You know how they say you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone? Or that you don’t know how much you love something/someone until you don’t have them anymore?
Yeah. It’s true. I’ve known for fifteen years that I was madly in love with Dean Winchester, but even knowing that, I truly didn’t know how much I was going to miss him when he was gone. I took for granted that I’d always be able to “see” him, that I could keep discovering his character and his story, little by little as time went on. I underestimated how wonderful it was to be endlessly fascinated by a fictional character and have the privilege of learning who he was, in bits and pieces and often-covered-up glimpses of the ‘real’ Dean Winchester, over the course of years and years and years. There was a reality to that discovery, in that it played out gradually, just like it does with people in our actual lives. And thanks to Jensen Ackles’ brilliant portrayal, there was a reality to everything about Dean Winchester that made him real to many of us.
That made him very hard to lose.
I thought that 2020 would be the last time I wished Dean happy birthday; I knew that he wouldn’t exist in the present by 2021. But right now I find myself needing to write about him again. It’s part of grieving the loss of something/someone important, that we want to hang onto our memories of them and remember why they were so important to us. I don’t want to forget him, not ever. And since fictional characters never needed our real-life validation, it doesn’t make any difference whether Dean ‘exists’ in the present or not – remembering him is for me. I miss him, and reminding myself of all the reasons why I love him helps me feel just a little bit better.
This could be a really long article if I tried to make an exhaustive list of what I love about Dean Winchester, so I’ll keep it short. Top five reasons why I will always love Dean Winchester.
One, I love his complexity. That’s due to Eric Kripke, who created him and wrote him for the first five seasons, and to Jensen Ackles’, who brought him to life in a way that was even more vivid than what was written on the page. It took me a whole season to fall for Dean Winchester; at first, I dismissed him a little as a stereotypical ‘bad boy’ type, a little too brash. Pretty on the surface but too stereotypical underneath. (Forgive me, I was only watching because a friend insisted, so clearly I wasn’t paying enough attention!) When Season 2 began, I suddenly realized that I had misjudged the show, and the brothers. I remember watching Dean, leaning against the Impala, break down and confide to Sam that he was not at all okay, tears glistening in his eyes, voice breaking. I let the papers I was grading slide to the floor and said out loud, “how did I not realize this show was amazing?” But it was also Dean, and Jensen’s willingness to show his character’s vulnerability, that made me fall head over heels for Supernatural.
Tomorrow is the last day that Supernatural will be on the air. The last time I’ll wake up in the morning and think oooh there’s a new episode on tonight! The last moments I’ll get to spend with the fictional characters who have meant so much to me and the show that has changed my life. I don’t think I ever could have been ready for that, to be honest. And I know I’m not alone.
Whether you’ve been watching Supernatural for one year or fifteen, most of us are not what you’d call ‘casual viewers’. We don’t just watch this Show, we live it. Many of us found our closest friends here. We fell in love with the richly drawn and brilliantly portrayed characters, and they have been our inspiration for real life change and real life determination to keep on fighting whenever something threatens to knock us down. We spend alot of time here, immersed in the community that formed around the show, sharing thoughts and feelings and hilarious memes and heartbreaking confessions on every social media platform imaginable.
We all found our niche and our people, and we count on that support system every single day. All because of a little television show on the CW that drew us together. Even when we’re railing about its plot holes or inconsistencies or canon not going where we wanted it to go, Supernatural is the thing we have in common. The fact that we’re still railing and meme-ing and posting and stocking up on tissues makes it pretty clear that even after all these years, we’re passionate about this Show and its incredible cast.
Photo: Rob Hayter IG
The impact that Supernatural has had goes beyond watching a tv show. The theme of the show has always been one that fans have taken to heart and used as an inspiration in real life too. The Winchesters have never been traditional superheroes – they’re human, and their flaws and challenges have never been glossed over either by the writers or the actors. For fifteen years, Supernatural has showed us that ordinary people can make a difference, just through their determination. The Winchesters have lived the “always keep fighting” mantra – even when it means they’re often bloodied and bruised and beaten down — and showed us that we can too. When real life beats us down and leaves us bruised and bloodied, we can pick ourselves up like Sam and Dean did after God himself put them through a literal beating. Castiel taught us something similar – he may not have been human (for most of the show), but his journey mirrored the journeys of many of us as he fought to become himself and rebelled against forces conspiring to prevent that. So many other characters have also inspired us to be who we are, from Ash to Kevin to Bobby, from Charlie to Eileen to all the Wayward women letting us know we all can embrace our wayward too. Supernatural changed most of us in some way, for real.
