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When your heart feels as though it can’t go on, know that you are not alone.

Traumatized By the Death of a TV Show Character? We Can Help

How to Recover From a TV Show Death

When your heart feels as though it can’t go on, know that you are not alone.

By Mykaela Alvey, Anderson University


If you’re like me, you get emotionally involved pretty easily.

Unlike my more emotionally mature peers (or immature?), my attachment is not limited to real people, meaning fictional characters are more than fair game.

So, when the writers decide that the moment has arrived to kill my favorite character, times can be bleak. Why should a handful of people get to choose the fate of the characters I love?

Your powerlessness is a cruel reality, but seeing as most television writers don’t even open the envelopes of feedback you mail them, here is how you’re going to have to get over these painful deaths.

1. Crying

The first and most restorative step in the process is to let your emotions out.

If you can honestly claim to have watched someone from your favorite show die without at least tearing up, I commend you. I also want to know your secret, because not all of us are lucky like you.

Even if the series is only just beginning and I hardly know the character, if anyone remotely important dies then I welcome the waterworks like a close friend bearing ice cream.

Spoiler Alert: I almost stopped watching Once Upon A Time when Graham died in the sixth episode of season one. Who in their right mind kills off the attractive Irish sheriff?

Traumatized By the Death of a TV Show Character? We Can Help

Regardless of who your Graham is, there’s no shame in crying. Let the tears flow. Most people have been there before, so you probably won’t be judged.

Sadly, as your tears dry, the real pain sets in. The next part of your grief will probably cause most people to run away from you, but only for a little while.

2. Shirk Interaction

Though cutting yourself off from spending time with people may seem unhealthy, sometimes ignoring reality is the first step to recovery.

Your family and friends will be unable to understand your mourning process right now. While their lives are proceeding normally, your entire existence is crashing down around you.

Sometimes the best thing to do is simply to hide away for awhile. By avoiding human interaction, you can recover in fetal position without bothering anyone.

3. Bargaining

Bargaining is the next step in most grieving processes, and once you’re comfortable leaving your isolation, the time has come to try and work out some kind of deal.

At this stage, I often find myself saying, “Well, no worries, as long as the writers bring someone better onto the show I’ll be fine.”

I’m not often disappointed either, as most writers do usually introduce new people who I somehow love even more.

I often wonder though, if a day comes when a character dies but nothing good comes from it, if the writers fail to sense my inner anguish and bring in someone better—what would life be then?

 But, more often than not, I find that ignoring the inevitable and looking for an emotional loophole is much easier. If someone had to die, why couldn’t the horrible person die? Or even just the annoying person? Writers sure seem to enjoy killing off just the person you think makes the show the best. 

4. Relive the Good Memories

Once you’ve finished cosmically wheeling and dealing, the next step is to remember the deceased fondly.

While other may call this stage denial, I’ve always believed that grieving individuals can find a lot of solace in reliving positive memories. Ruminating over the character’s best lines and moments can help you celebrate their life the way they would want you to.

A great way to keep their spirit alive is to re-watch the episodes before their death, a surefire way of pretending, at least for a little bit longer, that they aren’t actually gone.

5. Cry Again 

Remembering the great times might make you momentarily happy, but eventually you will have to move past the denial and accept the fact that the moments you’re reliving are now just memories.

Living in the past will only bring you fleeting relief. After a sufficient amount of time, you have to allow yourself to accept the inevitable. They are gone and you can’t change that.

Denial tends to hold the emotions at bay a bit, so once you have shed yourself of the unacceptance, the natural reaction is the welcome the emotions back.

Repeat tears aren’t necessarily a step for everyone though.

In addition to your emotional sensitivity, your level of attachment to the character plays a large role in whether or not you experience a second bout of emotions. For instance, first-season deaths are rarely as traumatic as fourth season ones, which themselves pale in comparison to seventh season ones.

6. Tentative Acceptance

After having cried twice, shut yourself off from the world. Once you’ve remembered the best moments, the next natural step is to accept the inevitable, realize everything comes to an end at some point and keep watching the show.

Don’t give up on the other characters either.

You may be surprised to find that the death of one supporting cast member might mean the introduction of a brand new one, maybe even a protagonist that’s better looking and more identifiable.

As you begin fostering new feelings of devotion to the replacement character, never forget what happened to their predecessor. One death and the process starts over again.

  1. came to this article after Glenn’s death in TWD…. I was really traumatized by the episode and the plot line. Pregnant Maggie sobbing her heart out over her beloved’s body after she watches him brutally murdered…. I’m still not okay…. I am haunted. I watched the show for the Glenn/ Maggie relationship (well I grudgingly watched when I lived with my boyfriend and roommates, and Glenn/Maggie story line was what kept me). I’m a romantic at heart, and the loss of a lover in a story line is always what gets me the most. I have barely watched this show in recent years, the endless gore kept me away and less intrigued, they’ve been headed for empty violence and torture porn for some time now.

    My husband is Asian American, and it was nice to finally see a relationship like ours portrayed onscreen. My husband sarcastically joked, it took the end of the world for them to show a normal Asian American guy get with a white girl on TV, and of course as soon as he gets her pregnant he must die. (yes he’s read the comics, we know how it went down in the book series, he’s just saying it takes the apocalypse for a normal Asian American character to turn up on TV.)

    Anyway, it’s glad to know that people cry over fictional characters too, I feel less silly. Still heartbroken and crying several days later, having nightmares. Going through all the stages listed above, and feeling ridiculous for being THIS affected by a TV show. I hope it all passes soon, so I can go back to my life when I didn’t care about the Walking Dead as much. But I am still crying and mourning. Maybe I projected too much of myself onto Maggie, going through her grieving process. I couldn’t imagine going through that trauma, and watching her go through it, put me right there with her, and now I’m really messed up.

    Thanks for having this article. Won’t be the first fictional character I’ve shed tears for (although I have never ever been this traumatized and haunted by a death before now) and probably won’t be the last. But this helped me process my grief, and I appreciate that it was here. Thank you

  2. I came here after Peter Quinn’s death in Homeland. It was one of my favorite shows of all time… now, I’m not so sure anymore. Peter was one of those characters that deserved better than they got. He went through fucking hell and in the end, still got nothing from it. I just don’t understand why the writers insisted he live on another season after nearly dying in the 5th. He was induced in a coma after being poisoned with Sarin gas and when they decided to wake him up (despite the doctor’s orders), he had a stroke and became impaired. He recover a bit but was never truly the same again. But despite that, i still thought he’d have a chance to be happy with Carrie. I’m so depressed and I just don’t understand why or how I got so fucking attached to Quinn. I wish at this point, I hadn’t even seen the show.

  3. I just watched Six Feet Under because it was on my Amazon prime video. It’s older, but man-o-man. I really got sucked into the storyline. I haven’t felt that invested in characters since I watched Breaking Bad. It doesn’t help that I binge watched all 5 seasons of Six Feet Under in 2 weeks, and so I felt like I became part of the family! Anyway, the ending to that show is devastating. All of the characters grow old and eventually die and it’s so hard to sit through. I cried and cried and cried some more. And I’m not usually a crier at shows. This one hit me hard. I went through so many stages during my sobbing, from “I hate this show what a horrible ending” to “OMG this was the best show and of course it ended this way, what other way could it have happened?” Overall, I’m glad I watched the show, but I think it is going to take a few days to stop feeling so emotional about that ending.

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