How I’m Healing From Dad’s Death With Disney’s Moana

Header image source: Melissa Hillier on Flickr. Creative Commons Licensing applies.

Good afternoon lovelies,

Today is going to be a double post owing to the failures of yesterday. I know that yesterday should have been a “Things That Bring Me Joy” post, but, joy was the very last thing on my mind. Instead of giving up entirely, I want to pick up again today by talking about something that’s been on my mind a lot more lately – grief.

I was really inspired to share this story given Penny Berry’s “Diving Into Disney” workshop, which has been totally awesome and are a great read if you’re into Cg/l relationships. Unfortunately, today’s post won’t be of a similar theme but will be talking about how Disney’s Moana is helping me spiritually reconnect with my Dad.

The first time I heard of Moana was not long after it was released. At that time, I was still really into the psychologies of Inside Out and so Moana sort of didn’t really grab at me. Hearing good things about it from my former polyamorous partner at the time, I decided to give it a watch.

In the movie, Moana is fascinated by the sea and she struggles to understand why. As a young girl, she saves a turtle from being eaten by birds and the ocean repays her kindness by giving her gifts (including the Heart of Te Fiti). Moana’s family want her to lead the village as her father’s successor on the island of Motunui, but Moana is drawn to the ocean and she struggles to understand why. She hears the tale of Te Fiti from storytime with Gramma Tala, but while most of her classmates are terrified, Moana is fascinated and wants to know more.

Now a teenager, Moana tries to satisfy her curiosities by sailing out past the reef but her raft is upturned by the waves and she gets caught in the undercurrent. Washed up on the shore, she meets Gramma Tala again who tells her not to say anything but then starts “acting weird” with manta rays swimming around her. She dismissively tells Moana that “I’m the village crazy lady, it’s my job” before telling Moana that “when I die, I’m going to come back as one of these, for I chose the wrong tattoo”. Moana demands again that Gramma Tala explains herself and asks her why she didn’t stop her sailing out past the reef, or if there is something she wishes to tell her. Gramma Tala knowingly turns to Moana and asks “Is there something you want to know?”.

Later on, Gramma Tala takes Moana into a cave and tells her to beat the drum. If she does, she tells her, Moana will see her destiny. Moana agrees to try, she picks up the beater and hits the drum cautiously, nothing happens and now Moana thinks Gramma Tala is now utterly insane, but she tries again. After a few more attempts, torches light up the cave and Moana sees the tapestries on the side of the cave which begin to chant and move and reveal to Moana the story of her ancestors – the voyagers. Sadly, not too long after this scene, Gramma Tala passes away. Moana grieves Gramma Tala and her stories but decides to put the tapestry behind her and focuses her efforts on making her father proud. In spite of that, though, Moana knows in her heart that this isn’t what she wants to do.

Moana has set about a quest to return the green Heart of Te Fiti, the goddess of the island. Without the heart, Te Fiti is Te Ka, an angry active volcanic monster who spreads destruction across the world and who attacks anyone who dares to approach. Moana knows that with the heart restored, she can break the curse and restore peace.

On her ventures, Moana meets and interrogates Maui (voiced by Dwayne Johnson**), the demigod who stole the Heart of Te Fiti in the first place and who Moana holds captive on a venture to return the heart. Maui also has the ability change himself into various animals using the power of his hook which enabled him to steal Te Fiti’s heart in the first place, but which Moana soon learns can also be useful to them, right up until Maui’s hook is accidentally damaged. Having fallen out with Maui over his damaged hook, Moana finds herself angry and alone on her raft in the middle of the ocean. Defeated and confused, she holds the Heart of Te Fiti in her hand orders the sea to take it back. Reluctantly, the ocean does so and the Heart sinks to the deep blue sea. As it does so, Gramma Tala appears.

So why am I talking about Moana now, and where does all this link in?

You see, grief doesn’t always happen immediately. For me, I was in the midst of a battle for Personal Independence Payment and only a few days after my father passed, I met with a legal representative to discuss whether or not they felt that they could help me. The court hearing itself wasn’t until five months after my father’s passing, which was a long time to be anxious and grieving.

For a long time after winning that battle, I was in a state of shock and calm. We’d won, and my mood was lifted, and with it, it seemed the grief went away. I grieved my father a few times when we were on vacation and even a few times over Christmas, but for the most part, I thought I was healing.

But then the reality came.

All of a sudden, I find myself yearning for him. I wake up at night with a racing heart and cold sweat, disoriented and confused. I walk and roam with no sense of going or direction and I feel perpetually “lost”. I feel, in my own words “homeless without a home, as though ‘home’ has been taken from me, as though I don’t know where ‘home’ even is anymore”. I experience all sorts of flashbacks and anything (usually food) can set my grief off. His favourite meal, a snack he used to buy me, even a photo of the sweets he bought on a whim for our wedding reception. After many conversations and the events that prevented me from being able to properly grieve my father, I was told by an online councillor that I was most likely experiencing more complicated grief, and if I find it hard to cope, I should go and see a doctor.

Lately, one of the things that I’ve been wondering is whether or not my blog should be a little more.. obscene. My stats show that the mental health stuff is among the least read, so maybe I should just rename myself again, do away with the mental health, the food and the dog and just focus on the sex stuff, perhaps. I never wanted Big, Bold & Bright to be like that but if that’s what the people want then that’s what the people get, right?


It’s wrong because that’s not what I want, It’s not what’s in my heart. This is my Moana moment, and something else told me so.

In moments of absent-mindedness, I kept singing “The Song Of The Ancestors” under my breath. I’m not just a grieving girl, I am a woman on a mission. My father wouldn’t want me to sell myself out, and I know that now. Now that I know, I’m determined.

“That bloody song” I muttered slightly too loud.

“What’s that?” Mum asked.

“It’s alright, it’s a song from Moana” I explained.

“Oh, you know, your Dad loved that film.”

A sign that he’s with me? Perhaps, maybe.

** I highly encourage you to watch this video of Dwayne Johnson singing to his daughter, it’s tear-jerkingly beautiful!

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