Helping Children Cope if Harry Potter Dies
Tips for Helping Children Deal with the Death of a Beloved Fictional Friend
By: Kirsti A. Dyer on: Fri 20 of Jul, 2007 [00:38 UTC] (4048 reads)
Even though I haven’t witnessed the Harry Potter phenomenon (much) through the eyes of my own children, I have been concerned recently as a grief and loss specialist with the potential impact on children following the release of the last book in the series, ''Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows." This article offers some of the information I have shared in the past with other parents on helping children cope with death, in this case, of a fictional friend.
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My children are just starting to be of the age (7 and 5) where they are just getting interested in Harry Potter and his gang of Hogwarts. My oldest isn’t quite ready to begin reading the books, so we won’t be camping out to get the latest book in the series when it is release on Saturday, July 21, 2007.
With that said, even though I haven’t witnessed the Harry Potter phenomenon through the eyes of my own children, I have been concerned recently as a grief and loss with some of the articles that I have read on the upcoming release of the last book in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows.
The first article “What is a parent to do if Harry or Ron dies? prompted today’s blog entry, “Children are likely to Grieve Over Any Deaths in the Latest Harry Potter Book.” The second article that I found was a speculative, early obituary written for Harry Potter and the Hogwarts has prompted this second blog.
Concerns About Children Dealing with Harry Potter’s Death
There is growing concern from grief counselors, psychiatrist, parents and others that many of the young Harry Potter Fans may have a difficult time coping with a death or several deaths. Why the concern? Author J.K. Rowling has been quoted that at least two of the series' main characters will meet their untimely end in this final book.
There is good reason for the concern. In the ending of the sixth Harry Potter book, “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince” one of the beloved characters, Dumbledore was killed by Severus Snape during the Battle of Hogwarts. This death came as a shock for many readers prompting headlines at the time, now nearly two years ago, of "Young Potter readers need to talk, grieve."
Is the Death of a Harry Potter Character a big deal?
Parents may view the deaths of the Harry Potter Characters realistically. “It’s just a book.” “They are fictional characters.” Yet, for young fans who may have followed the Hogwarts exploits for years and been a part of the nearly 10 year phenomenon of the J.K. Rowling series, the fictional characters, Harry, Ron and Hermione, are as real as people and are regarded as friends.
Consequently the death of any of the Harry Potter Hogwart characters is a very big deal and may be difficult for young readers to understand and find ways of coping with the unexpected loss of a friend. Counselors, teachers, parents and psychiatrists are anticipating a lot of teary fans following the reading of the final book.
Normal Responses for Children to a Death
Children can experience a variety of different response following a death, even the death of a favorite fictional character. Some may be saddened, many will cry, others may become distressed and depressed and truly grieve the loss of friend. Some children may not appear to be distressed at all, rather appear to be taking the deaths in stride. It is possible that these children may not want to talk about it, but could still be quietly impacted. These are all normal reactions to a death.
Depending on the way the death(s) occur in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, children may be confused, disappointed, depressed or distraught. Concerned parents of Harry Potter Fans should be sure that they know how the deaths occurred, in order to answer questions that may arise. Be sure to read the book as your child does or check the fan sites for details.
Helping Your Child Cope with the Death of a Beloved Fictional Friend
According to child and adolescent psychiatrist Dr. David Fassler:
''The death of a well-known public figure can be hard to comprehend or accept. Understandably, some young children may feel sad or confused.
As parents, teachers and caring adults, we can best help by listening and responding in an honest, consistent and supportive manner.''
When trying to help a child cope with death of a beloved fictional character and/or public figure it is helpful to:
- Know what is going on with the death (In the case of Harry Potter, read the book or synopsis).
- Answer his or her questions about death in simple terms.
- Not minimize the loss.
- Listen to your child.
- Be supportive if the child is emotional. (A normal response.)
- Be supportive if the child is not emotional. (Also a normal response.)
- Be available when the child is ready to talk. Some children may have a delayed response and want to talk much later.
- Let your child have time to grieve, be upset and talk about what they are experiencing.
- Give your child different ways to express the loss--verbal, written, creative, musical and physical.
While we can't shelter our children from learning about death and dying, we can use moments, such as the death of a beloved character, to teach them about the circle of life and how to cope with one of the inevitabilities of life.
For more see my Grief, Loss & Transitions blog today on Children are likely to Grieve Over Any Deaths in the Latest Harry Potter Book.