5 Stages of Grief When Bad Things Happen to Beloved Characters

Susie Rodarme

Staff Writer

Susie Rodarme is obsessed with small press literary fiction and tea. Other notable skills: chainmaille weaving, using Photoshop semi-correctly, and drinking gin.

So. You were reading along, minding your own business, and Something Very Bad has suddenly happened to characters you like a lot. You’re having all kinds of emotions right now.

Don’t worry. We’re here for you. Knowing the five stages of reading grief will help you work through dem feels.

Stage 1: Re-Reading

“Did … did that really just happen? No, surely not–I better re-read to make sure I didn’t miss something.” Because hey, it’s TOTALLY POSSIBLE that you read that passage wrong and your favorite character didn’t just die or that the couple you’ve been shipping didn’t just break it off FOREVER when one of them married SOMEONE ELSE. You’d better re-read it just to be sure, and then re-read it a whole bunch more times, to be more sure.

Stage 2: Dismay

After you’ve re-read the passage at least twenty-five times (on average), you begin to think that maybe, just maybe you didn’t miss anything. That this is actually happening right there in black and white. Stage 2 is characterized by a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach, possibly followed by some heavy sniffling and eye-leaking.

Stage 3: Rationalization and Hope

“Surely the author wouldn’t do this. They wouldn’t want to let down their fans! And hey, look how many pages are left–there are TOTALLY ENOUGH PAGES to turn this whole thing around. People can come back to life or get divorced! Mistakes can be corrected!” Stage 3 often includes scouring the text for any potential foreshadowing that leads to this ghastly event being undone in the end and occasionally includes peeking ahead because you just. Can’t. Stand it.

Stage 4: Getting Pissed Off

You’re almost to the last page and nothing has changed. Nothing. Your favorite character is still dead, your favorite relationship is in the toilet. So you start to get mad. Mad at the author, mad at the book. Why is this happening to you? Don’t you deserve happiness? Be wary of readers in Stage 4, because their books can become projectiles at a moment’s notice.

Stage 5: Never Getting Over It

Whether you come to accept that the author did the right thing, or whether you feel cheated and think the author is a two-star-review hack, you’re never going to get over this book. It’s not gonna happen. Every time someone brings it up, you’re going to have feels boiling over. You might rant about how mad you were when it happened. You might cry again. You might concede that, yes, it was the right place for the story to go, but DAMMIT, it upset you so much. Then everyone will nod and say, yes, we feel the same way.

What was the last book that made you experience reading grief? What stage are you in?


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