And that means that knowing it’s ending is hitting us hard. I’ve had television shows end before and I’ve been sad – I remember gathering with friends to watch the last episode of the X Files back in grad school, all of us going out drinking afterwards to drown our sorrows. I remember watching the final episode of Buffy, and Angel, and then talking long into the night with friends who had been invested in those stories. This feels different. Somehow, although we all always knew that the show would end sooner or later, when it kept on going (and going and going) it started to seem like Supernatural would really never end. That we could keep on joking about it being the never-ending show and look forward to Jared and Jensen calling out “Sam! Dean!” gray-haired from their rocking chairs. That we’d always have this show to talk about and argue about and care about – and the vibrant communities within which to do that. I’m still having a hard time getting my head around the fact that tomorrow really is the last episode – it’s been a part of my life for so, so long.
It’s hard to believe, after all this time, that Supernatural will, in fact, end.
Every time I do manage to get my head around it, the realization hits me like someone just punched me in the stomach. You would think I’d be good at this – I’m a psychologist. I teach graduate courses on grief and loss, in fact. I should know how to cope for myself, right? Not gonna lie, I’m pretty worried about Thursday night. So I thought I would sit down and pull my thoughts together to remind myself how I can get through it – and how we all can get through it.
First, we need to allow ourselves to call this what it is. This is not just “a silly television show going off the air” – this is a real and genuine loss. Supernatural has been important to us, not just as a sci fi fantasy show we enjoy watching, but as a real life inspiration and a source of great satisfaction and belongingness. Losing it is going to hurt like hell. Allow yourself to frame this as a loss and accept that you’ll need to grieve that loss, just like any other. Don’t let anyone’s “oh get over it, it’s just at tv show” invalidate your feelings. The loss of the show itself is difficult enough, but secondary losses can be just as painful – the constant media coverage we’ve grown used to, with new photos and updates all the time, the vibrancy of the communities, the passionate conversation created every week around new episodes, the frequent conventions where fans meet not only the actors but other fans who have become forever friends.
Like everything else in life, the pandemic has made what would always have been a deep loss even harder to take. Many of us had planned to be surrounded by fellow fans when we watched the series finale – to be with people who also “get it”. The fact that Supernatural is ending in the middle of a global pandemic means that’s not possible for most of us. However, we can still pamper ourselves a little. Maybe that means a slice of pie ala Dean Winchester or wrapping yourself in a warm fuzzy blanket. Maybe that means having a zoom call open with your friends or staying on social media in between scenes so that you don’t feel like you’re watching alone. I’m hoping it will make me feel a little better to share in the communal expression of feelings that will be going on in every corner of the internet. Even if you’re watching “alone”, know that you won’t be – all over the world, the rest of the SPN Family will be watching too. When ‘Carry On Wayward Son’ starts to play for the final time, we will all tear up together. Every time you grab a tissue from the box(es) you have at the ready, know that you won’t be the only one.
Once we’ve made it through Thursday, give yourself time to grieve and permission to do that in whatever way feels right. We all cope with grief differently and there’s no right or wrong way to do that. Some of us are what we call “instrumental grievers.” We need to DO something in order to feel better. Organize a rewatch, put together a playlist of funny moments at Supernatural conventions, post your own personal tribute to the show. Plan a get together with other fans for once the pandemic lets us travel safely. Tweet your thanks to a cast member who inspired you or another fan who got you through a tough time. Celebrate all the things that Supernatural has meant to you.
