Story Hangover, TV Version (On Grieving a Show)

A few weeks ago, I commented on Twitter that I was going to have the ‘biggest book hangover ever’ when Bones ended.  My book friends, even those who don’t watch the show, understood immediately what I meant.

Having now watched some Bones fans flail in their sadness over the past days, I thought I’d unpack that a little, in case it helps.

We all experience fiction differently. I don’t just mean that one person can love what someone else hates, but even ‘loving’ something can mean different things for two different people.  There are shows I’ve loved, for example, that when they ended, I said, ‘what a great show!’ …and then I went and did something else.

But other stories take hold of me in a way that it’s harder to let them go. For me, this is generally – but not always – book series. I remember it happening as a kid the first time I read Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles – I cried at the end of The High King as much because the experience of reading those stories was over as I did in response to the ending. Same with the Anne books (L.M. Montgomery), The Little House series (Laura Ingalls Wilder), The Chronicles of Narnia (C.S. Lewis), The Lord of the Rings (Tolkien) and the Pern novels (Anne McCaffrey.)

It’s not a one time thing, either. Every single time I re-read any of those series, I feel lost when I come to the end. Every. Single. Time. Ditto books I’ve discovered as an adult, like the In Death books, or the Mercy Thompson books by Patricia Briggs.

There’s something about characters I love, existing in their own time and place, that I occasionally find difficult to leave behind once the story is over. It’s not every series I’ve read and enjoyed, but enough that I have a handle on the grief I feel when I close the last book. (Aka, ‘book hangover.’)

(This is probably why I’ve always understood exactly how Booth felt when he came out of the coma dream…)

Psychologists know that we feel grief for all kinds of things, not just the loss of someone we love. We grieve changes in our lives, even good ones (finishing high school or college, retiring from a job, children growing up and leaving home.) So why shouldn’t we acknowledge that the feeling of letting characters go may also be grief, while understanding that no two fans may experience it in the same way, or to the same degree?

So what does that mean?

For starters, don’t let anyone give you a hard time for what you’re feeling. No, ‘it’s just a TV show’ allowed. No. If you loved it, no, it’s not.

(And if you’re one of the people thinking, ‘what the hell? It’s a TV SHOW,’ …why is it so hard to respect our differences, even about something as seemingly minor as how we enjoy the entertainment we love? Related: why is it okay for people to grieve when their team loses the championship but not to respect how others feel when a TV show or book series ends?)

Second? Go with what works for you.  Maybe it’s continuing to talk about the show with other fans. Maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s reading or writing fanfiction; maybe it’s not.  For me? I always do the same thing when I finish reading (or re-reading) a favorite series of books: I go back and re-read (yes, again) one or two from the beginning of the series.  Every time.

I’ve got the newest Patricia Briggs book waiting for me (it came out March 7, and I’ve saved it for something to do after Bones ended); I already know that after I finish it, I’ll stay in that world a little longer by re-reading one of the earlier books.  Ditto when the next JD Robb comes out in September. (Though to be fair, I’m never wholly out of that world for long.)

But first…I’m re-watching Bones.  (Yesterday was The Man in the SUV.)  Based on how my book hangovers usually go, I’ll watch a few dozen eps, or a season or two, and gradually find myself letting go enough to move on to other things (like the Patricia Briggs book, or watching a couple of shows I’ve promised friends I’d try, or re-watching shows it’s been a while since I’ve visited.) I’ll continue watching Bones, but with less urgency, and then one day, I’ll realize that I’m no longer focusing on ‘it’s over’ but rather the degree to which the whole story, and everything it meant to me, is simply a source of joy and satisfaction.

Bones, and my involvement with the fandom, has been a hobby for me. Will I replace those hours with other things? Yes. (Hopefully, more writing.) But first, I’m giving myself the time to let it go in a way that works for me.

And if you’ve made friends in the fandom, and are worried about whether those relationships will last? The answer is …the important ones will. The ones where the show was a jumping off point to talking about other things, to connecting as human beings the way we do.

A long time ago (twenty years!) I fell in love with a different show, and over the next year or two, became friends with an amazing group of women. Gradually, we moved on, the show ended, and…we’re still friends. Enough so that they sent me flowers on Wednesday, despite most of them not watching Bones. The card reads:

“Because we understand what it is to come to the end of a beloved fandom. Thinking of you today.”

That’s why I’m not remotely worried about losing the relationships I’ve made through Bones.

Loving a show is good. Fandom can be wonderful. It’s okay to recognize that.

Be kind to yourselves.



5 thoughts on “Story Hangover, TV Version (On Grieving a Show)

  1. I love this. Thanks for writing it. It explains a lot. Here’s the interesting thing: I identify with this for another series: Buffy and Angel. I also had that empty feeling at the end, that I suppose felt something like grief that it had ended. I also went back and re-watched favorite episodes and scenes. But you know how I ultimately got over the Buffy the Vampire Slayer? By watching Bones. The Bangel saga nearly killed me, so Bones was such a salve. I knew from Wikipedia that Booth and Brennan would eventually get together and get married. I knew I would get that happily ever after that was never going to happen on Buffy. And at least at the beginning of Bones, DB felt like Angel somewhat so I didn’t feel like I was completely saying goodbye for a few episodes. By the time he had fully fleshed out the Booth character, I was completely in with the Bonesverse. But now, I almost feel strange for NOT grieving Bones. I feel like the end was perfect, and that B&B are still solving crimes sight unseen. But I hear you on the grief, and think you have a good plan.

    (Also, thanks for the book ideas! I don’t read book series too often, but if I do you have made some excellent suggestions. I mostly read standalone books.)

    • Now that I’m a few days further in to the post-Bones life, I think it’s not so much grieving the show itself (though that may yet come) as the experience of it -of seeing TV sites sharing tidbits about what’s coming, of the cast posting comments, of fans reacting, etc.

      You’re right – for me, they’re all continuing to solve mysteries in some AU universe; I’m just no longer seeing them. Plus, I’m re-watching eps, some of which it had been several years since I’d seen.

      But the overall experience…yeah, I’m still missing that.

  2. This is so 100% true.

    I’ve dealt with the end of Bones so far by focusing on other things – its come at the time of the Buffy 20th Anniversary so if I focused on both those things too much I’d be an emotional wreck!

    I do intend to revisit the Bonesverse soon, because I need to have my ‘goodbye’ moment (even if it’s not goodbye, because I’ll watch again and it’s always there yada yada yada), and I may even reread some of my fave Fanfictions for nostalgias sake.

    Bones has bought me so much joy over the last 12 years, and has bought a group of woman into my life that I know will be friends for years to come. And what more can you ask for from a TV show? Lol

  3. I geel as you do. Still trying to wrap myself around the fact that there will never be a new episode of bones. I loved the characters and will miss them, too. I wonder how the other characters are fairing. Have any of them found new endervers? I am rewatching to entire series and am on season 5, watching the death of the queen bee.

    • Well, I’m still in active denial about the ‘never’. LOL. I figure if X-Files and Will and Grace came back, there’s at least a chance for a Bones reunion somewhere down the line, particularly since no one involved with the show vetoed it. But that will be a while, so I’m balancing other things (shows, hobbies) with Bones re-watches. Right now, I watch 2-3 eps a week: one from S1 (planning to go through the entire show a week at a time) and another one or two from later in the show, depending on my mood. It’s getting me through. 🙂

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