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  • Natalie Adams

Teen Grief Heroes

Maybe all of us grieving teens are heroes, just not the type you read about in books.

"Hero" written on the ground. Photo by @umby on Unsplash.

Why do all teenage heroes have to be orphans? Harry Potter, Wade Watts, both heroes, both orphans.

That’s the beginning of a story I started before my dad died. It was about a heroic teenager who wasn’t an orphan. I don’t really remember anything else about it besides that.

It’s always fascinated me how many writers have their heroes be orphans. Something about childhood trauma and a lack of parental guidance seems to turn fictional characters into unstoppable heroes.

Let’s take Harry Potter for example. Harry was orphaned as a baby, had a rough childhood, was shipped away to school when he was 11, and somehow became one of the biggest heroes in the wizarding world.

Before my dad died, that didn’t seem too surprising to me. Harry’s rough childhood probably made him more empathetic and having dead parents made him want to save other people. If his parents hadn’t died, he might not have had those qualities, and he wouldn’t have become a hero.

Since Dad’s death, though, I’ve started to see it completely differently. I see an 11-year-old kid who may be starting to realize the full extent of his loss. A kid who suddenly has his whole life changed when he finds out he’s a wizard and going to boarding school- with the only other big life change being when his parents died and he moved in with his aunt and uncle. Someone who is going through one of the worst things that could happen to a kid.

Compared to Harry, I’ve been pretty unproductive since my dad died. I’ve gone to school, made and lost a few friends, and started a website. None of that seems even close to being as heroic as the fictional characters I read about.

But… couldn’t that stuff still be considered heroic? Yes, I haven’t saved the world like Harry, but there’s a reason that he’s called a fictional character. Maybe, even though the small things I do every day while grieving don’t seem amazing to most people, they still are.

I didn’t get accepted into a cool Wizarding school, but I worked hard to keep up in school after my dad died. I didn’t risk my life for my best friends, but I took care of myself when I needed to. I didn’t try to save the world, but I’ve tried to save myself. While all of these things would seem so little to Harry Potter, they’re really big to me.

Maybe all of us grieving teens are heroes, just not the type you read about in books. The little things we do every day to keep going after the losses we’ve experienced are incredible, and it’s okay to think of them that way. I mean, when you’re grieving, the smallest things can seem like the biggest battles, and when you win a battle, aren’t you considered a hero?


Written by Natalie Adams, the creator of Teenage Grief Sucks. Follow her on Twitter @natalieladams.

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