Roguemutt (author and blog host of: Every Other Writer Has A Blog…Why Can’t I?) asks:
My character wants to know how to get over her parents being murdered. She was heartbroken and threw herself into schoolwork to get her PhD by 19.
Wow, what a question!
Sounds like this character was a child when her parents were killed. Severe trauma in childhood can set someone up for a whole myriad of issues. Not only would the incident itself and the grieving thereafter take a toll, but this character also has to live the rest of her life not knowing how things would have been had her parents survived.
Whenever someone faces a tragedy, certain factors are evaluated. Namely, protective factors and risk factors.
If this character was taken into a loving home and raised with good, consistent boundaries, then she could do relatively well. Sounds like this character is pretty strong and has what are called mature defense mechanisms because she turned the death of her parents into a positive thing–obtaining a PhD at a young age.
If this same character was thrown around various orphanages and foster homes, where little love (and maybe even some abuse) happened, her outcome may not be as positive. Chronic mental illness, drug use, inappropriate attachments to others (AKA really wonky behaviors in relationships), and failure to obtain goals could occur.
Now, it sounds like this character is now and adult and is stuggling with coming to terms with her parents’ deaths.
How does one go about “getting over it?”
Some people develop what’s called a “manic defense” where they must be constantly busy or occupy their time (like every second of their time) with some activity so they don’t have an opportunity to let their thoughts ponder the horrible thing that happened to them.
Some people will “self-medicate” with drug or alcohol use. It’s another way of numbing themselves from the sadness.
Some people will become predisposed to depression or other types of mental illness.
Treatment is individually determined, but there are several options available.
I’m sure a lot of you have heard about the Stages of Grief. Developed by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, these stages outline the various emotions people go through when they experience loss. Interestingly, these stages are NOT linear. People can bounce back and forth between the stages, skip others, or get completely stuck in one and never move past it.
Simply put, the stages are:
People can get help navigating these stages. Having a strong support network helps. Having good coping skills also helps. Attending a bereavement group, getting psychotherapy, or even using medications (if there is significant distress or dysfunction) are recommended.
I hope that helps!