Character death is everywhere. A classic favorite among authors, playwrights, and script writers alike, its uses are numerous. Killing off a character can add realism, advance the plot, provide motivation for other individuals, or satisfy the audience with a well-deserved end. Although the exact circumstances of a character’s death and the immediate impact on those who witness it are heavily covered in literature, a less commonly portrayed aspect of death is the long-term effects it has on those who experience it.
Mourning in literature is often seen as an obstacle to overcome. The assumption is that people in grief need to be cured, the melancholy mustn’t drag on too long, and the most important goal is to make sure the loved one’s death was not in vain. Sadly, these common themes in fiction are inherently wrong. As respected bereavement counselor Earl Grollman once said, “Grief is not a disorder, a disease, or a sign of weakness. It is an emotional, physical, and spiritual necessity, the price you pay for love. The only cure for grief is to grieve.”
Sooner or later in life, everyone is forced to experience a deep loss. And without the guidance of counselors or family, the only voice telling people how to grieve is our shallow, profoundly confused culture. As authors, we do a disservice to our readers if our heroes are praised for ignoring their grief, or if the main obstacle is that the character just needs to decide to “be happy” again. [Read more…]