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Literary Grief and Loss

I wish you good fortune, cousin -- Lyanna Mormont

Reading a good novel or watching a much-anticipated TV episode transports us to a different world filled with people and animals who feel very real. When a beloved fictional character dies,  it can feel upsetting and real. Often our grief persists after we close the book or turn off the TV, and we may walk around feeling depressed. . . and maybe even upset with the author, scriptwriters, or producers.

Gordon Korman, award-winning young adult author, jokes that ...

"The dog always dies. Go to the library and pick out a book with an award sticker and a dog on the cover. Trust me, that dog is going down."

GRR Martin:  I don't always kill my main characters ... Wait, I do.

Dealing with Literary Loss

When your favorite character dies, it’s normal to go through a process of sadness and reconciliation. There are several ways that you can celebrate this character after their death and start feeling better.

  • Express your grief.  People can go through a similar mourning process for fictional characters just as they do for real people (although hopefully less extreme.)  
  • Allow yourself to feel angry with the character, the writer, or the producer.   Talking about your anger with other fans can help you to work out how unjust it was for this character to die.  In a book or TV show, characters' deaths often having meanings, even if they seem accidental or random.  Deliberate thought was put into that death.  Processing it from the author's point of view can help you to find meaning and to express your emotions in a healthy way.
  • Write out what you feel.  It may seem silly to write a letter to a fictional character, but writing is quite therapeutic.  You might also consider posting to fan forums where you can work through your feelings with like-minded individuals.   Writing fan fiction can also help you to fill in gaps in the character's life that the author did not cover ... and you can even write an alternate ending to that character's story.  
  • Give yourself time.  This is a process and it can take a while to feel stable and better.  Remember that there is no established timetable for getting over your grief, but it may help to begin the process of working through it before the next episode or the sequel comes out.
  • Celebrate the character's life.  Reread or rewatch your favorite scenes.  Locate their best quotes.  It may help to know that while they are gone, you can always go back and spend more time with them.
  • Remember their impact.  Think about the character and the impact they made not only on you, but on other characters.  The story will not be the same, but it may help to think about how different it might have been had the character not been in the story at all.


Source:  How to Get Over the Death of a Fictional Character

Memorable Deaths in Fiction

There are some characters whose loss we will feel for a long time.  This list is not meant to capture the only characters' deaths who will be hard to get over ... it's merely representative of the many that will linger with us for a long time.

Character Book, TV, Film
Charlotte Charlotte's Web
Everyone who has ever died Harry Potter books
Old Dan and Little Ann Where the Red Fern Grows
Leslie Burke Bridge to Terabithia
Sydney Carton A Tale of Two Cities
Johnny Cade The Outsiders
Piggy Lord of the Flies
Tom Robinson To Kill a Mockingbird
Augustus Waters The Fault in Our Stars
Old Yeller Old Yeller
Jay Gatsby The Great Gatsby
Boromir Lord of the Rings
Ned Stark Game of Thrones
Mufasa The Lion King
Oberyn Martell Game of Thrones
Matthew Crawley Downton Abbey
Opie Winston Sons of Anarchy
Spock Star Trek II:  The Wrath of Khan
Lori Grimes The Walking Dead
Nick "Goose" Bradshaw Top Gun
Mike Ehrmantraut Breaking Bad
Primrose Everdeen The Hunger Games:  Mockingjay
Rita Morgan Dexter
Charlie Pace Lost
The Red Wedding Game of Thrones
LTC Henry Blake MASH
The Tenth Doctor Doctor Who
Hershel Greene The Walking Dead
Edith Bunker All in the Family
Lady Game of Thrones
Jin-Soo and Sun-Hwa Lost
Mr. Hooper Sesame Street
Hodor Game of Thrones
Tara Knowles Sons of Anarchy
Nate Fischer Six Feet Under
Hank Schrader Breaking Bad
Mrs. Landingham West Wing
Lennie Brisco Law & Order
Poussey Washington Orange is the New Black
Derek "McDreamy" Shepherd Grey's Anatomy
Dr. Mark Greene ER
And the list goes on ... ...and on, and on, and on ....


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