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Light a candle for Harry Potter

null The months of anticipation and speculation are officially over; volumes upon volumes of the last Harry Potter installment can now be found at your neighborhood Barnes & Noble. True fans have breezed their ways through the book by now, and know just which of the central characters have met their ends. In case you're still savoring the last pages of the seven-volume saga, don't worry: no spoilers here. Whether the wizard boy and his companions live or die, readers who have grown to know J.K. Rowling's meticulously drawn world inside and out have to prepare for one crucial and obvious grieving process: the final conclusion of the series. Even adult fans are likely to walk away from the experience with a pile of crunched-up tissues, and it goes without saying that Potter's youngest fans will be hit the hardest. It's thus no surprise that several news outlets are reporting on ways to help kids cope with the inevitable pang of sadness. After all, it's the expectation for the next Potter book that has marked a significant, ongoing tradition in their young lives. Closing the back cover of Deathly Hallows is likely to bring up emotions that border on the loss of a real friend. Psychologists have coined the term "fictional loss" to describe the feelings of grief that arise after a book or television series ends. "Treat it as any kind of loss in the child's life. Take it seriously. Don't pooh-pooh it, and don't try to fix it," child and family psychologist Allen Kanner told the San Jose Mercury News . "What you want to do is talk to the child about it -- hear what they're thinking and feeling, and acknowledge that they're sad that the series is over. Don't say, 'You'll get over it in a few days.'" "For the parent, let the kid be a little obsessed at first. It needs to be talked about. To them it is not just a book. It is something they have grown up with," said children's librarian Danielle Schulman in the Boston Herald . To facilitate the mourning process, the Orient Heights branch of the Boston Public Library will hold a wake for Harry Potter on July 30th. Allen Kanner recommended organizing a "Goodbye, Harry" gathering with your child and his friends, during which young fans could either read their favorite passages out loud or find items to represent their favorite parts of the series. Sitting in a circle by candlelight and sharing goodbyes could also help kids cope. We think that wakes and commemorative events should probably happen from kids' own initiative (encouraging your children to attend a Potter wake might be a tad excessive). Meanwhile, however, there is a fine line between reminding kids to treat Harry as a literary character and thoughtlessly brushing off young readers' genuine attachment to the series. Like Kanner, who suggested that the conclusion of Harry Potter should initiate a family outing to the bookstore to find a new series to follow, we hope that this cultural phenomenon will only be the start of a lifetime's worth of memorable—and passionate—reading experiences.
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