Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Most Relatable Moments In This Is Us

NBC's rollercoaster drama "This Is Us" is all about the ups and downs of family life in a society where nothing is remotely perfect. The Pearsons are a seemingly average white American family striving to find their way through the hardships of the working class in the 1980s. Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca Pearson (Mandy Moore) begin their family life as a young couple with triplets. One of the three children, a son, dies from complications during birth. Devastated over the event, they adopt a Black baby who was seemingly born on the same day and abandoned by his biological mother and father.

The Pearsons explore the joys and hardships that come with raising a daughter and two sons (one of whom is adopted) simultaneously. The series also pivots ahead to the present day, where the Pearson children — Randall (Sterling K. Brown), Kate (Chrissy Metz), and Kevin (Justin Hartley) — are adults with full lives and families of their own (or complicated relationships, in Kevin's case). The Pearsons' lives are affected by real-world historical events, ranging from Jack's time in the Vietnam War to Randall's attempts to cope with the racist attitudes of present-day society. The series even incorporated the COVID-19 pandemic, bringing the Pearsons' story that much closer to reality. 

The truth of the matter is that the Pearsons are also us: every average civilian striving to make a living, maintain healthy human connections, and get through the day. Let's take a look at the most relatable moments in "This Is Us."

Losing a parent

Many of us have been there, or will be. Age is an inevitability; as depressing as it seems, it's one of the few predictable parts of an unpredictable world. Time is fleeting and we never know how long we truly have with those around us, especially the ones who raised us and taught us life's most important lessons.

Jack Pearson's death was tragic not just for the Pearson clan, but also for the audience. Viewers had time to understand the moment was coming given that we'd known all along what the future held for the Pearson children. Even so, seeing it was still heart-wrenching. The house fire came unexpectedly. Surviving the incident only cut deeper when Jack ultimately succumbed to a heart attack that resulted from smoke inhalation. For the Pearsons, it was an utter shock to the system. In their grief, they sought to make sense of it. Kate in particular felt the despair and regret of realizing that her father remained in the home for an extended period in order to rescue her dog. In the end, it's how we choose to move forward that helps us truly cope.

Kate's struggles with pregnancy

Bearing children is one of the most exciting adventures in life, but also comes packed with its own anxieties and worries. Kate Pearson longed for a child. She and her husband were painstaking and resilient in their efforts to conceive a child despite their many setbacks. Kate has struggled with her own health her entire life and being overweight not only complicates pregnancies, but also makes it difficult to become pregnant.

However, the couple eventually achieved the dream and were able to conceive a child. Despite their happiness in the moment, the duration of the pregnancy was fraught with hardship as Kate's pregnancy was considered high-risk. Ultimately, their son was born prematurely at only 28 weeks. Viewers who have spent time in the neonatal intensive care unit looking at their tiny child being kept alive by machines know Kate and Tony's worry all too well. While the moment might feel soul-crushing, the pair experiences true joy the day they're able to take baby Jack home.

The loss of the Pearson's child

During Kate and Toby's struggles with their own child, they had someone close to them who was empathetic: Kate's mother, Rebecca, had not only dealt with delivery complications, but actually lost one of her own children due to that fact. Kevin and Kate were originally meant to be born into this world with another baby brother.

Randall quickly entered the Pearson's hearts, helping them to heal from the loss. However, the sting and trauma of losing a child at birth isn't something one ever truly forgets. Many families endure the tragedy of losing young infants at birth almost daily throughout the globe. Rebecca and Jack's loss was truly a sobering moment for viewers of the show as the reality of it hits close to home for many.

Randall's anxiety

We live in a world with a variety of socioeconomic pressures. The stress often takes a toll, especially on those who have been diagnosed with depression or anxiety. Randall Pearson takes pride in his work ethic and perfectionist tendencies. Despite his successes, he suffers from panic disorder, a form of anxiety that often emerges during childhood. Randall is seen having to cope with panic attacks from a fairly young age. As an adult, his world begins to shatter as he feels overwhelmed. "This Is Us" depicts panic attacks as the frightening and debilitating reality that they are.

During the era of Randall's childhood, mental illness was often a stigma and not taken nearly as seriously as it is in our modern world. Many people are diagnosed with anxiety every day. Many more likely go undiagnosed due to their financial inability to seek out the proper healthcare. Anxiety is an increasing problem in our society, as today's youth are arguably subjected to more subtle and sophisticated pressures than earlier generations. Randall's panic attacks and need for therapy and treatment are realities that so many can relate to.

