from the tumultuous times when I allowed my struggles to define me. Over the years, through dedicated therapy and two years of unwavering sobriety, I discovered that my past no longer held me captive; even my once-overwhelming nightmares had lost their grip.
At one point, my psychiatrist devised a comprehensive treatment plan, throwing "the kitchen sink at me," combining medications and therapies that, in her words, "seemed to be working just about enough." Since then, life has presented its fair share of challenges and heartaches. The sudden loss of my estranged father, whom I hadn't seen in a decade, stands as a poignant farewell forever denied; he passed away in Bangladesh while we were casting our lead in the US. Simultaneously, a decade-old friendship crumbled before my eyes, leaving a void I struggled to fill. As my world seemed to spiral, I once again sought solace in heavy drinking, at one point even teetering on the brink of homelessness. A hotel room became my makeshift office as we conducted callback auditions over Zoom.
Amidst this turmoil, one constant emerged: my unwavering dedication to crafting this film. Over the past 18 months, during which I poured my heart and soul into this project, I witnessed the ebb and flow of belief in my own abilities. The world alternated between reaffirming its faith in me and abruptly withdrawing its support. I stumbled over the same obstacles I thought I had overcome, serving as a humbling reminder that recovery is seldom a linear path.
Enter April, a character who embodies the fragility of the human experience. Standing at the precipice of her own despair, she courageously confronts her guilt, embodying the resilience that resides within us all. Her journey mirrors mine, as neither of us knows what lies beyond the closing credits – a parallel odyssey of navigating the unknown. There is no textbook or professional guide that can provide a roadmap to complete recovery from PTSD or BPD, only the understanding that progress is the result of relentless effort and self-discovery.
With this profound acknowledgment, I dedicate this film to those who grapple with setbacks and stumbles, those who persist even in the face of overwhelming odds. Much like April, their strength lies in fighting another day because that is all they know.
THE GRIEF COUNSELOR is more than just a film; it is a testament to resilience, a mirror reflecting our shared humanity. Just as April's journey encapsulates the essence of perseverance, this film encapsulates my transformative odyssey – a celebration of embracing imperfections and facing the unknown with unwavering courage. Here's to those who continue to fight.
If one person talks. If one person listens and a positive outcome comes from the story, our mission is complete. PTSD and mental health issues are not shameful, they are not worth hiding from. Together, we can. Check in on your friends and loved ones.
We filmed The Grief Counselor in North Carolina in the cities of Charlotte, Statesville, and Hiddenite.
We filmed with the Arri Alexa Mini and Cooke Anamorphic lenses to create a world that is both vast and immersive.
No, but it is based on real-life experiences and consulted on by women veterans.
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