If, on the other hand, you’re more of an “intuitive griever,” you need to feel your emotions and express them in order to grieve the loss. That means it will probably help you to share your feelings with other like-minded people. Talk about how you’re feeling in whatever community you feel comfortable in; the validation of ‘OMG I feel that way too’ really does help. If losing Supernatural is the icing on the cake in a year full of stress, do what Jared Padalecki has been candid about doing that helps him – make an appointment with a therapist. Most of us who are therapists have a broad understanding of loss and will understand what that loss means to you.
Here are a few coping strategies that are helpful when we’re grieving a loss that might help with this one:
Objects of connection. These are symbolic objects that help you feel connected to whatever or whoever you’ve lost. Wear your favorite piece of Supernatural jewelry or clothing. Make a scrapbook, physical or virtual, with photos that are meaningful to you – actors, characters, photo ops from cons, or fun times with fellow fans. Put your Pop Funko Sam, Dean and Cas where you can see them and smile. Construct a memory box that holds items that remind you of the show or of the experiences you had as a result of being a fan of the show. If you’ve collected way too many Supernatural tee shirts, sew them together into a quilt that you can snuggle up under as the weather gets colder. Whatever object lets you feel close to the show and remember it, keep it close and let it keep you connected to what you’ve loved.
We put together two books which include the actors’ feelings about the show in their own words specifically to help us stay connected to Supernatural and what it means to us as the show comes to an end. I guess you could say they’re objects of connection too. There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done and Family Don’t End With Blood are intended to be a reminder that this show has changed the lives of both its fans and actors. A reminder of the characters who have inspired us, and why they’re so important both to the fans who love them and the actors who brought them to life. Something you can hold in your hands and hang onto while you read their words and know that we were never in this alone.
Share your story. Especially if you’re an intuitive griever, sharing what the show has meant to you and what the loss feels like can be helpful in adapting to the loss. Write your own ‘chapter’ like the actors and fans did in the books; share it in whatever space feels comfortable to you. Writing is therapeutic in itself, helping us make sense of the loss and express whatever feelings are associated with it.
Resilient image. If the feelings of grief start to seem overwhelming, it can be helpful to create an image of resiliency that can remind us of the strengths and supports that we do have. It’s a way of self-soothing when our emotions are strong enough that we feel temporarily helpless and out of control. Create an image of a time and place when you felt safe, comfortable and in control even though there was chaos or danger around you. Maybe you’re in the Men of Letters bunker, running your hand over the names carved into the library table. Maybe you’re in the Impala, who always kept her boys safe in the midst of even a literal apocalypse. Maybe you’re wearing Dean’s leather jacket, or huddled beneath Castiel’s wings. Visualizing that resilient image when there are lots of emotions and stressors can be calming and comforting.
Ecotherapy. Being immersed in nature helps us make meaning of our life and our losses, making us more aware of the here and now and less stuck in our heads, and helps us experience our emotions more fully. Take a walk in the woods or on the beach. Notice the sun and the clouds and the wind and the smells and sounds around you. If it’s safe to go barefoot, dig your toes into the sand or the grass. If there’s a labyrinth near you, walk it. Being in nature makes us feel more connected, both to ourselves and to the rest of the world, so this can be especially helpful if you’re feeling some of that loss of community.
We’re a diverse community of fans, and we’re all going to grieve differently. We sometimes tend to think that everyone should process loss the same, and if someone doesn’t, maybe they’re not “really” grieving. But there’s no right or wrong way to grieve and no timetable for how long it takes each of us to adapt to a loss and for the hurt to lessen. Some people want to be distracted and move on as quickly as they can, maybe finding another show to love and another fandom to join. Others need to sit with their feelings for a while and just FEEL them before they can adapt. Both are valid ways of grieving a loss.
The hopeful thing about grief is that it doesn’t mean forgetting. We never forget the people and things we’ve loved, and we don’t need to stop loving them. They become part of us, cherished memories that eventually bring smiles. We can celebrate what the show has given us, how it’s changed us. The friends it’s brought into our lives, the courage that the story and the characters have inspired in us. The ways Supernatural and the SPN Family have kept us going and gotten us to where we are in life – to who we are in life. There’s a lot to celebrate and cherish about Supernatural and what it’s meant to all of us.
