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The 38-year-old actor discussed the loss of his mother Lynn Garfield, who died of pancreatic cancer in 2019, during a recent interview with People, where he acknowledged how grieving is an “important subject” to have conversations about. According to Garfield, when people spend time “talking about” death, everyday life can essentially become even more “meaningful”.
“We don’t really talk about [it] in public, that there’s a stigma on,” he said. “We keep death at a distance and I think it’s actually one of the big problems with our culture.”
“That’s my passionate belief, that actually once we start integrating and talking about and remembering and realising that we’re only here for a brief moment, then life becomes meaningful,” he continued. “Then life can really get very vivid and very miraculous.”
The Amazing Spider-Man star noted that as he thinks about his mother “all the time,” he has had to“remind [himself] that she’s not here.” However, he recalled how during this year’s Oscars, where he was nominated for Best Actor for his role in Tick, Tick…BOOM!, he still felt like he could “call” his mother in and hold “her in [his] heart” during the event.
“And then for big moments, like with the Oscars recently, my dad came out and you kind of want to call her in and you want to bring her in your pocket and you do,” he explained. “And we kind of all held her in our hearts and just kind of walked with her for that whole thing.”
He also shared that he often communicates with his mother by asking her for more “guidance,” “connection,” or “reassurance,” which he usually gets it in “some kind of symbolic fashion”. But, he said that if he doesn’t get it, he actually finds it somewhat “reassuring,” as he sees this as his mother’s way of telling him that he is OK and “doesn’t actually need” her guidance.
“Maybe this is just my kind of optimistic kind of making everything meaningful mindset, but when I don’t get a sign or a symbol, I go, ‘Oh, no she knows I’m good,” he explained. “She knows that I don’t actually need it. I’m just being a little needy right now.’ So she’s out doing something else. She’s taking care of someone who actually is in need in spirit. That’s where my mind goes.”
“I mean, listen, we’re all just making it up as we go along. But that’s where my mind goes and it’s quite lovely,” he added.
Garfield expressed how he’s often careful before publicly sharing any information about his personal life, as he thinks that it’s important for artists to have the “space and time to decide what is right for themselves”. However, when he publicly spoke about his mother’s death last November on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, he said that there was so much “beauty” in that “moment,” as he was discussing a “vital” topic.
“In a way that felt like I didn’t have to give everything away,” he said. “A moment like that feels like a profound privilege that I got to be on a late-night show and talk to someone who’s so brilliant and smart and emotionally intelligent and talk about something that is important and vital.”
However, he noted that once any conversation feels like it’s “too much about [him],” he makes sure to “redirect attention” back to things that are “worth speaking about”.
“And then for me, it’s all about, as soon as I start serving myself, I know I’m in trouble,” he said. “As soon as it becomes too much about me, I have to kind of dance away from the edge of that and redirect attention back towards the thing that’s actually worth speaking about and actually enhancing the conversation.”
During his interview with Colbert, Garfield acknowledged that he doesn’t want to lose the grief that he’s felt from his mother’s death, as it represents “all the unexpressed love” that he didn’t get to share with her.
“I love talking about her, by the way, so if I cry, it’s only a beautiful thing,” said. “This is all the unexpressed love, the grief that will remain with us until we pass because we never get enough time with each other, no matter if someone lives until 60, 15, or 99.”
“So I hope this grief stays with me because it’s all the unexpressed love that I didn’t get to tell her,” the singer continued. “And I told her every day. We all told her every day, she was the best of us.”