This is an odd anniversary to commemorate, but it’s an important one. It sounds melodramatic, but two years ago today my life changed significantly when I got the news that Supernatural was ending. If you haven’t ever been a passionate fan of a show or a film or a book series or a band, you may not understand. If you have, you probably do.
Two years ago today, Jensen Ackles, Jared Padalecki and Misha Collins told the SPN Family that Supernatural was coming to an end after fifteen seasons, with tears in their eyes and real emotion in their voices. I still have trouble watching that little video message, but I’m forever grateful that they cared enough to tell us themselves.
So on this March 22, two years later, I thought I’d share what I wrote in the Introduction to the book we put together to remember how special Supernatural will always be, with chapters from the actors and the fans about what Supernatural has meant to them, There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done.
I’m just as emotional looking back on that day now as I was when I wrote this…
There are certain experiences that happen in our lives that we will never forget. Psychology even has a term for the memory created by this kind of experience: a flashbulb memory. When something happens that shakes our world especially profoundly, the brain encodes that moment differently, and more vividly, than it does our everyday memories.
Back in the day, a flashbulb was a cube that sat on top of your camera and went off to illuminate a scene you were capturing with a photo, freezing it in time forever (it’s now just a light on your smartphone). Our brain, when it records a flashbulb memory, does something similar: it freezes the important, sometimes upsetting moment in time forever. The sights, the sounds, the smells, and the emotions of that moment are all preserved deeply. The memory doesn’t fade like other memories, or lose its emotional intensity. Instead, it remains as clear and vivid as if it happened yesterday. We remember the clothes we were wearing, or exactly what we were doing or thinking, or who we were talking to. We remember our initial shock and then the moment when our emotions kicked in.
Most often, flashbulb memories are about world-changing events like September 11 or shocking personal news. But they can also be things you wouldn’t expect. Sometimes, something is so important to you that the news of its impending loss hits hard enough to freeze the moment in time. I think that’s what happened to me on Friday afternoon, March 22, 2019, the moment I found out that Supernatural would end after its fifteenth season. That might seem like an odd thing to be preserved forever as a flashbulb memory, and it’s certainly not equivalent to world-changing events, but that’s not how our brains work. When something is important, it’s important. And for many people, myself included, this little television show that lasted for fifteen seasons is personally and emotionally important.
When I first heard the show was ending, I was volunteering at the Project Fancare table at Lexington Comic-Con, surrounded by copies of Family Don’t End with Blood and fellow fans. Project Fancare is a nonprofit that gives fans a forum to talk openly about how television and film and books and all sorts of fandoms have helped them get through tough times, and why that’s a good thing. I had just finished talking to a woman who stopped by to tell me what Family Don’t End with Blood and Supernatural have meant to her.
As the woman walked away, my friend Kim leaned over and said softly in my ear, “You need to take a break. Take your phone and go to the bathroom and watch the video that Jensen just posted.”
That’s all she said, but instantly I knew. I knew from the genuine emotion in her voice, and the concern for me that I could hear there. I knew because there’s a part of me that had been waiting for that news and anticipating it and knew it was coming sooner rather than later. My stomach instantly fell and my brain kicked into survival mode, blocking all my emotions and making me feel oddly calm even though intellectually I knew I wasn’t. I can vividly see the table in front of me, the books spread out there, and the woman walking away. She was wearing one of the first Represent “Always Keep Fighting” T-shirts and she had bright red hair and a bag with the protection symbol on it. I can see it like it’s a photo frozen in time—as brightly as if lit by a flashbulb—and I can hear Kim’s voice and her words like she just finished talking, even though it’s now many months later.
I stood in the alcove by the bathroom in the giant convention center and pulled out my phone and found the video—and as soon as I saw their faces, before they even started speaking, there was no doubt in my mind. Jared, Jensen, and Misha are extraordinary in how open they have been with their fans, and I could see all the emotion they were struggling to contain before I ever hit play to listen to the message. I am forever grateful that I got to hear it from them.
