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The Lost Lenore
When a love interest dies and a character's grief is... ongoing.

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor
Eagerly I wished the morrow, vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow — sorrow for the lost Lenore
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels named Lenore
Nameless here for evermore

AKA 'The Dead Love Interest' (not parent, not sibling, not offspring, love interest). One of The Oldest Ones in the Book, named for the famous deceased in Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven". In short the three defining criteria are
  • a love interest of a prominent character
  • is dead (or occasionally just genuinely believed to be dead) before the story begins or dies relatively early in the story
  • their death has significant ongoing impact, consequences and relevance for the remainder of the story

In determining whether a character who dies during a story can be classified as a Lost Lenore, the third criterion above is the most important. In order to fit this trope, the character must have just as much, if not more, importance to the narrative dead than they do alive. For example, Anna in Van Helsing is the hero’s love interest and dies at the climax of the story, but she is not a Lost Lenore as all that happens after she dies is that Van Helsing is cured, lays her to rest, sees her happy with her family in the afterlife and roll credits. She does more for the story alive than she does dead.

Characters who lose Lenore can go on to have other love interests, particularly if she is a Posthumous Character or the story is part of an ongoing series. However, in order to qualify for this trope it must be clear that they grieved strongly for her, and that overcoming their grief and learning to love again is a significant part of character/plot development. Sometimes subsequent love interests never entirely replace Lenore. It can go all the way to a Love Triangle.

The Lost Lenore's mode of death can vary but popular choices include:

Lenores can also become lost through suicide, Innocent Bystander Syndrome, tragic accident or Random Act of God.

If she left children behind, said children often have considerable emotional baggage to deal with, including a father (or father figure equivalent) whose grief can render them overprotective or neglectful, or abusive or absent. The child/ren may feel, or even be told explicitly, that they are either too much like the Lost Lenore, or else not enough like them. Angst ensues.

If the Lost Lenore was murdered and Stuffed into the Fridge, a Roaring Rampage of Revenge usually ensues. Which leads to an crucial identifying point: many Gwen Stacys are also Lost Lenores, but not every Lost Lenore is also a Gwen Stacy, as someone explicitly blaming themself for the Gwen Stacy's death is an identifying criterion for this trope, whereas this is not always the case for a Lost Lenore.

After her death, whether it occurs before the story begins or during its course the Lost Lenore is present in the the thoughts, dialogue and actions of living characters. However she can herself be a dynamic presence within a story through the use of Flashback and or direct interaction with living characters in the form of a Spirit Advisor. Conversely, forces of evil may evoke the memory of the Lost Lenore, or even masquerade as a manifestation of her, in order to manipulate living characters.

Sometimes living characters encounter another living character who for whatever reason strongly reminds them of the Lost Lenore. This new character could be a relative, reincarnation, or even just an uncanny doppelganger. In this instance a romantic relationship may develop, but this is always based primarily on the character's resemblance to the Lost Lenore and, yes, Angst can ensue.

Occasionally, due usually to a dramatic twist Lenore turns out not to be dead after all, or dead for reasons by means other than previously believed. The Lost Lenore can sometimes be brought back to life through an act of Time Travel or by magic but her death must be treated as a real event within the story. However, even if the audience knows or characters subsequently discover a twist in the tale, she must still satisfy the major criteria of having been loved and her perceived loss being of ongoing significance in order to qualify for this trope.

Not to be confused with the comic book character Lenore the Cute Little Dead Girl who tends to cause death to other people rather than experience it herself.

Related tropes include: Cynicism Catalyst, Death by Origin Story, I Let Gwen Stacy Die, Death by Childbirth, Stuffed into the Fridge, Crusading Widower, Too Good for This Sinful Earth.

Contrast with: Disposable Woman, Forgotten Fallen Friend, Oh, and X Dies. The One That Got Away isn't dead, but still a lost love.

As this trope deals in part with characters who die during the course of a story, Here Be Spoilers.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

