Death of fictional characters: should we grieve them or not?


On June 5th, at 4 AM, I found myself having an internal battle about this topic. I had just spent the last two hours crying over Justin Folley’s death, from 13 Reasons Why – I have the picture to prove how puffy and red my eyes were. And no, I won’t share it. – and felt ridiculous. I mean, I didn’t even know the dude! He doesn’t even exist and he is just a fictional character. I thought it was just a thing of the moment and went to sleep, confident that when the new day came, I would be able to write a great review for the season.

However, in the next couple of days, every time I went to my computer and tried to write about it, I kept crying and feeling a mess. I couldn’t even see pictures of it online. I was a mess and found it ridiculous.

That’s when I decided to research the subject and try to understand if it was normal. I didn’t feel like it, but the more I read, the more I started to feel like myself. I even took the time to grab a coffee with a friend, who is a psychology major, to share these feelings and try to understand them.

So, should we grieve fictional characters? Should we cry and mourn them? That’s what I’m trying to answer with this long article and I’ve got a few personal examples to share with you.

Remember when Avengers Endgame came out last year and we couldn’t believe Tony Stark had sacrificed himself? Yeah, I was a kind of a mess back then too. I cried in the movies – not as much as I did when I rewatched later at home alone – and in the first few weeks, I couldn’t see pictures of him without my heart clenching.

Iron Man is one of the reasons I love Marvel movies so much, he had grown from an impulsive playboy to… well, an impulsive family man and it broke my heart to see him give up his life to save the world, especially after he found happiness next to Pepper and Morgan.

However, I couldn’t stop myself from also grieving the way the ended Steve Roger’s story in the MCU. I mean, the dude had to fight so hard to finally come to terms with his new place in the world. He had friends, who had become family, and he had come to understand the modern world. Did they actually ruin his story arc by making him go back in time? I was pissed off! Not only for him but for what they did to Peggy Carter. It wasn’t sadness like it was with Tony, but anger boiling underneath the surface and it took me weeks to finally come to terms with it.

Let’s talk about another show: Game of Thrones. You know, that amazing HBO production which had the worst ending possible.

I did love it. I remember myself crying to sleep when Rob Stark died. It was so sad! And I was not expecting it at all! (I hadn’t read the books back then) But, when Daenerys took her last breath, I couldn’t bring myself to shed a tear. I actually felt more sorry for Jon Snow who – once again – had to carry the burden.

I felt strange for not mourning Daenerys while everyone else did and that feeling haunts me until today. I did felt an emptiness when I realized that the show was not coming back and it took me a while to get over it.

This article made me remember another two deaths that made me have mixed feelings: Jasper and Monty, from The 100.

When Jasper died, I probably cried for hours. I couldn’t even bring myself to watch the rest of the season and it took me a while to get back on track. However, when season five ended and I learned that Monty had passed away while his friends/family were in cryogenic pods, I was too dumbfounded to react.

I should’ve cried. I mean, I know myself, so the normal reaction for me was to cry, but I just stood there staring at the screen completely petrified. Then… anger. How could the writer have done so dirt to one of the best characters in the show? It was so infuriating! That should’ve have bothered me as the writers have been a-holes for seasons, but it did.

Finally, Sam and Dean Winchester. You know, those guys who keep dying and coming back from the dead for the last 15 years. When Sam first died, tears. When Dean died, tears. Now? I just shrug my shoulders and keep watching until they come back. And it’s not just them! It’s every f***ing character!

So, when Crowley died, I was like: Meh, I’ll see you soon. Dude, the awesome King of Hell died – for real this time! – and I just shrugged it off. This show really numbed me and I don’t even flinch when one of them goes. If, in the end, Sam and Dean really die, I’ll probably need therapy. Not because I will become a mess, but because I won’t feel anything.

I probably have thousands of stories of me being a cry baby or an insensitive psychopath, but I’ll just stop here.

This brings us to the main team of our article: is it or is it not normal to grieve fictional characters? The answer that I’ve come to the conclusion after my research is yes. Not only is it normal, but you should also do it.

We create an emotional connection with them, sometimes because we just love their story or personality; other times because they remind us of ourselves or someone we love. Their endings might also make us face something we fear in our subconscious. And death is always a fear.

We’d be liars if we said that never once questioned our mortality. Who has never feared for its life or the lives of the ones we love? As I go through one of the hardest times in my life, I can’t stop thinking about it and maybe – just maybe – that’s why it’s been really hard for me to watch a fictional character I care about die.

Don’t ever hide your feelings. Don’t be afraid to show your emotions, even if it for someone that only exists in fiction. We all react differently to the most distinct situation. Cry, mourn, scream, punch. Love comes in many ways and forms. Who’s to say we can’t love a fictional character?