Is It Crazy to Mourn Someone Who Never Existed?

They killed off one my favorite characters on one of my TV shows last night, and I’m doing a bit of public mourning here. It’s not that I didn’t know it was coming. I’m way behind on episodes and I’d read that it happened. Though I was dreading it, I’d steeled myself well for the moment. But when this character’s wife got the news of his death and collapsed in heart wrenching sobs, I felt it in my gut.

It didn’t do any good to remind myself these were not real people and it was just a story. See, when our favorite fictional characters die, we’re not really mourning them so much as mourning our own losses. We remember loved ones who’ve died and how much that hurt. And we acknowledge someday we’ll have to go through that again.

We also mourn the loss of something that brought us pleasure (in this case watching a perfect love story unfold), and the knowledge that nothing now will be the same (most shows don’t ever fully bounce back from the departure of a beloved character).

In my case, I was also mourning the loss of a simple, admittedly sappy show about people who were doing their best and bringing out the best in each other. For me, it’s been an antidote to the angst and worry I feel reading the daily news or social media posts.

We seek solace from this challenging world in nature, and good food, and the company of friends, but we also seek it in the art and entertainment we consume. And when the fictional worlds you love experience upheaval, it affects you. Rather than just brushing it off and saying, “Aren’t I silly?” ask yourself what’s really bothering you. Are you thinking of someone you loved and lost? Are your insecurities about relationships surfacing? Are you dreading a loss you can see coming? What emotions did that character’s death really churn up?

It’s not silly to mourn a character who never really existed. He might not have actually lived, but he touched your life. He made a connection. He held up a mirror. He was created to do just that. And in that sense, he was very real.

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