Friday, July 27, 2007

Grieving the loss of fictional characters




I read, with interest, the article published in the July 12th edition of USA Today.  It was titled, “Fans’ teary eyes are all on ‘Potter’ – Saying goodbye to characters and series, can cause some real-life grief.”  The much anticipated arrival of the final book is here.  However, by the time I post this article, some of the more ambitious readers will know which characters were sacrificed for literary glory.


Too well I remember the sadness I felt when I read Charlotte’s Web as a child and learned of Charlotte’s demise.  When we grow up, we seem to be protected, to some degree, of life’s lessons, such as sickness and death.  Charlotte’s Web was the most memorable demise of a character to me.  Of course, there IS Bambi!  Today, the ongoing debate continues as to whether this film is appropriate for children to watch because of Bambi’s mother’s horrific death.  And then there are the HUNTERS!  Oh no! 


As I got older, I got sucked into the Clan of the Cave Bear Series (please don’t judge me) and still to this day hope that Jean Auel will produce one more tome to satisfy my curiosity about what happens to Ayla, Jondular and their baby.  Does she meet her son?  Us Enquiring Minds need to know!  And howmany romance novel readers are out there?  Who hasn’t got sucked into a Nora Roberts series and felt the sad disappointment of not being able to continue reading about these lives that we became emotionally invested in? 


So if we adults are prone to this kind of sadness when a series ends, or a fictional character dies, than how are the children supposed to handle these emotions?  I don’t think avoidance is the answer.  These books and movies provide great teachable moments to our children about the different things life has to offer – the good AND the bad.  I always like to talk about the movie with the younger ones, in the car, on the drive home.  I ask TONS of questions – “What was your favorite part?” “What was your least favorite and why?” “What did you learn from the movie, if anything?”  If you, as the adult, know there was an important message and the children aren’t getting it – they can be gently prodded in that direction by your questions.  If the topic of death, dying or other unpleasant topics come up, you can answer them appropriately using the movie they have just seen as a guideline. 


The USA Today article stated that “no one has the right to scorn someone else’s grief, even if it’s for a fictional character . . .” They went on to describe the emotional outpouring of global grief when Princess Diana had died and further stated, “It’s not any more of a pretend emotion to mourn a fictional character than to mourn a princess you never met who subject you were not.”  With that in mind, you  may be better equipped to know what kind of help and emotional support to offer to your child when their favorite fictional character meets with an untimely death.


Until next week, please be gentle with yourself.



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