Randall and Kevin's childhood rivalry

Those of us with siblings understand the dynamics at play among the Pearson children. Siblings often feel deep connections with one another as they undergo the most crucial development period of their lives under the same roof and circumstances, but they also bicker and stoke rivalries. It's easy for one sibling to see another as a threat and to be sensitive to any difference in treatment by their parents. The truth is, every child is different. Parenting multiple children doesn't simply mean that you can handle each child the same exact way.

Kevin and Randall develop a rivalry at a young age mostly because Kevin feels threatened by Randall's success. Furthermore, because Randall is adopted, Kevin feels like their mother, Rebecca, affords more attention to him and his accomplishments. Often feeling left out, Kevin takes his frustrations out on his brother. Meanwhile, Randall struggles with his sense of identity being an adopted Black child in a white family. While he loves and accepts Jack and Rebecca as his parents, he still struggles with issues of race that the rest of his family can't understand. This also leads to resentment as Randall confronts Kevin over his ignorance of racial injustice. The two brothers ultimately connect over their love for one another, but their rivalry — which really stemmed from feeling misunderstood — is something most viewers with siblings understand perfectly.

Jack and Kevin's addiction

"This Is Us" tackles addiction front and center as the disease that it is. For the Pearson family, it takes the form of alcoholism. Jack's alcoholism is ultimately a coping mechanism for the rough upbringing that he experienced and his feelings of inadequacy in his relationship with Rebecca. When Rebecca truly begins to understand that Jack is an alcoholic, she doesn't berate him. Instead, she demonstrates understanding and concern, ultimately providing Jack with the support he needs to quit. Unfortunately, the pull towards the bottle is a family ordeal, one that Jack's brother Nicky also experiences as he drowns his sorrows and loneliness.

Even Kevin, Jack's son, began drinking heavily at a young age. While Kevin finds success as a budding actor, his love life is often in shambles and he'll suppress his own regrets and stresses by having alcohol close by. When addictions spiral out of control, it affects our lives — as it does for Jack, Nicky, and Kevin. Given that millions of Americans experience some form of addiction, this is one of the most relatable parts of "This Is Us." 

Randall discovering his parents and identity

Randall's circumstances — being adopted into a white family to replace a dead triplet — are highly specific. Still, his story carries emotional elements that almost everyone can relate to. 

Being adopted often leads to curiosity about the biological parents and questions about what might have been. For Randall, being a Black man in a white family, the pull is even greater to establish his own identity. On multiple occasions throughout "This Is Us," Randall sets out to learn about his biological parents. Early on, he finds that Rebecca has been hiding the knowledge of Randall's biological father from him his entire life after his father reached out to her. She even hid the same knowledge from her own husband Jack. Her intent wasn't malicious; she simply feared losing her child. Once revealed, the secret nonetheless strained her relationship with Randall.

Later, Randall sought out his mother and eventually found a few individuals who knew her well when she was young. He even found her home and took ownership of it. The moment brought a sense of peace and fulfillment to Randall. Adopted children will especially relate to Randall's story, but anyone who has ever felt alienated or estranged from their family will still find Randall's journey for identity and enlightenment compelling.

Coping with Rebecca's probable Alzheimer's diagnosis

In the fourth season of the show, the matriarch of the Pearson clan receives the awful diagnosis many had feared after multiple bouts of confusion and memory loss: "mild cognitive impairment." Don't be fooled by the word "mild": the doctor indicates that these are likely early signs of Alzheimer's. The diagnosis rocks the Pearson family's world. With illnesses like Alzheimer's, there's a sense of finality that overwhelms loved ones as they contemplate all of the implications.

The Pearson children struggle with the prospect of a future where their mother slowly deteriorates due to the crippling illness. However, Randall seems to struggle the most. His relationship with his mother is a unique one. She was always his biggest supporter, but also betrayed him by keeping his biological father from him. Randall feels a crippling urge to "save" his mother. After basically losing three parents (Jack and his biological ones), Randall feels like he needs to control the situation by having Rebecca enroll in a new treatment that is currently in clinical trials. The Pearson children are split over the idea, particularly Kevin, who objects to this choice's potential to sully his mother's final "good" years with an untested medication. Devastating illnesses often shock families, and they must decide the best course of action no matter how stressful or conflict-loaded that conversation might be.

