The Unexpected Journey of Grace & Frankie

Netflix recently launched a new series about the emotional upheaval of divorce, and the title of the show, Grace and Frankie, does much more than name the leading ladies.

The basic premise of the comdram is this: Two marriages end, and the shafted wives transition to 70-and-single lives. The women, played by the incomparable Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, are left the unenviable task of reinventing their futures sans the “life partners” they thought they had. The twist? Their husbands (Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston), who have been law partners for 40 years and secret lovers for 20, want to start a new life married to each other. The primary setting is a beach home the two families shared and where the women find respite in the aftermath of their husbands’ revelations. Their husbands and adult children add character and flavor, but this is a story of two frenemies getting through an unimaginable life upheaval together.

Although these women find themselves in the same situation, their experiences are entirely different.

Grace, a proper WASP who implored her husband to just “ride it out,” spends season 1 desperately seeking to slot someone else in to the recently vacated role of “husband.” She’s angry her life has been disrupted. It’s inconvenient. “It would have been easier if you’d died.”

Frankie, the hippie artist, is heartbroken. She’s lost her best friend and spends the first season bargaining to retain the connection with her husband and trying to figure out how to rebalance the role he plays in her life.

The beauty of the show is in the simplicity of the premise: How do you recover after a major life change?

To appreciate the journey, you have to recognize the starting points. When the series begins, Grace is all about maintaining a graceful façade. Pristine in her appearance, she doesn’t just enter a room, she makes an entrance. A former model, she judges the quality of her life through the judgement of others, denying her intrapersonal self if necessary. Frankie is all about frankness, living and expressing a spiritual truth and being as comfortable and content in bodily form as possible. The show often sets these ladies up in parallel situations to highlight the difference in their core values. Very early on, we see their first trip out in public after the reveal, and they each go to a convenience store. Grace is after beauty products and covers up with a large wrap and sunglasses when she is recognized. She wants to hide. Frankie is out buying comfort food and cigarettes, and openly shares her situation with the clerk, even asking him for advice. She wants to be exposed.

As the season unfolds, each woman sojourns through unfamiliar territory. Grace must discover who she is under the façade. Frankie must accept the ONE truth that she desperately denies. Together, they cover a tremendous amount of emotional territory and there are lessons for all of us as we take this journey with them. Women who watch this show will see pieces of themselves in both leading ladies. We are all a balance of grace and frankness. The gift of Grace & Frankie is that we can explore these aspects of our selves with humor and affiliation.

Join the Women’s Circle at North Shore Counseling to examine transitions and journey with other women. This is an in-person, face-to-face group that meets monthly in Northbrook, Illinois. The cost is $20 per 90-minute meeting, but the fee is waived for the person who brings the snacks. For more information and to register, visit


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