The 5 Steps to Grieving a Favorite Book (or Series)

Posted by Eric Jensen on

The deep dread that comes with finishing a book series…is there anything more literally ironic than the process of reading a beloved series? The crippling sadness of grieving a book increases before it's even over, as does the dead weight need to complete the journey. Characters became neighbors in your brain – brain neighbors. Old friends and grudges are buried as deeply as your own memories. This crippling sadness and immense joy is one of those unintelligible contradictions that God throws at us and has to be laughing over. In this article I will tell you how I cope, with the hope of helping you. All of us Page Chasers have dealt with this, and the COVID-19 quarantine has only made it happen more frequently!

I just finished a long book series called The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan. Fourteen books in which I lived for all of 2019 and the beginning of this insanity we’re calling 2020.

Here's What Grieving a Book Looks Like:

It’s over. You’re finished. They’re gone! These wonderfully inked friends are trapped in time while you must move on. If this seems melodramatic you and your cold heart can go take one of our wonderful quizzes. For the rest of you, this list is to help fill the gaping hole that a certain book left in your life.

Here are the five steps to coping with grieving a book or series after you finish it:

1. Cry

Let it out. However you release, release it. It is my experience that the longer a book series is or the more personally connected to it you are (those frequently feed into one another), the larger the gaping hole will be in your heart once finished. It may even compel you to get fetal and moan. “Why oh why did I do this to myself again? To love and lose is better not to have loved at all! Yes yes, each experience cause me to grow, I guess…and this depth of feeling probably helps people grow blah blah blah. It’s over and I miss them and they’re gone forever and I want the author to write me into the story so I never have to leave!”

2. Remember: You've Been Here Before

Between sobs, remember that this is not your first time (if it is, Lord help you). Some other books that have left me in the fetal position with candles lit and gothic chanting on the speakers were: Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, anything by Jane Austen, the Red Rising Saga, Same Kind of Different as Me, The June Boys, the list goes on…. I am v susceptible to book loss…

grieving a book

3. Reread! You Can Reread!

While your life will have to move on – to other things, other books, other characters – those old friends are stuck in time. Remember that silver lining! They always will be there and you can always come back. And while it won’t be the first time each time you revisit and learn something new, it is a great experience. Plus, instead of grieving a book, you can become an authority on the series and all the glorious “well actually” moments can be yours.

4. Take Pride in Your Accomplishment

You’ve done it! You’ve finished another work, broadened your emotional scope. You are Queen/King of the empaths! Woe to all who think you cannot feel their sadness! You are a reader, a page chaser! There's a mountain of #TBR next to your bed or on your phone waiting to be read or listened to! You must continue!

5. Move On!

It’s almost time to pick up the next pickaxe and bust up my heart only to have it grow larger and explode again when I close this next one. An unending masochistic cycle, mess-me-up fiction.

Ultimately, grieving a great book makes you human.

It seems to me the thing that most illustrates the balance of emotions that fuel the human experience on a grand yet consumable scale is a book. Immersing yourself in a narrative, bonding to the dreams of a character, allowing and opening yourself to an entire world created outside of your consciousness, one that builds letter by letter, and sealing this bond takes us through the brightness and darkness of the scope of human emotion. We form bonds of love only by marching the very thing to its death.

From love to hate, each line weaves a connection to our soul and the ephemerality of it haunts and screams at us throughout the experience, love me! Read me! Finish me! Kill me! Keep me alive forever! The innate desire to keep flipping the pages (or rather, chasing them heh heh), running towards the death of this happiness is the irony of it. The experience is fueled by the very thing that kills it. In a way, you are killing a book when you consume it. Each word you comprehend is another breath the book expends on its trudge to completion to finality and to death. Only in killing this thing can we love it. And on this smaller and quicker scale it shows us that there really is no death, you have immortalized the life of this book by consuming it and making it a part of your own.

The heart is a muscle like any other. It grows stronger the more it gets ripped apart. Us readers are basically emotional body builders.

Have I blown your mind yet??

What does grieving a book or series look like for you? Tell us in the comments!

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