     Anime and Manga  

  • Cyndia/Cecelia from Yu-Gi-Oh! is unusual in that she does Lost Lenore duty not for a hero of the series but for a villain, Pegasus.
  • Lilith certainly seems to qualify as Abel's Lost Lenore in Trinity Blood. Her murder changed his character forever and he mourned her alone in a cave for 'centuries' afterwards. While Abel later forms strong bonds with other female characters, no one else compares to his memory of her.
  • Kanan from Saiyuki is Hakkai's Lost Lenore and also his Cynicism Catalyst AND I Let Gwen Stacy Die In The Origin Story!
  • Eliade in D.Gray-Man.
  • Gundam SEED, in another villainous examle, has the wife of Patrick Zala, whose death in the Bloody Valentine tragedy is seen as the cause for his bitterness and the reason for his increasingly hateful behaviour against the Naturals. Extra bonus points for even being called Lenore.
    • The protagonist Kira seems to suffer from this in Gundam SEED Destiny after Fllay died in the finale of SEED. While he does not mention her specifically (we don't really get any internal thoughts from him in Destiny) he is noticeably changed.
  • Helena in GUN×SWORD. Her death is the cause for Van's Roaring Rampage of Revenge the series is all about.
  • Wakaba in Cross Game. (She dies in the first episode). The rest of the manga is about Kou and the other characters trying to get over her.
  • Saya, in the anime of Black Cat, similar to the stuffed in the fridge example. You get tiny snapshots of her battle with Creed, but she is only found dead by Train. Train doesn't really recover till the finale until he has a vision/encounter with an almost identical girl that seems to give him the realization that she wouldn't want him to grieve and obsess like he is currently.
  • Yuria in Fist of the North Star. The first major villain holds her captive before she dies, and after about halfway through the series every single new character had something to do with her in his backstory. One guy is her brother, another her half brother, and several others were attempted love interests, including the Big Bad. The last story arc is entirely about her; at the very end this trope is subverted, and she is revealed to be alive.
  • Mary Magdalene from Chrono Crusade is The Lost Lenore of not just Chrono (of whom she's also the Gwen Stacy), but also Father Remington. Nearly every twist and turn of this trope is played out in the manga—Chrono meets Rosette and he can't help but be reminded of Mary (and she's hinted to even be a reincarnation of her in the anime), it ends up playing out as a sort of love triangle (in the anime he tells Mary's ghost mournfully that "Rosette's covering your place in my heart"), she's a major driving force behind Chrono's character development, and at one point in the manga Chrono and Remington even end up in a duel where Remington seems to take out his anger over Mary's death on Chrono.
  • In Loveless, Soubi's mother, also having suffered Death by Origin Story, is Ritsu's Lost Lenore— he insists she was "just a co-worker", but Nagisa doesn't think so, and Nagisa accuses Ritsu of taking Soubi's virginity because Soubi looks just like his mother.
  • Bleach:
    • Masaki Kurosaki, who is the entire reason we have a show. Everyone in her family (her husband, son, and daughters) all loved her, and treated her as "the center of [their] universe". Her death, and Ichigo's powerlessness to stop it, is exactly what prompts him to be the tough-as-nails Badass we come to know him as. Masaki's death also had a profound effect on her husband Isshin, and her daughters Karin and Yuzu. And this is before we learn that she was a pure-blooded Quincy whose death is connected to the death of Kanae Katagiri, another Lost Lenore.
    • Hisana Kuchiki, of the Posthumous Character variety. Without her, much of this manga would never have unfolded the way it did as her death is the reason for the Byakuya/Rukia relationship and all the consequences that have come from that. In fact, BOTH of Byakuya's conflicting vows in the Soul Society Arc stem from his marriage to Hisana, because it was his defiance of custom (in marrying her and adopting Rukia) that led to his second vow (to never risk the family honor again) and the start of all his problems.
    • Nine years ago, Yhwach conducted a purge of "impure" Quincies that resulted in the Cruel and Unusual Death of Kanae Katagiri, the wife/battle partner of Ryuuken Ishida and mother of his son Uryuu. It is heavily implied that her death (and the desire to protect his only remaining family member who mysteriously survived the fate that befell his mother) is behind Ryuuken's Refusal of the Call and Heroic Neutral alignment...but his refusal to explain this to Uryuu caused a nasty, ongoing rift between father and son that drives many of Uryuu's decisions throughout the series.
  • Shito from Zombie Loan's Lenore is his mother who gave birth to him while she was already dead and forced to live with villain Lao Ye. The reason he made the contract with Z-Loan was to give her back her years so she could wake up.
  • Tomoe Amamiya and Tiger & Bunny's protagonist Kotetsu were Happily Married with a daughter, Kaede, when she passed away. She suffers Death by Origin Story, being deceased since five years before the events of the series. The promise he made to her is one of the two main reasons (the other being wanting his daughter to think he's 'cool') that Kotetsu doggedly continues with his job as a corporate-sponsored superhero despite having to leave Kaede behind with her grandmother, keep his occupation a secret from her, and endure the manipulations of his money-hungry sponsors.
  • Male example with Shun from From the New World, who is this to both the main female and male protagonists of the story. Particularly significant since neither Saki nor Satoru can actually remember him due to having their memories altered, but they still realize there's someone who they lost. He's important enough in the character's lives that when the flashback reel at the end of the series plays, he's the last one.
  • Everything Tragic Villain Aki does in Kamisama Dolls is to avenge his dead lover, and her death also weighs heavily on his former friend Kyouhei.
  • Yui Ikari from Neon Genesis Evangelion. Everything Gendo Ikari does stems from her. Mainly to get her out of Unit-01.
