Parasocial Grief

So, your fave sucks now, your comfort show got cancelled, or your favorite band “went on hiatus.” You’re probably feeling grief. Parasocial grief, though grief nonetheless.

I’ve written about this topic before, but a few things happened lately that have it back on the top of my mind.

Grief is hard. We had a guest post recently about doing “grief work” and all that can entail. When we think of grief, we probably think about losing someone we love. A beloved pet, friend, or family member. The tears, and endless months of hollow empty aching.

If that’s grief, how could it possibly extend to parasocial relationships? Grief is a heavy concept and strong word. Maybe we’re sad about our fave sucking, show getting cancelled, or band breaking up, but grief? GRIEF?! Chill out, right? It’s jUsT a ShOw!

Ehh, not so much.

Parasocial relationships do similar things to our brains as IRL (in real life) relationships. You can read more about it here. Since our brains are perceiving parasocial relationships as real and important, when we lose those relationships, our brains also perceive that loss as real.

Our brains experience loss as trauma – a threat to survival, which activates our nervous system and has us operating outside of our window of tolerance/zone of optimal arousal. Grief is a protective process meant to help us cope with the emotional stress and upheaval.

Even if you don’t think a parasocial relationship ending warrants grief, we need just look to our fandom compatriots to see that they are experiencing real grief when shit goes down in fandom spaces. If you’re not grieving that situation, great! If your fellow human is, offer some compassion and grace. Our brains are wired for connection. Sometimes that connection comes from parasocial relationships. The loss of connection hurts, either way.

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