Sixth movie is a "grieving" success.
Grief and death play a substantial part in the film, "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince;' released earlier this summer and a likely popular DVD gift this upcoming holiday season. The movie presents an opportunity for people to become more comfortable with these topics, asserts Heather Servaty-Seib, a counseling psychologist at Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind.
"Author J.K. Rowling isn't afraid to talk about death and dying, and she has done a good job handling grief in the Harry Potter series. Her characters and storylines show that grieving is idiosyncratic, and that's good because it is unique to each person."
In the book on which the latest movie is based, the teenage heroes frequently discuss people who have died and, at the end, a significant character dose to Harry Potter dies. Death has been a meaningful part of the series from the beginning, when we learn that Potter's parents were killed when he was an infant. It then continued with the deaths of other key characters, such as a fellow student and Potter's godfather.
"Unfortunately, there is often a presumption in our culture that there is a particular way to grieve, but grief is very individualized," notes Servaty-Seib, associate professor of educational studies. "People react differently based on the relationship with the person who died."
Mourning rituals, such as funerals, are important ways for people to remember the deceased and express their feelings. Servaty-Seib's research suggests that adolescents may view traditional services as less helpful than do adults. She indicates that this may be because they are less involved in the planning and do not see the services as meaningful to their own experiences.
"Dumbledore's funeral shows how people, especially children and teens, respond differently to death. Even the story says, 'It did not mean very much. It had little to do with Dumbledore as Harry had known him.'
"We'll see some of the young characters react differently in book seven when they are more involved in the mourning rituals of their friends and loved ones."