  • Souichiro, Kyoko's late husband, from Maison Ikkoku. She was very much in love with him, and an unwillingness to disrespect his memory is the major roadblock for Kyoko and Godai's relationship.
  • InuYasha
    • Kikyou is an unusual and complicated example. She and the title character were in love fifty years prior to the events of the series until Naraku manipulated them into turning on each other and murdered Kikyou, leaving Inuyasha very much affected by her perceived betrayal and her death, and making it possible for the Shikon Jewel to manifest in the present in the possession of Kikyou's reincarnation, Kagome. Matters are then made much more complicated when Kikyou is resurrected and comes back with a bunch of baggage of her own to sort through regarding her death: while she was dead and gone, Inuyasha could make steps in the process of getting over her death and his other past traumas, but once she's back, neither fully dead nor properly alive, he's trapped between his unresolved feelings for her (including his guilt over her death) and his growing feelings for Kagome, and Kagome sadly acknowledges that as much as she loves Inuyasha, she can't compete with Kikyou because Kikyou's death has given her a place in his heart that she can't match.
      When Kikyou is then Killed Off for Real over the course of the series, Inuyasha is finally able to reach closure regarding their relationship; while he still grieves for her, she doesn't haunt him the way she had up to that point. However, she continues to influence the plot with her final death, both by saving Kohaku's life and by leaving behind some of her purifying power in a shard of the broken Shikon Jewel, making it possible for the Jewel to be purified and defeated.
  • Casca from Berserk is this to Guts, and is an interesting zigzagged case throughout. She did not die, but was nonetheless "lost" via a brutal Stuffed into the Fridge ordeal that left her psychologically gone, making her a Lenore AND an Ophelia. Because the story starts In Medias Res, this technically happens before the story begins during a flashback, not to mention that even though Casca is not dead, Casca has been insane for most of the series and her insanity has played a bigger role in the course of the story than when she was sane (much to the chagrin of the fanbase), since a) her insanity caused by Griffith violently raping her in front of Guts drove Guts to revenge the most, b) the loss of love and affection that Casca provided Guts constantly anguishes him, and c) the entire drive of the story as of recently is Guts trying to find a cure for Casca's insanity, thus trying to make her "unlost."
  • Kye Wol Hyang from Shin Angyo Onshi, who died before the start of the series, but her death was the main reason Munsu was able to fight the big bad, or had the motivation to endure months and years of travel alone, plotting his revenge against Aji Tae. While he didn't stay chaste after her death (A couple of encounters and just at the beginning of the series), he never took another lover and in the end, he reunited with her in the afterlife.
  • In Highlander: The Search for Vengeance the hero Colin spends over 2000 years mourning the death of his first wife. While also seeking of revenge on the man that killed her.
  • Rin of Naruto seemed a Disposable Woman in her one flashback appearance. During the Fourth Shinobi War she's upgraded to The Lost Lenore when Obito reveals he followed Madara in order to create a world where Rin was still alive.
  • Yuuko Ichihara of xxxHolic arguably becomes one for Watanuki when she dies. Whether or not she can actually be considered a love interest for him is up for debate, but there's no denying that her death has a severe impact on his character as he makes a wish to see her again in exchange for being trapped indefinitely at the shop while he waits for her. His personality takes a pretty drastic change into a more serious one and he becomes considerably more knowledgeable and skilled in the area of magic/supernatural as he takes on Yuuko's role. He also makes it a habit of going into moments of melancholy reminiscence for her.
  • Nakbin of The Bride Of The Water God whose death and anticipated resurrection was the basis of the whole plot. When she died, the water god Habaek started to require sacrifices from the humans hoping that one of them will be her reincarnation in order to reunite and have the curse lifted. However, while being in grief, constant longing and waiting for his lost love, Habaek met and fell in love with Soah. Unfortunately, even though Habaek is already completely in love with his current bride, he still continue to long for Nakbin that when he reunited with her resurrected form, he reaffirmed his desire to be with her even if she was not the person to whom he was connected with the red string. After Nakbin's "second death", Habaek also promised not to love anyone the same way he loved her by telling Soah that his one eye will be used to look only at her, instead of looking at her with both which were used to look only at Nakbin. Though Soah had accepted the fact of being a replacement wife to Habaek, Nakbin's significance which was never denied by the god continue to bring troubles to the couple.
  • In X/1999, Kotori would be this for Kamui.
  • Peace, deceased member of the Sleuth Brigade from The Voynich Hotel, is this. Aside from having been the glue and diplomat of the group, she was Leader's first love, and consequently Vixen's then rival. Her death is a frequent source of drama between the two.
  • Senki Zesshou Symphogear has Amou Kanade, Tsubasa's deceased singing partner. To Tsubasa, Kanade was her everything, and a good deal of season 1 was spent dealing with the grief from this loss. The dealing includes almost-killing Hibiki and attempting a blatantly suicidal Heroic Sacrifice.
  • In a case in Detective Conan, Atsuko is this for Takahashi. He was in love with her when they were in their college's cinema club, but she committed suicide before the story starts. And during a trip to the mountain villa with old friends of Sonoko's sister Ayako, he brutally kills one of his "friends" Chikako, because she caused Atsuko's ruin and death, since she stole a script of hers in the past.
  • In CLANNAD, Nagisa is this for Tomoya.