Toby attempts to go off of his anti-depressants

Kate and Toby decide early on that they want a child. They try hard for a long time, but nothing is working. Later, the doctor suggests that Toby's antidepressant medication could be affecting his fertility. In a decision that had most of us pulling out our hair, Toby flushes his medication down the toilet and attempts to go off of it cold turkey. The outcome isn't great as Toby begins to spiral. As he unravels, he takes his anger and frustration out on his mother-in-law. He stokes his own anxieties after reading the effects of withdrawal from the medication. He keeps his actions secret and suffers in silence.

There are many reasons people on medication feel the pull to stop taking it altogether. Medicinal costs are high, the side effects are irritating, or the treatment no longer seems necessary. What this episode proves, however, is that a person should always consult with their physician before stopping their prescribed medication. 

Jack seeks to protect his brother during Vietnam

Before Jack meets Rebecca and begins his journey as the patriarch of the Pearson clan as we know it, he's a young buck who always looks out for his younger brother, Nicky. After all, someone has to, as Jack and Nicky's father is abusive, condescending, and unsupportive. 

During the height of the Vietnam War, Nicky is plagued with anxiety about getting drafted into a war that so many saw as a death sentence. Jack stays by his brother's side, trying to ease his fears. However, the inevitable happens, and Nicky is indeed drafted. Not about to let his younger brother endure the war on his own, Jack enlists and goes overseas to find and protect his brother.

Few of us share the trauma of warfare, but many of us often feel a desperate need to protect our siblings, whether from their own self-destructive behaviors or common life hardships. Especially in family situations where the parents are either physically or emotionally nonexistent, siblings often forge bonds to achieve the support they need.

Tess comes out to her parents

Randall and Beth Pearson were bound to encounter challenges in their parenting adventures. Tess coming out isn't such a challenge; they are both accepting and understanding as any supportive parents would be. The difficulty comes in trying to help their daughter feel that love and acceptance, as she already felt uncomfortable and had conflicted feelings about her standing in the eyes of others. The stress of feeling like an outcast gives Tess a rebellious streak that ultimately tests Randall and Beth as parents. 

Every day, parents are tested in the same way. Youth are under a lot of social pressure to conform. Often, they simply need a sturdy foundation at home with parents who understand their feelings and help them feel loved and accepted. Parents of teens have likely tread this territory before.

Kate confronts her former abusive boyfriend

As a teen, Kate struggles with her appearance. When she lands a relationship with a boy named Marc, she feels truly "seen" for the first time. However, we quickly begin to see the cracks in Marc's character as he reveals himself to be an emotionally abusive jerk. When his fragile ego is threatened over simple disagreements, he responds with hateful rhetoric and belittlement. Marc tries to manipulate Kate by cutting through her emotionally. She attempts to hide her relationship from her family, realizing they won't accept Marc — and for a good reason. Thankfully, they discover who Marc truly is underneath and put an end to the pain he constantly inflicts upon Kate.

Years later, after Kate marries and has a child, she reflects on her time with Marc and courageously decides to confront him and give him a piece of her mind. She tracks him down via Facebook and finds that he isn't living much of a different life from when they were kids. She also finds that he hasn't changed and is just a manipulative as before. She explains all of the damage he did and shares that she's overcome it. The moment offers her a sense of closure. Most of us in the audience were cheering her on and maybe even felt inspired to confront our own emotional bullies. 

Toby loses his job

Many of us have lost a job at one point or another, particularly during the pandemic. You or someone you know may have experienced unemployment that took a financial toll or, at the very least, caused an abundance of stress over finding the next avenue for income. Toby loses his job and struggles with the idea that he can't adequately provide for his family. Kate becomes the breadwinner, finding work as a music teacher at the local school. While they maintain an income, Toby feels the pressure of being a stay-at-home father and not being able to pursue work that fulfills him.

Later in the fifth season, Kevin offers to financially assist Kate and Toby — an offer that Toby bitterly refuses. Putting the financial difficulties aside, being unable to achieve fulfillment in the workplace is demoralizing for many who desire work. Toby's struggle with unemployment is an experience that is all too real.