Things are different in the Supernatural fandom than they were two years ago. I’ve been dismayed at the animosity and bullying toward other fans that sometimes seem worse now than when the show was actually airing, something I have to admit I didn’t expect. But I’ve also been encouraged by the kindness and support that most fans continue to show for each other. And I love that the Supernatural cast have made it clear that their love for the show and for their characters and for the fandom is not going anywhere.
While a global pandemic has made it impossible for most of us to see our fellow fans or the actors, with conventions and concerts all on hold, I’m grateful for all the zoom panels and Instagram lives and interviews and every other piece of content we’ve gotten from the cast that I miss so much. It eases the loss and makes me feel like we’re all in this together. I’m grateful for all the myriad fanworks that this incredibly creative fandom puts out there to share, from the prettiest gifs to the most heartbreaking youtube videos to fanart and fanfic that can make me cry or smile all day. I’m grateful for every playful bit of fun I run across and every supportive bit of conversation. It reminds me what fandom – especially this fandom – is all about.
I’m grateful for everything and everyone that keeps the SPNFamily alive. And I’m still hopeful that we haven’t seen the last of Supernatural.
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
We’re still all dealing with the final episodes of Supernatural as well as the reality of the show ending, which means a lot of sadness and loss, so I thought it would be a good time to start looking back and remembering all the things that made the show so special – and putting something happy on everyone’s timeline. So stay tuned for a month of new exclusive interviews, and join me as I return to the beginning of where it all started and begin a rewatch from the pilot – which means episode reviews with the benefit of hindsight now that the entire series has aired.
Supernatural wouldn’t have inspired so many strong emotions as it ended if it hadn’t been important to so many of us, and there’s a reason for that. A few reasons, actually.
Eric Kripke created some endlessly fascinating characters and cast some of the most talented actors around to portray them. The writing team has fluctuated through the years, but every season has had amazing episodes that are unforgettable. The crew became family with the cast since they all stayed with the show, many since the beginning, making its filming nearly seamless. And finally, the directing. Cast members like Jensen Ackles, Misha Collins, Richard Speight, Jr., Matt Cohen and Amanda Tapping took a turn at the helm with some wonderful episodes, and Supernatural also invited some other eminent directors to contribute to the show. One of those is Blair Witch director Eduardo Sanchez, who returned to direct the memorable episode “Last Holiday” in Season 15.
So, first up in our feel good Supernatural stuff leading up to 2021, my chat with Eduardo all about directing his last episode of the show.
(Below are some of the photos he posted to bring the fans with him on his last episode)
I first spoke to Sanchez a few years ago about the Supernatural episodes he’d already directed. I was fascinated by his insights about the show, so I was excited to know that he’d be back to direct Supernatural again in its final season. At the time, I was putting together a book of chapters from the show’s actors and fans with their feelings about what Supernatural’s legacy would be for them (There’ll BePeace When You Are Done). One of the fans who wrote a chapter, Tedra Ashley-Wannemuehler, wrote about an episode and characters that had a significant impact on her life – and it turned out to be Eduardo’s episode, The Chitters (also one of my favorites). Even more exciting, I had already asked the two actors who played the main characters in that episode, Cesar and Jesse (known as the “hunter husbands” in fandom), Hugo Ateo and Lee Rumohr, if they would like to write chapters for the book about their experience doing the show – and they both did. Their chapters and Tedra’s chapter bring so much insight into how that episode portrayed two gay characters and what that representation meant to each of them. I’m sure directors and actors don’t always know how influential, sometimes life changing, their work can be, but in this case I was thrilled to let Eduardo know. And yes, I sent him a copy of There’ll Be Peace When You AreDone after this chat so he could read those chapters himself.
We chatted this time over zoom in the midst of a pandemic, shortly after Eduardo’s last Supernatural episode, Last Holiday, had aired. Eduardo had some fascinating behind the scenes insights into the episode, directing in general, and doing it during a pandemic. (Included here are more of the photos he snapped to share his last episode with the fandom on twitter).
Before we delved into Supernatural, we both asked how each other how Covid was treating us.
