Thursday, August 25, 2016
I didn’t know what to title this blog because the five stages of grief sound so depressing. A romance novel is uplifting, at least at the end, and nothing at all like grief. We read a love story for the joy of ‘happily ever after.’ But grief is a part of life and sometimes our characters suffer from it either before the story begins or during the story itself.
If we’re writing women’s fiction or a literary novel, then emotional pain and angst aren’t particularly unusual. But in a love story, the hero or heroine may have lived through a terrible romantic experience in the past. It could be a break up, a death, or a divorce, though divorce isn’t normally found in Christian fiction.
I always had the impression that the bitterness, sadness, or anger of a great emotional upheaval should take place in the character’s past and not impact the person in the present, at least not to a great degree. The hero or heroine will be influenced by this former relationship, but is now free to love again. The experience might have made her wary of someone hurting her yet again, but it’s given her some wisdom and depth of character. So when the right man comes around she’ll be emotionally ready, even though it won’t happen immediately. While the pain may linger, she’s no longer ‘crippled’ by it. By the end of a romance, ‘love conquers all.’
It’s important that the hero and heroine have some internal obstacles keeping them apart. Sometimes it’s a romance gone terribly wrong. In historicals, it’s often the death of a loved one that’s quite traumatic to the character.
A story needs both internal and external conflicts to make it the best it can be. A conflict relating to a past romance gives it an excellent backstory which helps the reader understand the hero or heroine.
In my opinion, a problem between the main character and a parent or sibling is weaker than a romantic problem experienced in the past. It’ll have a direct lingering effect that will impact the characters in present love story.
But I wonder what would a story be like if either the hero or heroine was still in the middle of recovering from their grief when a new, potential love came into their live. Could one help the other to recover from the pain that keeps him from moving forward into a new, happy life? Or does the main character have to already be past every one of the five stages of grief first? Tell us what you think.
Teddy Roosevelt is an interesting example. A baby girl was born to Teddy and his beloved young wife, Alice Lee Roosevelt. Two days later Alice died from undiagnosed kidney failure which had been masked by her pregnancy. He said, “The light has gone out of my life.” That same day his mother, Mittie, died from typhoid fever in the same house.
Distressed and grieving, Teddy left the baby in the care of his sister for three years! He focused on his work to forget his awful loss. He rarely spoke about Alice and didn’t mention her or his second wife, Edith, in his autobiography.
He married Edith a few years after Alice’s untimely death. They had five children but he worried he’d lose her in childbirth, too. He didn’t. She outlived him.
It’s a fascinating story to me because obviously Teddy recovered enough to remarry, continue on with his life and even become President. The pain never completely left him. But after his initial shock and grief subsided, he married again and accepted the risk of another tragedy. I think he was brave not to wallow forever in his misery. He didn’t wait until he’d fully recovered to marry Edith. If he had, he’d probably have been single for the rest of his life because he never completely overcame his loss of Alice.
Our story people who suffer a big loss also go through the five stages of grief just as real people do. Some go through fewer stagers, some go through more.
I think one of our main story people can be at any stage when he meets someone he’s attracted to. Personally, the Depression Stage or the Acceptance Stage seem plausible to me. The hero needs her to help him work through his loss and his grief and then they can begin their own love relationship. By the end of the story, the hero heals with the help of his new love.
At what stage would you start the story if your heroine is still grieving?
I’m giving away a $15.00 gift certificate to Starbucks. Please leave your e-mail address.