Actor Demián Bichir has written numerous columns for Deadline on subjects ranging from the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, the cruel forced separation of refugee children by the Trump Administration, the powerful imagery of Roma and the need to protect from Covid those locked up along the border for seeking the American dream. Bichir, who became a top star in Mexico before establishing himself in Hollywood with a milestone performance in A Better Life that led him to become the first Mexican since Anthony Quinn to be Oscar nominated for Best Actor, wanted to open up for the first time on the traumatic death of his wife Stefanie Sherk. The Canadian actress died in April, 2019. The column is written with the stylistic urgency in which it was received, as he continues to process grief of losing someone so dear to him. Bichir currently co-stars in the George Clooney-directed Netflix film The Midnight Sky.
THE LOSS OF OUR GIRL
There are three things we know very little about, The Universe, our Oceans and the human brain. How our mind works remains a mystery in so many ways. A series of elements have to go wrong to create a destructive “perfect” storm. Some of those elements, so it seems, lie somewhere in the deepest corner in our mind, so far inside our brain that in most cases it will remain a mystery throughout our entire lives. Some other will be caused by different circumstances, factors or people. Most of them will be experienced during our early years. Those circumstances will shape us into the adults we become. Some of those issues will be caused by third parties or entities. The academic environment, the work environment, the political environment and of course the medications we will consume throughout our lifetime. The most difficult part of losing a loved one is the brutal realization of the actual loss and the difficulty in accepting their complete and definitive absence. In the negation part of the healing process, this is where we spend more time. To know that no matter what you do or say, and regardless of whatever happens in your life, you will never see that person again, creates an incredibly restless feeling that saddens you daily. Not being able to hug them ever again or look into their beautiful eyes, is a devastating reality that consumes your soul paralyzing you. In order to try to understand what went wrong, you can’t help but make a thorough recollection of those circumstances and key factors, thinking of everything you could’ve done and didn’t do, everything you should’ve said and never did. Blame is the most savage state of your mind right after the loss of a loved one. Losing our beloved Stefanie took us all by surprise. My wife’s beautiful life was close to perfect. We were a team. We were each other’s fuel and happiness. We were soul mates. Plain and simple. We had so many plans and projects together. We both knew how difficult it is for any actor to ignite a career in this industry, so we fought with passion and determination, although many times you feel like throwing in the towel we continued with faith supporting each other. Surviving constant rejection in an industry where no one hires you unless some one else hires you first can be demoralizing even for the strongest hearts. Staying strong and true to your art and craft in a town where the number of followers you have on your social media weighs more in the eyes of producers, than your talents, is without a doubt the biggest challenge any actor faces today. But there are two immediate measures you can take and maintain strong, one: prepare yourself the best way you can and two: be patient, stay strong. Stefanie did both better than anyone I know. Her magnificent talent and faith were her strongest virtues. But when a human being can’t sleep, nothing goes right. We all have gone through a rough night now and then but losing your sleep to prescribed sleeping pills is a devastating, dangerous and in our case, fatal territory. Sleep deprivation is the fastest way to desperation and absolute fear. Dark thoughts are everything your mind is able to think of. When this takes your entire family by surprise there’s very little you can do. Functional depression is absolutely invisible and no one around a depressed person may know something is not right. Fear and desperation increase when specialized doctors can’t help you. Something is wrong in our health system when a licensed psychiatrist can easily prescribe to you dangerous medication that will have terrible side effects on you if used for long periods of time. And something is even worse if they just tell you, “go ahead and take two” if that one pills is not working anymore. Little did we know that the pill called Lunesta would have such terrible side effects on Stefanie. The lack of sleep creates a terrible anxiety and then you will need two pills to get you through the night where everything becomes darker. She was also prescribed Xanax for anxiety. The combination of Lunesta and Xanax was a terrible cocktail of medication that created a very scary and lonely state of mind for our girl. And then the alarm signals and emergency actions take place under very tight margins of time. The first thing we needed to do was to find the right help for her to be able to sleep. All we needed was a sedative formula that could induce her sleep at last and then we would have been able to deal with the detoxification process from Lunesta and Xanax. Biology first, psychology second. Time was ticking and we found our hands tied until we found what we strongly and faithfully believed was the answer to Stefanie’s anxiety and sleep deprivation. The new specialist initiated a new plan immediately, that we followed strictly and hopefully but Stefanie’s soul couldn’t bear the pain any longer and two days into this new treatment we lost her smile forever. This is not a cry for compassion and understanding which we have received in an overwhelming manner not only from our dear friends and family but from an army of kind people who empathized with our pain and sorrow and we will be forever grateful to all of them. This is a warning, this is a wake up call, a call to bring everyone’s attention into this delicate matter so lives can be saved on time. It’s imperative for everyone involved in our kind of story to step up and consider seriously what we’re doing wrong and what needs to be modified in order to make us more human and empathetic not only in the medical arena but in the laws and regulations that surround our health system. Why do I write this now? Because when you lose a loved one the way we lost my beautiful wife, time stops. Nothing makes sense for a long period of time. Make no mistake, it’s never too late to alert everyone. As for us, we continue our path into healing. Grieving and mourning hasn’t been easy and it will take us our entire lives to overcome the loss of such a beautiful human being, our forever beloved Stefanie Sherk.