     Comic Books  

  • Shelly in The Crow is pretty much THE iconic comic book example of this trope.
  • Goldie in Sin City: The Hard Goodbye.
  • Valerie in V for Vendetta.
  • Hank Pym of The Avengers — then Ant-Man — first became romantically interested in young Janet Van Dyne (soon to be the Wasp) because she was a dead ringer for his late first wife, Marya Trovaya, who had been murdered by Communists.
    • After Janet's death, Hank spent hours at a time listening to her dying scream and grieving in his laboratory, and occasionally trying to pretend that his Robot Girlfriend Jocasta was Janet (he had uploaded Janet's memories into Jocasta's hard drive). The Replacement Goldfish is strong with this one.
    • Mockingbird was also one for Hawkeye after her apparent death in West Coast Avengers 100 (it was actually a Skrull and she came back at the end of Secret Invasion). Her death led to him leaving the Avengers, spiralling into a deep depression and living in the middle of nowhere, hunting animals to eat. He eventually returned to civilisation after an old mentor helped him to realise that Bobbi wouldn't have wanted him to live that way. Her death still lingered with him, though, and his ideal life in House of M involved being in a relationship with her.
  • Some writers like to use Gwen Stacy this way for Spider-Man, even though he actually got over her death fairly soon in the 1970s.
    • Jeph Loeb's Spider-Man: Blue is perhaps the most blatant example.
    • In Spider-Man: Reign, Spidey is obsessed with the memory of his dead wife Mary Jane. Here the way his perception of her changes over the course of the story ( in the final issue she becomes a source of strength for him, encouraging him to carry on his work, putting off their reunion in the hereafter) is a not unimportant subplot.
  • X-Men villain Magneto was shown to obsess about his dead wife Magda quite a bit in a number of stories. When he became ruler of Genosha, he named the main square of the capital after her.
  • Captain Atom had his wife Angela, who died of cancer during the eighteen year interval that Cap missed when he was catapulted into the future. To make matters worse, Cap was declared dead in that interval, and she remarried...to Wade Eiling, of all people.
  • X-Men: Phoenix was an example of this for her husband, Cyclops - especially in timelines where she stays dead, but the fans don't like to talk about those chapters because the character Took a Level in Jerkass. Ironically, the one time he didn't think of her as this, their outrage was even louder.
  • Lori in The Walking Dead.
  • The slow loss of his beloved Nora drove Dr. Victor Fries to become the obsessed, callous Mister Freeze. Bonus points for "Nora" and "Lenore" being related derivations of "Eleanor."
  • In Runaways, Chase never truly got over Gert's death, and even once attempted to make a deal with the Gibborim to try and get her back.