Eduardo: I’m in New Orleans right now doing a tv show, the first one I’m doing since Covid started, and it’s so isolated. I went to visit a friend yesterday, and he’s part of the crew too, so we can’t really eat together. Part of the agreement we make is we won’t put ourselves in risky situations. He and I are both A level, which means if we go out, they have to shut down production and that costs money. But it’s the last season so we’re making the best of it.
We both agreed it was both scary and infuriating.
Lynn: We’re in a stressful time – which means we need art and media even more to get through! You’re doing a lot of last-season-of-a-series directing.
Eduardo: That’s true. The Supernatural episode was emotional for sure.
Lynn: It’s interesting that you ended up directing some episodes that were really important. The Chitters for sure, and this one was important too. It was a very emotional episode because everyone was aware that it was our last chance to see these brothers get all the things they didn’t get in their childhoods – holidays, birthdays, packed school lunches, grilled cheese sandwiches. When you got the script, were you thinking about that?
Eduardo: I didn’t think of it in that way when I read it at first, I thought it’s kinda like one of those episodes that could come at any time. Like The Chitters, there wasn’t much mythology or story arc in the episode. And I love those episodes because you can have a lot of fun and they’re not as heavy. I got the script right after I did a show called “Next” in Chicago, that [the weather] was really cold, and I read that it was all in the sound stage and I was so happy, because I thought, that’s gonna be sweet!
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!
I’ve known Matt Cohen a long time. I was there for his first Supernatural convention a decade ago – I remember turning to my friend Kathy as we watched Matt try to hug every single fan he met and saying “this guy is a keeper.” I was thrilled when his reception at the cons ensured he would be invited back, eventually becoming one of the Karaoke Kings and an integral part of the Supernatural conventions all over the world. Matt was one of the first Supernatural actors I invited to write a chapter for Family Don’t End With Blood, because I knew he would have something inspiring and moving to say. I was right. The chapter he wrote is candid, insightful and very personal – it describes the way being on Supernatural has changed his life and how his relationships with his fellow cast members has changed him as well. It’s one of the chapters that makes me smile and tear up simultaneously (like all the best Supernatural episodes).
I was thrilled when he returned to the show again to play John Winchester, and perhaps even more thrilled when he became part of the final season of the show – not as an actor this time, but as a director. By then he had already made his own short film, Mama Bear, which he had directed and proved just how talented he was behind the camera, not just in front of it. I loved that film, so I couldn’t wait to see what he did with Supernatural.
I waited until his episode, Gimme Shelter, had aired last month, then we caught up by phone.
Matt: It’s nice to hear your voice.
Lynn: It’s been a long time.
Matt: Too long as far as I’m concerned!
(I think the entire SPNFamily feels that way at this point – we all miss each other! We caught up with family stuff, and how his son Macklin is doing with online learning (great) and then dug into the episode.)
Lynn: I was super excited that you got to direct an episode before the show ends. It seems so right and so special.
Matt: It certainly was special and I feel lucky. This show has given me everything at this point, and for it to give me my first hour of prime time TV directorial debut? I agree with you, it felt right. I felt like I was at home because I knew these people were going to do everything they could to not have me fail.
Lynn: For sure. You’re family.
Matt: And to me, that made me work harder than I’ve worked on anything my whole life, to make sure I could get them out on time and get everyone home and rested and then back to my set again and we could just knock this one out and keep on moving. And that’s exactly how it went. It was a special experience with the most remarkable crew I’ve ever worked with. They were there for me and I was there for them and it was just beautiful. Every day was emotional for me. When I wrapped every single day, I felt that this was part of my eight day goodbye to the show. And it was difficult, you know? I tried not to cry every night.
Lynn: I can’t even imagine how emotional it was for you, after all this time and this being such an incredible, life-changing journey. This was one of those quintessential Supernatural episodes that has a little bit of everything – humor, excitement, and emotion. All of them came together, but it was a complex episode. The emotional moments are probably my favorite things about the show – in this episode, like the scene when Castiel talks about his journey – finding a family, becoming a dad.
Lynn: It struck me that is so similar to what you wrote about in your chapter of Family Don’t End With Blood, about your own journey finding yourself and becoming a dad too. Misha [Collins] was so good in that scene. How did you feel about the episode’s story?