Most of all, know that you’re not alone. Even if you’re sitting in your living room watching a screen by yourself this Thursday evening, there will be people all over the world doing the same thing. People who love Supernatural, who have been inspired by its characters and its message. Whose lives have been changed by this little show and who are going to miss it when it’s gone – but who will keep on celebrating all the things it gave us for a very long time.
In the wise words of Castiel to Jack, about losing what you love…
Eventually they’re gone, even the very best ones, and we have to carry on. So what’s the point? The point is, that they were here at all and you got to know them. When they’re gone, it will hurt, but that hurt will remind you of how much you loved them.
Oh, we loved them. We’ll always love them.
And maybe, just maybe, as the final words of Jensen Ackles’ chapter in There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done remind us, “nothing ever stays dead on Supernatural.”
This video linked below kinda says it all… See you on the other side!
When I said I was going to try to document everything Supernatural related in the weeks before the show returns to the air for the last time, I had no idea just what that would mean. I’ve watched this show since the beginning, and I remember wishing for more media coverage, trying to get people interested in the show, telling anyone who would listen that Supernatural was the best show ever. Fifteen years later, the world has figured that out. That was never more obvious than in the couple of days leading up to the show’s return, when it seemed like every major outlet from Variety to TVGuide to CNN had an interview with Jared and Jensen and an article about the show, and every CW local outlet had their 10 minutes of questions with the boys. It was incredibly overwhelming trying to keep up with the constant onslaught of coverage, and I was constantly emotional – so proud of the little show that could which, now that it’s coming to an end, is recognized for how special it is and what it has created.
There were also bits of news every day, all of it exciting. Jensen and Danneel struck a deal to form a production company under the Warner Bros. umbrella called Chaos Machine Productions. Not gonna lie, I’m keeping all my fingers and toes crossed that they’ll helm the next Supernatural project. Come on, Ackles, it’s a no brainer!
Jared got a hair cut, which left fandom in a collective panic about how short Walker’s hair was going to be.
Turned out to be a fruitless worry, because – in my humble opinion anyway – the new haircut is every bit as hot as the previous one! Fandom then turned its considerable attention to wondering what the new tattoo is that Jared’s sporting and what it might mean. Hmmm.
Jared started a new AKF campaign with Stands that included a plaid AKF charm and a stuffed AKF moose, which is seriously adorable. He did a facebook live about the campaign, which he hasn’t done in one million years, and posted a gorgeous photo in the You Define You hoodie and with his new Walker haircut. Mmm.
Jensen bought a new car, which does not do a damn thing for me but which he was clearly very excited about.
The company he bought it from was equally excited. And clearly Supernatural fans!
Not gonna lie, I’m laughing at the Ackles family tooling around Austin in either their ’67 Impala (they took it to Starbucks the other day) or this new ‘beast’ of a car.
Misha went naked to get out the vote, to fandom’s sincere appreciation, used his text line to help get the vote out, and made sure water and snacks were handed out to voters in Georgia standing in insanely long lines to vote, and generally kept on working to save the world. And look adorable doing it.
For You, Supernatural – As You Start That Last Ride
Tomorrow Supernatural returns for its final seven episodes, leading up to the series finale after fifteen glorious years. Most of the fandom is feeling a lot of conflicted emotions right now – anticipation, elation, pride in what the show has accomplished and what it has meant to so many. And at the same time, anxiety and sadness knowing we’re about to lose it. Over the past year, the actors and fans pulled together their thoughts and memories of the show and how it has changed their lives. How Supernatural has inspired them, gotten them through tough times. Has helped them figure out who they really are and become that person. Has created lifelong friendships.
The result was the book There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done: Actors and Fans Celebrate the Legacy of Supernatural. There are chapters from Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles and a dozen other Supernatural actors, plus a special message from Misha Collins to close out the book, and from twenty fans. The hope is that the book will be something we can all hold onto, to remember forever how special Supernatural has been and will always be –and to help get us through its ending. Everyone talks about what Sam, Dean, Castiel and the other brilliantly written and acted characters have meant to them in their chapters, whether they portrayed that character onscreen or were inspired by that character in real life. These characters have been incredibly real, and incredibly important, to so many of us.
