Supernatural ended six weeks ago, but the cascade of emotions its ending brought to its fans is still feeling pretty raw for many people, including me. One of the most difficult things for me is that my emotions are all over the place – I’m devastated about losing the show, missing it painfully, wishing I knew it was coming back, and dismayed at the fandom infighting that’s been happening for six weeks. At the same time, I’m excited about Jared’s new series and Jensen’s new role in The Boys and Misha’s new movie part – and happy for all of them that they’re being productive and sinking their teeth into new roles. (At least a big part of me is; there’s another part that just wants to be a two year old and stomp my feet and say NO you can’t move on from the characters that I love!)
It’s not that often that we have conflicting emotions about something that’s truly important to us, so we don’t have a lot of practice with it, and it can feel jarring. Supernatural was a television show, but it was so much more to so many people. So those emotions we’re processing are a big deal and it takes time to work through them. Maybe that’s part of why there’s still so much contention going on about the finale – it’s like a bad breakup that’s got some ambivalence around it. As long as you’re still arguing with your ex, is the relationship really over?
Whether the emotions that are lingering for you are sadness, grief, anger, or fear of more losses (combined hopefully with some anticipation for the new things coming our way), Supernatural fans head into the New Year with a lot to process. So I thought I’d do myself a favor and try to sift through my own conflicting emotions and not-always-rational thoughts here, and try to figure out some ways I can deal with those emotions and find as much joy as I possibly can in 2021. Sharing my thoughts and feelings here in the hopes that it might help you do the same.
So, what am I feeling? First and foremost, there’s sadness. Supernatural ending is a loss for me, and not a trivial one. Whenever you care about something deeply, losing that something hurts – and unfortunately there are no real shortcuts to get around feeling that pain. Instead, I’m allowing myself those feelings – telling myself that it’s okay to mourn. Whether you’re mourning the show itself or the death (temporarily anyway) of one or all of the main characters, those feelings are valid. Experiencing grief isn’t dependent on how you felt about the final episodes – we are ALL losing something important to us so we’re all grieving. Even if you loved the finale, you’re still losing the show and the fictional characters that enriched our lives and inspired us for a very long time. So, I’m reminding myself that my feelings are valid and letting myself feel them.
We all grieve differently and on our own timetable. For some fellow fans I know, avoidance and denial are still the most commonly used ways of coping. For me, I need to titrate my exposure to the things that make me feel that loss the most. I find myself alternately wanting to distract myself with other things, from work to zoom chats with friends or family, to little forays into the new things the Supernatural cast is up to, and then feeling pulled to sink back into Supernatural and remember why I’ve loved it so much and do some grieving. That might be with a tear-jerker of a finale fan vid, or a nostalgic one from 2007. It might be reading some fanfic that leaves me sobbing or indulging in some posts on Tumblr that are devastating yet validating in how much they ‘get it’. Whatever ‘puts me in my feels’ as we used to say back in the day. I need to feel it for a while, cry a few tears, and then I need to pull myself back out. Maybe by sharing what I’ve watched with a friend who I know will validate my feelings. Maybe by watching some gag reel videos or one of my favorite convention moments that will make me smile. Maybe by reading the actors’ words in Family Don’t End With Blood or There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done, to remind myself that they love this show and these characters too, and that this has meant just as much to them.
As we grieve, it’s helpful to go back and forth between really ‘feeling it’ and then backing away and escaping and avoiding for a little while. Your brain knows you can only take so much before being overwhelmed, and tries to help you forget about loss and grief for a while as a coping strategy. I’m trying to relax and let the healing process happen, little by little by little. There’s always a part of us that’s reluctant to let go of our grief for something we’ve loved and lost, as though if we start just being happy again, that will mean we have truly lost it. That’s not true though – when you love something, that love doesn’t have to go away. It just gets integrated, but it’s always there to be celebrated. That was our reason for putting together There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done, so we never have to forget and can hang onto something tangible to always remember how special this has been.
It’s not just sadness. I’m also feeling fear, and in a way, that’s more upsetting than the sadness. As humans, we all fear the unknown, and that’s what 2021 brings as far as the Supernatural fandom. For 15 years, this has been such an important community for me, one I’ve been happily immersed in. I could hop on any social media at any time of the day or night and find other Supernatural fans there and plenty of new posts and photos and content. I am perfectly aware that I’ve been spoiled in this fandom, with so many of the actors being active on social media and conventions happening so often and so many talented, creative fans putting out such amazing creations. It’s inevitable that this will change now that the show is no longer filming and there are no new episodes to conjecture about and analyze ad infinitum afterwards. No more behind the scenes photos from set or fans on filming locations or PR events. I worry every day that the Impala emoji that temporarily graces the show’s hashtags will have disappeared, knowing that – like so many things we wish we could hang onto – it won’t be there forever and there’s nothing I can do about it. I know that the fandom won’t disappear, but that will change too over time, as fans find other things to love and post about and create for. That’s as it should be, I know, but it also scares me. I tend to be a one-fandom-at-a-time type of fan, and that’s been Supernatural for a very long time. I don’t fall in love easily, in any sense of the word.