     Fanfiction  

     Film - Animated 

     Film - Live Action 

     Literature  

  • Pretty much any female character in anything by Edgar Allan Poe.
  • The ballad "Lenore" (1773) by Gottfried August Bürger, which is one of the German ballads translated into English most often and was highly influential on various English-speaking writers besides starting a fashion for Gothic ballads in Germany, inverts the pattern: The eponymous heroine is obsessed with her sweetheart Wilhelm, who went off into the Seven Years' War and did not return. She begins to quarrel with God, causing her mother to chide her for her blasphemy. But then one night the dead fiancé returns and asks Lenore to mount up on his horse with him...
  • Cathy Earnshaw in the second half of Wuthering Heights
  • Lily Potter in the Harry Potter series, to Snape, her Stalker with a Crush and Unlucky Childhood Friend.
    • Cedric was this to Cho Chang, she was rather fragile and alone after he died.
  • Rebecca plays with this trope. Rebecca seems to be this to her widowed husband Maxim, but it turns out that she was an utterly despicable woman whom he later murdered, and his haunted behavior regarding her death was caused by the strain of having to maintain a facade of devoted mourning and the knowledge that he was unable to be good enough for his innocent young second wife because of this. On the other hand, Rebecca is this trope in Les Yay fashion to her onetime nanny and later housekeeper Mrs. Danvers.
  • Lilias Craven in The Secret Garden.
  • Susan Delgado in Wizard and Glass. Roland continues to mourn for her throughout the remainder of The Dark Tower series, and her memory is also a significant part of the Marvel prequels.
  • The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides. Times seven.
  • Deliciously parodied by Lemony Snicket in A Series of Unfortunate Events where Beatrice serves as this for the narrator.
  • Annabell Leigh for Humbert Humbert in Lolita, complete with several references to the original poem. The reason H.H has his "tastes" is his relationship with her when he was a child and she was a child, which ended in the trope. He falls for Lolita because she looks so much like Annabell.
  • Poke from Enders Shadow falls under this category, even if not necessarily a love interest to the main character.
  • In Powers That Be, the first book of Anne McCaffrey's Petaybee series, the death of Yana's first husband is suggested to be the reason she joined the InterGal's military in the first place (which led to the injuries that led her to be shipped to Petaybee, the company's version of a desk job in a podunk town). Her growing feelings for Sean Shongili bring back memories of Husband #1.
  • In Hideyuki Kikuchi's Invader Summer, the main character's abiding love for his deceased not-my-girlfriend is the only thing which keeps him from falling under the spell of the titular invader, unlike every other male who sees her.
  • Lyanna Stark in A Song of Ice and Fire, mourned by her ex-betrothed Robert Baratheon.
    • Tysha for Tyrion Lannister.
    • On the same note, Joanna for Tywin Lannister. Her Death by Childbirth is one of the main reasons Tywin hates his son Tyrion so much.
  • Another male example is the titular character's deceased husband in Stephen King's Lisey's Story.
  • Emily in Jodi Picault's The Pact.
  • Manfred takes this trope Up to Eleven.
  • Barbara Hambly's Benjamin January novels feature Ayasha, the hero's wife, who died shortly before the beginning of the series. Eleven books and five years later, her (happily remarried) husband still mourns for her.
  • Anno Dracula: Lucy Westenra for Dr Jack Seward.
  • Anne Neville, the late wife of Richard III in the 21st Century. He does eventually end up Happily Married to mom and brilliant inventor Sarah Levine, but he's never fully over Anne. Sarah fortunately understands Richard's grief and does what she can to help him.
  • The Hunger Games: Katniss' father for her mother, killed in a mining accident. Her mother's resulting BSOD meant that Katniss was forced to step up and become chief provider for the family.
  • Arlova, Rubashov's former secretary in Darkness at Noon. Rubashov recalls her in a sisterly light, but the scent of her body lingers with him, as does the curve of her neck, which may have been where she was shot after he made her take the heat for him.
    "You can do what you like with me," Arlova had said, and so he had done.
  • Ankaa for Virgil in Within Ruin.
  • Derek Harris' first wife Mary is this in Aunt Dimity and the Duke. The novel takes place over five years after her death from pneumonia, and the Duke's reference to the horrors of death by drowning triggers a flashback for Derek. He throws himself into his work, with young Peter covering for his absences and for the drunken housekeeper Derek unwittingly hired. Most of his character development involves his recovery and the budding romance between him and Emma Porter.
  • According to Philippa Gregory's interpretation of events in The Constant Princess, Arthur was this to Catalina/Catherine of Aragon.
  • Fiyero for Elphaba in Wicked, after being killed by the Gale Force.
  • Laura in American Gods. Twice as interesting because even though she appears as a intelligent quasi-zombie throughout the story, she still acts as a Lenore to Shadow.
  • The Joe Leaphorn/Jim Chee series of Tony Hillerman has a mild example. Leaphorn's wife Emma dies of a surgical infection in one of the early books. They had been married for decades and Leaphorn never gets over it, thinking of her constantly.
  • Capelo's wife in Probability Sun by Nancy Kress. His enormous rage over her death (killed as a civilian noncombatant by enemy aliens) drives Capelo's interest in the main plot, and directly drives an important plot twist.
  • The Dresden Files:
    • Harry becomes a gender-swapped version of this. After his death in Changes, Murphy utterly refuses to accept that he's gone. (Her Madness Mantra during this time is "They Never Found the Body...he's not dead, I can't believe he's dead.") She goes through life as normal, helping others and protecting Chicago's community from magical threats, but...something in her has just stopped. He comes back to life after six months or so, and Murphy is still depressed. It takes her a while to accept that Harry really is alive, because she doesn't want her hopes to get dashed again. He might also be this for Molly, but in her case, the reasons weren't exclusively romantic and they were never involved.
    • In the first few books Harry is still affected by the betrayal and death of his first girlfriend, Elaine Malloroy as seen when Michael brings her up in the beginning of Grave Peril and Harry nearly bites his head off. Michael outright states that he was afraid that Harry wuold never open himself up to love ever again. Later revevaled that she did survive, but let him belive her dead and that her betrayal was due to mind control. Only by the time that happens Harry managed to get over it so that he could fall in love with Susan Rodriguez only for her to promptly become Lost Lenore number two by vampire infection. She survives but her partial transformation renders them unable to continue seeing each other, causing severe depression for years after As of Changes Harry is forced to personaly kill her in order to save their daugter, causing even more angst
  • Ellen in Gone with the Wind, to everyone in her family, but mostly her husband Gerald. And Melanie at the end, to Ashley. Compounding his grief over her is the fact that Ashley never realized how much he loved Melanie and depended on her until it was too late.
  • In Star Carrier: Earth Strike, Admiral Alexander Koenig's lover Admiral Karyn Mendelsson gets all of two scenes before being killed offscreen when the Turusch launch an extreme-range kinetic attack on several objects in the Sol System. For the next two books Koenig misses her so much that he keeps her image and personality as the avatar for his personal AI.
  • In Jackie Collins ' Santangelo family series, Gino has a version of this. He falls for a woman named something similar to Lenore. She dumps him and he holds a torch for a while, then he falls for her daughter named Maria. They get married and have two children, then she ends up being murdered by his Mob rival, making her a Stuffed In The Fridge type of this trope.