So now, as Supernatural’s fictional characters prepare to jump in Baby and try to save the world one last time, we wanted them to know that they’re not alone – we’re all here with them, cheering them on, right up to the end. The title of the book is a wish for those fictional characters we love. The beautiful original song and video are too – it’s our message to the Winchesters and Castiel, the boys’ “angel over us”. It’s what we wish for them, after all they’ve given us – the peace they so richly deserve.
All the kudos to the incredibly talented Eloisa Parton, who created an amazing video, and J R Wyatt, who wrote a song that makes me cry every time I listen to it. That’s a high compliment.
Take up the fight
In the family business
Don’t pretend to be something you’re not
And in the end
We’ll drive Baby toward sunset
‘Cause, Brother, we’re all that we’ve got
To hell and back
And all that we’ve been through
It’s been quite a road so far
On a path
That ain’t easy to stick to
Just never forget who you are
We’ll dance with the devil
With an angel over us
And you’ll always keep fighting
Next to someone you can trust
Together we’ll carry on
Just a couple of wayward sons
And, Brother, just remember
There’ll be peace when you are done
Save each other
Save the world
Together into the unknown
Comes our way
Let’s take those boys home
At the end of the day
I’m always proud of us
But when the time comes to leave here
We’ll put Baby in drive
And leave this place in the dust
We’ll dance with the devil
With an angel over us
And you’ll always keep fighting
Next to someone you can trust
Together we’ll carry on
Just a couple of wayward sons
And, Brother, just remember
There’ll be peace when you are done
So, Brother, just remember
There’ll be peace when you are done
About the Book
There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done has chapters from Jared, Jensen, Richard Speight, Jr., Shoshannah Stern, Lauren Tom, Julie McNiven, Andrea Drepaul, Carrie Genzel, Todd Stashwick, David Haydn-Jones, Adam Fergus, Tahmoh Penikett, Rick Worthy, Chad Lindberg, Gabe Tigerman, Lee Majdoub, Brendan Taylor, Hugo Ateo, Lee Rumohr and writer Davy Perez, as well as twenty fans of the show. The very personal chapters talk about the characters we’ve come to love and the experience of portraying them, and thoughts on what the legacy of Supernatural will be. The book benefits the important work of charities Random Acts and SPNSurvivors. You can find more information at peacewhenyouaredone.com
About the Vidder
Eloisa Parton was born in Italy, but is currently studying Visual Effects in Vancouver. She started casually making videos and uploading them on her youtube channel in 2012, but only in the summer of 2014 did it became a full-time hobby. Around that same time, she started watching clips and videos of Sam and Dean Winchester and immediately fell in love with the characters and their relationship, even without knowing anything about the show. She started watching Supernatural in May 2015, and the show and her love of the characters (especially her favorite, Sam Winchester) gave new life to her channel, inspiring her to make more and more videos and bringing lots of new subscribers. What was a small channel with just a few hundred subscribers now has over 16k subs, largely thanks to her Supernatural videos.
About the Singer/Songwriter
J.R. Wyatt believes in the American songwriter’s dream enough to bleed for it. Music has been flowing through him since he first picked up the drumsticks at age three and then never stopped exploring new instruments, the most important of which was the pen at age twelve. Drawing influence from musical heroes like Bruce Springsteen, Kurt Cobain, Jason Isbell, Gregory Alan Isakov, and Jeff Tweedy, Wyatt learned to bear his soul whenever he put pen to paper. After becoming a staple at local bars and clubs in the small Maine town he grew up in, he decided to take his guitar and his dreams to Nashville. Starting with no contacts, job, or money, Wyatt found a kindred group of songwriters and musicians to collaborate with and self-released his first full-length album, Staying Gold, in 2016. Four years later, he’s back with his sophomore record, I’m Still Here, which demonstrates new levels of confidence as a songwriter and ambition as a producer. J.R. Wyatt’s songs acknowledge pain from the past so we can learn to live better while we’re still here, a perfect fit for the story of Supernatural.
Enjoy! (Or cry with me, which is what I do every time I watch the beautiful video…) We love you, Supernatural – and we’ll miss you like crazy. But we’re wishing our favorite characters ‘peace when you are done.’