So far my strategies for dealing with the anxiety are mostly using a little cognitive behavioral therapy on myself, challenging irrational thoughts like OMG I’m gonna lose all my friends or OMG nobody will ever make a video about Supernatural ever again! I have to keep reassuring myself that while some changes may not be wanted, change itself is inevitable – and that this particular change isn’t as catastrophic as I sometimes start to imagine. Three zoom get-togethers with my fandom friends in the past week helped a lot to calm my catastrophizing. (At least temporarily – alas, anxiety has a way of creeping back in – and then it will be back to CBT for me!)
There’s also some anger and disappointment, as I know there is for many fans. For me, that’s not about the last episodes themselves – and I feel very lucky that they worked for me, because there’s extra anger and disappointment for those who didn’t like them – but more about the relentless arguing and infighting that the fandom devolved into post finale. All those feelings people are having are valid, but it’s been hard to see fans attack other fans or the actors or writers of the show itself. I know how proud Misha was of episode 18 and how proud Jared and Jensen were of episode 20, and they’re real people who are impacted as well. That said, one of the things that keeps us all sane is knowing that other people’s feelings aren’t our responsibility. So I’m trying to focus on my own feelings and leave others to their own as much as possible – we all loved this show for different reasons, and our own histories both with the show and in our own lives determine our reaction to the story, so of course those reactions are going to vary widely. That’s okay. Let’s just give each other room for our diverse feelings as much as we can, because we’re all dealing with lots of emotions.
And finally, there’s that incongruous feeling of anticipation – incongruous because I never feel it without it being tied up with simultaneous grief. I’m so happy for Jared, Jensen and Misha and their success in taking on new projects so quickly. I know in their business, that’s crucial, and I genuinely care about them, so I’m relieved. I’m so glad they’ll be on our screens again so soon and that they aren’t going to disappear never to be heard from again. That would be a whole other loss on top of the loss of the fictional characters and the show itself. I never watched Walker Texas Ranger, so I’m going into the new Walker without any preconceived notions. They seem to be very thoughtful in putting it together, in terms of representation and diversity not just in front of the camera but behind it as well. The teaser was not only beautifully shot but intriguing in the emotional arcs it sets up. And Jared is putting his heart into it. So I’m excited to see where Walker takes me. I’ve been watching The Boys since the start, because I usually love whatever Eric Kripke creates, and this show is no exception. I was already a fan, so Jensen joining the cast is super exciting and I cannot wait to find out what insane adventures Kripke and company have in store for Soldier Boy. I don’t know much about Misha’s new film yet, but it’s got a great cast, so looking forward to that too.
That’s all good. At the same time, the selfish part of me that isn’t ready to let Supernatural go keeps wanting to be irrationally annoyed with J2M for moving on and becoming some other character, and leaving Sam, Dean and Cas behind. It feels like some kind of weird betrayal, as though they should have given up acting for a year to mourn the character they left behind or something. Yes, I’m totally aware that this isn’t rational (and wouldn’t have been a good idea), but grief isn’t always rational. It’s emotional, and sometimes illogical, but that doesn’t mean you can easily talk yourself out of those less than rational feelings. My strategy here is to acknowledge that flash of annoyance as the understandable thing that it is, and then try to find some enjoyment in the pure anticipation of all these new things and to feel good about being happy for those three real people.
Which, I guess, brings me to the last thing I’m feeling. Gratitude. No matter how much sadness or grief or fear or anger I’m dealing with, underneath there is always so much gratitude. If I had never had this amazing, incredible, life-changing show to love, I wouldn’t be feeling any of those things right now. But I also would never have had the past fifteen years that have been full of so much joy and inspired so much creativity. Supernatural and its unforgettable characters enriched and expanded my life in countless ways and brought me experiences I would never have had otherwise. Friends I wouldn’t have met. Books I wouldn’t have written. Travels I wouldn’t have gone on. Inspiration I wouldn’t have had. I became more me than I’d ever been thanks to this show, and nothing can ever take that away. However Supernatural has changed you and whatever it’s meant to you, that’s here to stay.
There’s always the question of, do I let myself love this thing, knowing that at some point, I’ll have to let it go in one way or another? I’m so glad I took a chance on Supernatural and let myself fall head over heels. In spite of the pain of losing it, I’m so thankful I had something so special – and I fully intend to never forget it and to keep right on loving it.
My guess is that in 2021, while it may not be how it was in the 15 years prior, Supernatural and its actors and fans will still have something important to teach me.
Happy New Year, SPNFamily!
You can always remember Supernatural with There’ll
Be Peace When You Are Done and Family Don’t End
With Blood, links here or at peacewhenyouaredone.com