Why Ending Stories Is Hard, But You Have To

Have you ever been reading a book or watching a series or film, spending every second longing for two characters to get together, only to find yourself disappointed when they do? Hi. I do this all the time. And I think it’s because I love living in those in-between moments. The middle of a story, before the ending, before the suggestion that I can’t just keep reading this forever.

But stories end. They have to. And that means letting go of things and moving on, and – well, change is scary, isn’t it? There’s nothing that begets change more than an ending. Whether that ending is you putting the book down and doing something else, or this task that has consumed your life no longer doing so.

Sometimes, you just don’t want it to end. So what if you didn’t end it? What if you kept telling those stories, or – hell, just never finished the story at all. Just left it there, unfinished, eternal in its moment of pause. Is that better?

I’m not sure it is.

When I was younger I felt like I had very little. This wasn’t the case at all, but it was how I felt. So any time I got something precious, I would hold on and hold on and hold on and live in denial about it ever ending. I hated the last nights of musicals or plays because it meant that the run was over. It had ended. I had lost this precious thing.

I think everyone has to learn to let go of things as they grow older. To accept the change endings bring. And that means learning how to grieve for things.

Grief is strange. It’s something we attribute easily to the loss of someone to death, a little less easily to the ending of a relationship, and reticently to the loss of anything at all. But we do grieve for things we’ve lost. We grieve the loss of childhood, and freedom. We grieve, in a small way, when that TV series we’ve really loved comes to an end.

Grief also sucks. Ending things sucks. Even if you bring things to the perfect conclusion, the one you always wanted, the one that makes you look at your story and think: yes, I have given these beautiful characters what they want. They are safe in that, forever, in a way. But you’ll still grieve losing them.

I genuinely believe that accepting the prevalence of grief is the key to learning to process the endings of things. And oftentimes, that means acknowledging the importance of something. Let me give you an example.

A few months ago, the first campaign of Critical Role ended. Critical Role is ‘just a D&D game’, but it’s also a lot more. I started watching it when my brother was in hospital, in a coma, and watching Critical Role reminded me I could laugh. That I could be happy, and distracted. So when the campaign ended, it was really hard. Harder than I expected, years later. Harder than I expected given that my brother is healthy and happy now.

I had to grieve for it, in my own way, and I’m not ashamed of that. But letting myself process that grief meant that I got to acknowledge how important it was to me, and how much it changed my life. That made me very grateful.

And, of course, I’m talking about ending stories today because this weekend I’m ending one that has been everything to me for five years. It’s time. I’m ready to. I know this because, in a way, I’ve already started moving on from her. I’m ready to grieve the end of this story, and rejoice in it all the same.

I’ve let myself feel all the things I’m feeling about it – or tried to, at least. It’s been a lot. I’ve been so stressed that at points I felt like I just didn’t want to go to the event. I’ve been talking about it incessantly and then worrying that it’s self-serving, that no one wants to hear it.

Well, here’s a newsflash: it’s okay for grief to be self-serving. Because that is half the point. You are processing. You. How you decide to process that is up to you.

So when you have something coming to an end that means a lot to you, be it a story you’re writing or telling or witnessing, please don’t be ashamed that you need to grieve its loss. But do end it. Do. Because that grief will help you process it passing, and then you will be better able to move onto telling other stories. New stories.

Stories that will change your life, just like this one did.

And if you want to see the story I’m telling next, you can read the first chapter of it right here!