On the Soap Shrink’s Couch: Newly Bereaved Father Buzz Cooper on Guiding Light

By Damon L. Jacobs

Losing someone you love is one of the hardest experiences you will ever have to go through.  If you have ever cared about someone who has died, then you know the palpable heartache that brings pain throughout your entire body.  But if you have ever lost a child, then you will understand the overwhelming anguish and paralyzing rage that has overtaken Buzz Cooper these days on Guiding Light.  

Sadly enough, Buzz (played by Justin Deas) is no stranger to death’s cruel grip.  As a Vietnam Veteran he survived countless acts of gore and violence.  Upon returning home, he married his high school sweetheart Nadine who was brutally murdered by Brent Lawrence.  Only three years later, his second wife Jenna died in a tragic car accident.  These events alone could make it severely challenging for anyone to carry on with his life and trust others.  

Several weeks ago, his 22-year-old son Coop (John Driscoll) was tormented as the love of his life Beth Raines was blackmailed into marrying Alan Spaulding.  Angry and confused, Coop took Buzz’s advice and set out in his car to interrupt the

Every time Buzz attacks Alan, he is truly attacking the part of himself that believes it is his fault that Coop, Nadine and Jenna, and his friends in Vietnam, all died.  

nuptials Unfortunately, he never made it, as his car slid on a patch of ice and crashed.  Coop was rushed to the hospital, where Buzz had to make a choice:  let his son live brain dead on a machine, or end his life with dignity by pulling his life support.  Buzz chose the latter, and is now living in his own personal tormented hell.  

Ever since Coop’s death, Buzz had been obsessively focused on one thing and one thing only: revenge on the person he holds responsible for his son’s death: Alan.  Buzz admittedly is not sleeping or eating, he starting smoking cigarettes and drinking during the day, he gave up his restaurant Company because Alan (Ron Raines) owned it, and has tried enlisting several residents of Springfield, including Philip and Grady, to help him destroy his nemesis.

It is not at all uncommon when one is in a state of shock and grief to wish to get revenge and hurt others.  The thought system behind Buzz’s quest is that if he can hurt Alan, then his pain will begin to subside.  The cruel reality behind this distortion is that hurting others does not bring loved ones back, and it does not facilitate healing.  Although it may give Buzz a short term illusion of relief to see Alan suffer, it certainly will not remove the gnawing ache in his soul.  Only time, support and a good therapist can begin to do that..  

Many of Buzz’s friends and family members have tried to get him to give up his vendetta against Alan, as it is literally killing him to stay so angry.  But as of yet, no one has suggested he talk to a therapist about what he is going through.  As in real life, so many people would rather drink, smoke, scream, fight, or literally give themselves a heart attack before turning to a therapist for assistance.  

In counseling, Buzz would be encouraged to vocalize his feelings, allow himself to gradually feel the enormity of his grief, and begin to articulate his sense of guilt and responsibility about the accident.  Buzz did, after all, give Coop the keys to his car.  And although he did nothing rationally to cause this accident, I believe he is irrationally holding himself accountable for Coop’s death, and projecting these intense and unwanted feelings onto Alan.  In other words, every time Buzz attacks Alan, he is truly attacking the part of himself that believes it is his fault that Coop, Nadine and Jenna, and his friends in Vietnam, all died.  

Finally, a good therapist will help him learn healthy ways to cope with his pain, and support him to make meaning of a life that has witnessed so much death.  Referring Buzz to a group for parents who have lost children would also be helpful, as group therapy can be an invaluable tool for sharing pain, learning about ways to live through such a tragedy, and healing.  Suggesting a book such as Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search For Meaning may also assist, as the author himself wrote about finding meaning and peace during his traumatic imprisonment during the Holocaust.  

How about you, Thinking Fans?  Can you relate to Buzz right now? Have you ever lashed out at others after someone you love has died?  Have you ever tried to hurt another person in order to make yourself feel better?  The Soap Shrink wants to know what YOU think! 

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Damon L. Jacobs is a family and relationship therapist practicing in New York City, and the author of  Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve.  He blogs regularly at www.shouldless.com.

Comments

  1. Matthew J. Cormier says:

    Yes, grief can definetly make sane people do things that are totally irrational. I think that in Buzz’s case he is misfocusing his anger on Alan because he doesn’t want to admit that Coop’s death is nobody’s fault and was indeed a senseless accident. I think it is his mind’s way of processing this overwhelming grief. I think only time will allow him to move past this and get on in some way with his life.

    Damon says: Yes Matthew, I think for most of us it feels easier to blame others than to accept that sometimes random tragedies just happen. Of course Alan is doing NOTHING to help Buzz accept this idea!

  2. antmunoz says:

    Damon,

    Buzz’s story was realistic up until this past week when, apparently, he had little or no problem with his granddaughter Daisy pulling a gun on Alan.

    Yes, she didn’t shoot Alan. No, Buzz didn’t really stop her from doing so. Her “warning shot” was one too many.

    His son Frank pulled on gun on Alan a few years back and was somehow reappointed as police chief. ??? Life lessons, people.

    We, the audience, swing from scenes where Buzz kinda sorta accidentally manhandles girlfriend Lillian, and she flashes back to her abusive marriage and finally lets Buzz have it. Great! Loved the use of history and the fact that everyone, including Lillian, has a breaking point, even when dealing with the grieving.

    But the headlong rush into vengeance at all costs melodrama…not so great. I realize that Daisy had her own reasons for wanting to plug Alan (she thinks he’s responsible for Grady’s disappearance), but this is the second time in two years that he’s been shot or nearly shot by a TEENAGER. C’mon…

    (Of course, Alan’s MO for a few years now has been nothing but beating up on teenagers: Jonathan, Tammy, Coop, Remy. At least in Buzz he finally has an enemy in his age group.)

    Justin Deas is giving yet another bravura, Emmy-worthy performance. Too bad it’s been marred for me by this foolishness.

    (Damon, how about a follow-up column about all the characters on GL alone who seem to think a gun will solve all their problems these days? OIivia, Phillip, Daisy, Buzz…GH apparently is not the only show that’s trigger-happy all the time!)

    Damon says: Thanks, “Ant”, I am definitely with you on the guns in Springfield issue. I can’t stand how it’s overused in plots, and I don’t like the casual way many characters just carry guns around. I personally liked the interaction between Buzz and Lillian that you mention. It made me uncomfortable and nervous, and when a soap makes me feel ANYTHING these days (other than frustrated) it’s a good thing. Thank you for your ideas!

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