Managing Grief With Harry Potter

How Parasocial Relationships with fictional characters can help us heal.

Posted Mar 05, 2017

Earlier this morning I got a text from one of my best friends. Let's call him Roger. 

My sister passed early this morning.

We grew up together. When the teen life was too overwhelming, when life didn't seem to make much sense, we would all gather at Roger's house. His family took us all in as if we were their own. We would spend holidays there, birthdays, and the most difficult days of our teen lives. Sometimes our friends and I would spend weeks at a time there. 

I remember reading 'Harry Potter' and thinking of Roger's house as kind of like the Weasley's house.

Warning: Spoilers follow!

Harry Potter's own parents were killed by a dark wizard when he was 1 year old and he was raised by his aunt, uncle, and cousin, who physically and emotionally abused him. It's not until Harry is 11 that he learns that he is a wizard and is able to attend Hogwarts, a School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

There he becomes best friends with Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. Harry often stays with Ron's family, who are always supportive and welcoming to him, often making him feel as if he were a part of their family. 

Staying at Roger's house was kind of like that. I felt understood, accepted, fully and unconditionally. My own family never understood mental health and I was often judged and criticized for feeling depressed or anxious. At Roger's house, we talked about our feelings, we hugged, we played board games and video games. We were allowed to be perfectly imperfect and magically human. Like Harry, I too often wished that I could just stay with my friend's family forever. 

Toward the end of there series, one of Ron Weasley's older brothers, Fred, dies tragically in a battle against dark wizards. Ron, his mother, and Fred's twin brother, George, are understandably devastated by this loss. As are Harry and Hermione, after all, the Weasleys were their family as well. 

Harry Potter Wiki
Source: Harry Potter Wiki

None of us are immune to the effects of grief, only some of us might choose to process it, while others might choose to suppress it. Being a psychologist who specializes in depression and trauma, I know how important it is to experience and process our painful emotions and how toxic they might become if we do not.

It's helpful when we can be around friends or family who can support us during a difficult time. Sometimes, we might also need to understand our grief on a deeper level in order to process it better. This is where therapy can help. In addition, connecting with real life people or fictional characters who have also experienced loss, can help us better understand our own feelings and can potentially help us build a foundation for recovery.

Pinterest Harry Potter
Source: Pinterest Harry Potter

As Professor Dumbledore from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry once said: "Numbing the pain for a while will make it worse when you finally feel it."

He also mentioned: "This pain is part of being human … the fact that you can feel pain like this is your greatest strength" and I agree with that completely.

So, if like me you're trying to cope with painful emotions, be it grief, depression, anxiety, or something different, please know you're not alone. Please know that many people are going through exactly what you're going through, and please know that your pain is your greatest strength. 

Until next time, just know that you are loved. You matter. 

Dr. Janina Scarlet is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, a scientist, and a full-time geek. A Ukrainian-born refugee, she survived Chernobyl radiation and persecution. She immigrated to the United States at the age of 12 with her family and later, inspired by the X-Men, developed Superhero Therapy to help patients with anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Her book, “Superhero Therapy” came out on December 1, 2016 in the U.K. and will release on August 1, 2017 in the U.S.

If you would like to learn more about Superhero Therapy, contact Dr. Janina Scarlet Twitter @shadowquill, Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Shadow.Scarletl, or website at www.superhero-therapy.com