This past weekend saw the release of “Avengers: Endgame” and a pivotal episode of “Game of Thrones.” Fans of both franchises were understandably rattled; after investing so many years in these story lines and characters, it’s reasonable for fans to fear these closing chapters where many characters are expected to meet their ends.
The sadness that comes with the death of a fictional character, although hard to explain, is one we’ve all experienced to some degree over the course of our lives.
We spend a lot of our time with fictional characters, forming relationships that are meaningful to us even if they’re completely one sided. We watch these shows and movies with friends and think about them while they’re not on our screens. According to Alan Wolfelt, founder of the Center for Loss and Life Transition, the grief caused by fictional characters is real and more common than you might think.
How to prepare for #AvengersEndgame & #GameofThrones Battle of Winterfell this week:
1. Book your therapy appointments early
2. Buy waterproof mascara & tissues
3. Remember, nothing matters and everything is awful
We’re all in this existential crisis together. ✊?✊?✊?✊?✊?
— Alisha Grauso (@AlishaGrauso) April 22, 2019
Popular Science consulted with experts and concluded that people form real bonds with fictional characters, TV shows and with the people they watched these programs with. When these programs end, the bond is severed. Friends who experienced these emotions together lose something that united them and brought happiness to their lives.
Wolfelt says that in order to process and mourn these losses it’s important for “grief work” to occur, a process that has two basic stages: first, the person affected must mourn their loss and second, the people who are near them must validate their feelings. This can be a tough thing to achieve within our culture, especially when you’re experiencing a grief that’s so personal and “little” when compared to other losses. “‘Well, it’s just a pet,’ or ‘it’s just a show’—you’re not creating space for them to be affirmed,” explains Worfelt.
To mourn the end of your favorite show or the death of your favorite character, spend some time re-watching the first seasons or your favorite moments. Hold on to them before you are able and willing to move on.