    Live Action TV 

  • Star Trek
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation
      • Tasha Yar for Data. He keeps a hologram of her in his quarters, which becomes a plot point, and becomes friends with her sister and is hurt when she betrays him. Also, he makes an enemy of her alternate timeline half-Romulan daughter, whose appearances serve to remind him of Tasha
    • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
      • Without Jennifer Sisko the entire series wouldn't have unfolded the way it did. It led to Sisko accepting the post in the first place, him becoming the Emissary, him becoming so bound to Bajor, and his final fate at the end of the show.
      • A partially successful example occurs with Tora Ziyal. It succeeded via her father's storyline. He had never been entirely sane and broke completely over the death. He ended up as the Big Bad, trying to bring about a Bajoran apocalypse. She was also supposed to be this trope for Garak as his driving inspiration for every future action he took against the Dominion. However, because the show refused to openly admit the impact of her death on Kira and Garak because it wanted to redeem her murderer, the fans only learned this fact through Word of God rather than the show itself.
  • In Season Three of the recent BBC series Robin Hood Robin Hood may have got another love interest in the form of Kate but the final scene of the final episode affirmed Maid Marian's status as The One True Love.
  • Sura in season one of Spartacus: Blood and Sand is almost the most classic example of this trope in a TV series since Shelly Webster in The Crow: Stairway to Heaven. Even before the titular hero knows for sure she's actually dead she appears in flashbacks and dream sequences, and after she dies in his arms.
    • Spartacus does get another love interest, Mira but (1) she bears more than a passing resemblance to Sura and (2) it takes him a long time to reciprocate her interest. They spend a lot of Season 2 dancing around Spartacus' ongoing love and grief for his murdered wife, and after they finally do get properly together, Mira is killed too! Word of God has it that Spartacus probably will never be able to love again.
  • The fact that he couldn't save his wife from a car wreck is what spurns David Banner to gamma experiments in The Incredible Hulk (the TV series).
  • Kate for Neal in season 2 of White Collar.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Jenny Calendar for Giles. After her death, she's frequently mentioned and seen in flashbacks and dream sequences. Though Giles has other relationships, he never really seems to get over Jenny's death. Also, at different points in the series, both Drusilla and the First Evil use Jenny's form to manipulate and torture Giles and other Buffy characters.
    • Spinoff Angel arguably has a slightly twisted version in its final season. The death of Fred soon after they got together sends Wes into an alcoholic, desperate spiral. And since Illyria takes Fred's form, he's forced to still be around her every day and be driven by that constant reminder of his grief, which culminates when Wesley asks her to turn into Fred as he's dying.
  • Trudy in Monk.
  • Supernatural has several:
    • Mary for all the Winchesters. She's the motivation for much of the first two series and Zachariah tortures her soul ( or an artificial copy of her) because he knows it will upset Sam and Dean.
    • Jessica is Sam's Lost Lenore. She appears as a hallucination and in his dreams. Lucifer wears her form the first time he talks to Sam, so that he'll be more convincing ( and possibly for the sake of fanservice ).
    • Lucifer also tries a similar trick with his first vessel Nick, who had lost his wife in a violent crime.
    • And Bobby has his wife, whose death he has never quite gotten over. It's the motivation for everything he's done and if Bobby is getting an episode in the spotlight, chances are fifty-fifty that his wife will appear at some point. Supernatural loves this trope.
  • Inverted in a That Mitchell and Webb Look sketch involving a parody of the film Rebecca. The eponymous Rebecca arrives at her new husband's house only to find out he is obsessed with preserving everything in the house for his second wife.
  • Male example - and doubly unique and interesting as he is the Lost Lenore to another male character - Brandon from Season One of The Wire, whose death continued to have ramifications through subsequent seasons.
  • Patrick's wife counts in The Mentalist. Her murder by Red John is what fuels all his actions in the series after.
  • Fiona Carter in Spooks.
  • It's implied on Doctor Who that the Doctor might have at least one of these.
  • Anna Grant is this to Kerr Avon in Blake's 7.
  • David for Ellen in Damages after season one.
  • Daniel's death is what prompts Sidney Bristow to become a double agent and kicks the plot in motion in Alias.
  • Nikita:
    • Nikita's deceased fiancé, a civilian man named Daniel who was killed by Division after their romance was discovered. Daniel's murder was what led Nikita to go rogue and attempt to take down Division.
    • Owen has his own example in Emily.
    • Michael's wife and daughter are also killed with a similar effect. Realizing that it happened on the order of Division leads to his Heel-Face Turn.
  • John might qualify for Olivia in Fringe.
  • Two from Merlin: Freya, Merlin's Girl of the Week who dies in his arms and becomes the Lady of the Lake, and Queen Igraine, King Uther's wife and Arthur's mother. She's a Posthumous Character whose death is the result of a spell that allowed to her concieve, and who kick-started Uther's Roaring Rampage of Revenge against magical users, setting up the main conflict of the entire show (that Merlin has to keep his magical abilities a secret).