Supernatural returns for its final seven episode run in four days. Less than a week. The countdown has been in my head every day, especially over the past week as it draws closer. In keeping with my determination to record what happens with the show and in the fandom in these last months of the show airing, here’s my wrap up of the last full week before Supernatural returns. With all the requisite feelings.
The week started out with another Kings of Con podcast featuring a Supernatural guest star, this time the delightful Jake Abel, filmed when Jake and Rob were in quarantine in Vancouver about to go back to filming. Richard asked when they were ‘free’ and Jake laughed.
Jake: I told Jared, Jensen and Rob yesterday, hey guys I think we’re free on Sunday, and Jared called me a saboteur!
Rich: That is so the pot calling the kettle black – didn’t you tell me they had to chain him to the apartment, Rob?
Somehow this is not hard to believe.
I loved hearing Jake talk about the short film he made (Jake And Quarantine) and how many people thought he really was in a haunted apartment – including me for the first day! If you haven’t seen it, check it out on Jake’s youtube – Jake is an incredible storyteller.
Also, Rob and Jake were quarantined right above each other, and apparently figured out a way to use a rope to transfer things between apartments via kitchen twine!
They were also doing lots of zoom calls with Jared and Jensen.
Rob: Jensen and Jared have been doing this show for fifteen years, so they deserve it, but Jake and I are in these identical studio apartments. Then we do these zooms with them and they’re in apartments that are very nice, right on the water, great views…
Jake: Jensen’s sending us pictures of him literally basking in the sun the other day.
Rob: Yeah he’s like, how about this sunset? I’m like, I’ve got buildings around me…
Rich and Rob always make me laugh, but they got serious near the end and made me tear up.
Richard gave Jake props for his awesome performance in the episode that Richard directed, and Jake gave him props right back for the vibe he creates on set when he directs.
Richard: It was a pleasure directing both of you, and I’m sorry to see the show come to an end but it certainly has chalked up a lot of great experiences for all of us.
Richard has a beautiful, emotional chapter in There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done that traces Supernatural’s impact on his own career and personal life, as well as what he feels the legacy of the show will be. I think he pretty much hits the nail on the head.
We also got some beautiful photos of Jensen on horseback (on a 19 hand giant of a horse!) taking JJ on her first trail ride. She’s hooked – how could she not be? It runs in the family. I can relate, remembering my first forays into riding when I was about her age. I still think horses are one of the most beautiful animals, and there’s few things that compare to the feeling of galloping across a field with the wind whipping your hair back. I’m once again so appreciative when the actors share a peek into their lives. Jensen and horses? Lots of beautiful.
More beautiful came from Misha Collins, who shared some photos from his trip with son West and the gorgeous scenery they enjoyed in this beautiful country.
When did West get so grown up??
A video interview that Jensen and Jared did before they went back to Vancouver to film (from Warner Bros. Japan I believe) was shared on youtube mid week – which meant we got to have yet another glimpse of quarantine hair!!! It’s like the gift that just keeps on giving, and I’m very grateful.
The boys were already feeling pretty emotional about getting ready to film the end, so it was an emotional interview. Here are a few excerpts that made me emotional too. The interviewer, a fan, must have said that the show has changed her life, though we don’t hear that part on the video.
Jared: Being a part of Supernatural has taught me a lot. I’ve had some time selfishly to reflect on just how massive it’s been. I just had my 38th birthday, and I think when we did the pilot, I was 22. So that’s a long time to be on one TV show. I don’t know many that have done 15 years with the same two characters all along, so I’m really grateful for it. And I’m going to be proud of it until the day I breathe my last breath. I’m grateful it’s having an impact on other people all over the world as well.
Jensen: You say it’s changed your life – it’s certainly changed our lives in so many ways. It means the world to us. We’ve been through so much during these last 15 years, both on and off set, but there’s always been a real constant, and that’s been this show and the love we have for it and the effort we put into it. It’s a blessing to know it means something to you and all of that wasn’t for nothing, but know that we truly do cherish our experience and these characters and this show– which is why we always wanna do it the best we can.