  • Person of Interest:
    • Jessica is this for Reese.
    • Finch seems to be this with respect to his fiancee Grace—he's still alive, but because he faked his death, she doesn't know this.
  • Once Upon a Time. Daniel, Regina's true love, becomes this after he is murdered by her own mother. This leads Regina down her path to darkness, seeking to take revenge for Daniel's death.
    • Belle is also this for Rumplestilskin, who carries this on to his Mr. Gold persona. Subverted in that it turns out Belle isn't really dead and is eventually reunited with him.
    • Once Upon a Time loves to use this trope for its villains. Captain Hook also has one in the form of Rumplestiltskin's wife, Milah.
  • Claire Taylor, the late wife of Mac Taylor,who died on 9/11, in CSI: New York.
  • Babylon 5:
    • John Sheridan believes his wife Anna to be dead, and clearly feels pain and guilt over her loss.
    • Also Adira to Londo Mollari, when her murder (which he attributes mistakenly to Lord Refa) pushes him completely into the designs of Morden and the Shadows, and to a stunning revenge plot against Refa. All of this was arguably pivotal to Londo's eventual fate in the story arc.
    • Marcus for Susan, although she never admitted her feelings while he was alive.
    • Carolyn ("Ship of Tears") to Bester—not quite dead, but no one as yet knew how to bring her out of her unusual less-than-alive state either. And supposedly this was the only person Bester was capable of actually loving, by his own words. His discovery that the Shadows reduced her to that state to prep her for fitting into a battlecrab's organic systems led him to some Enemy Mine cooperation with Sheridan against the Shadows.
    • And per the book ''The Shadow Within'', Morden agreed to serve the Shadows when they revealed to him that his wife and daughter, lost in a transport explosion a few years earlier, were actually trapped alive in a bubble of hyperspace and suffering in perpetual isolation. They offered to release them to a merciful death in exchange for his services. We also see here and in The Passing of the Techno-Mages trilogy that the necklace Morden wears in the show was a special gift from his wife, who he still had feelings for.
    • Isabelle to Galen. The Passing of the Techno-Mages trilogy reveals how Isabelle died and why Galen blames himself (he inadvertantly told Elizar how to defeat Isabelle's shield).
  • Josette du Pres is this for Barnabas Collins on Dark Shadows. He even attempts to turn his other love interests into her.
  • From Farscape, D'Argo's wife, Lo'laan. She's killed, he's framed for her murder and imprisoned. He spends much of the series trying to clear his name so he can return home and trying to find their son.
  • The death of William Boone's wife in the Earth: Final Conflict pilot serves to drive Boone into the role of a double agent, protecting Da'an while working for La Résistance. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that she was killed when he refused Da'an's initial offer by claiming that he wants to spend more time with his wife. While Da'an's role in Boone's wife's murder is unclear at first, Zo'or blatantly states in the Season 2 opener that Da'an was the one who ordered her death.
  • Dylan Hunt's fiancée in Andromeda, after he ends up trapped at the event horizon of a black hole for 300 years. He later tries to use Time Travel to take her with him but is told that only one person can be transported. He later finds out that she has lived a long and happy life and meets her descendants on Tarazed.
  • LOST: Charlotte could be this for Faraday. He is smitten with her, and then she dies. Her death makes Faraday question his entire belief system about the ability to change the past, resulting in him deciding to detonate a hydrogen bomb over a pocket of electromagnetic energy, hoping it will change things. This ultimately leads to his own death, and also forms the major narrative of the finale as Jack attempts to continue his plans.
  • Downton Abbey has two Lenores. The first is Lavinia Swire, who was supposed to marry Matthew Crawley (the heir to an Earldom) but died of the Spanish Flu right before their wedding. The second is Lady Sybil Branson née Crawley.
    • In Series 4, Matthew himself is this to Lady Mary; a major arc that series is getting her out of the shell she's imposed on herself since his death. It's implied that even by the end of the series, she hasn't quite gotten over him.
  • In Charmed the sisters' grandfather Alan was this to grandmother Penny. He was killed by a warlock and the death caused Penny to fly into a blind rage and become a cold demon hunter. She also became incredibly bitter towards men, getting engaged five more times and marrying three of them.
  • In Key West, the major elements of Gumbo's backstory are based around the loss of his wife, Cee Cee, to a sudden and unexpected illness. In "The Great Beyond," Gumbo finally realizes that he has to move on with his life despite still being desperately in love with his dead wife. But that's okay, because Cee Cee still loves him, and understands.
  • Agent Gibbs in NCIS never has truly gotten over the murder of his first wife and the daughter the two had.
  • In How I Met Your Mother, turns out while Ted was searching for his true love, the Mother was having trouble letting go of her boyfriend Max who died in 2005 at the beginning of the series.
  • Lori in The Walking Dead via Death by Childbirth.

     Mythology 

     Music  

  • Country Music loves to tell stories about people pining for their lost loves; for extra drama, the lost love is often dead to insure that the narrator will never, ever have the resolution they want. In fact, it's a bit of a stock Twist Ending for songs in the genre to reveal that the object of the last three verses' obsession is gone forever. Consider Leann Rimes' "Probably Wouldn't Be this Way" or the Brad Paisley/Alison Kraus duet "Whiskey Lullaby". Of note is that both of the above examples have a woman pining over a man, presumably because it's more poignant to hear a feminine voice sing a dirge, as per the One-Woman Wail.
  • In Ludo's rock opera Broken Bride, the main character is obsessed with turning back time to save his wife, who died in a car accident fifteen years before. He cuddles her old clothes, and was generally unhinged by it.
  • My Dying Bride loves this trope, as you can probably tell by their name. This album has quite a few examples.
  • Turned Up to Eleven and ultimately Played for Laughs by the folk ballad My Darling Clementine.

     Theater  

  • Lucy Barker in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street except she isn't really dead. Mrs Lovett lied.
    • And for much worse, Sweeney kills her without knowing it's her.
  • Lily Craven in the musical adaptation of The Secret Garden.
  • Angel Dumott Schunard in RENT.
    • In addition, April, Roger's old girlfriend who committed suicide on discovering that they had AIDS.

     Video Games  

  • Another Code: Sayoko Robbins' death and previous life is the driving force of both games.
  • Bioshock Infinite - Lady Comstock, mourned both by her husband and the entire city. It's later revealed that she was killed by Comstock himself to preserve the secret that Elizabeth is not their child, framing nearby scullery maid Daisy Fitzroy in the process.
  • This is the whole point of Dear Esther.
  • In Ghost Trick, The suicide of Yomiel's fiancee Sissel is part of what drove him mad with isolation. He even named his cat after her.
  • James's wife in Silent Hill 2.
  • Cloud does not seems to get over Aerith's death in Final Fantasy VII and this is one of the main reasons why he broods in the CGI movie sequel, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children.
    • Aerith herself has a Lost Lenore in the form of Zack. The reason she joined Cloud's party to begin with is because Cloud (for one reason and another) is similar to Zack.
  • Dracula's wives (Elisabetha back at the 11th century and Lisa in early 15th century) in Castlevania. The guy is not really lucky in love.
  • Mono from Shadow of the Colossus. Bringing her back to life is the entire premise of the plot.
  • Depending on the player's actions in Mass Effect, this ends up happening. Liara, in particular, is affected by Shepard's death—though her character development is partially a facade due to emotional trauma and survivor guilt.
    • Mass Effect 3 can potentially add two more. If Kasumi was encouraged to keep her graybox and either the extended Destroy or Control endings are activated, she's shown to not be over Keiji at all, and in fact spends nearly all her free time reliving his memories. In the Citadel DLC, if Thane was romanced, Shepard can experience this herself through the use of paragon options during Kolyat's memorial service.
  • David's wife Laura in the adventure game Gray Matter.
  • In Fallout: New Vegas, one of your companions, Boone, recently lost his wife after she was captured by Slavers. He's haunted by his failure to protect her and by the fact that he killed her himself.
  • Nicole in Dead Space and its sequel. It's a major plot point in both games.
  • Tiffin Wrynn in World of Warcraft, who was killed by a brickbat. A rather ornate memorial is resurrected to her, and Varian spends significant amounts of screen time in lore angsting over her death or talking 'to' her about various things. In Wolfheart, he is shown still blaming himself for the death well over a decade later, and in the leader short story The Blood of Our Fathers, he is shown to carry around her locket as a form of Security Blanket.
  • Serah from Final Fantasy XIII, though she has been crystallized instead of killed. It affects every main character, especially Snow and Lightning.
  • A male example - Lord Rassler to Ashe from Final Fantasy XII. She keeps hallucinating that she sees his spirit following her around and it turns out the Occurria were exploiting this trope to manipulate her.
  • Xenosaga has both male and female examples of this trope. Shion's Lost Lenore is Kevin, her boyfriend and the scientist originally in charge of the KOS-MOS project, while Jr.'s is Sakura, the Ill Girl whom MOMO was created to look like.
    • Mary, as well, for chaos. Who is 'resurrected' not once, but twice, with KOS-MOS holding her soul, and T-Elos being made from her body.
  • Xenoblade, Fiora is this to Shulk. Though she later comes back as a Hollywood Cyborg.
  • In The Darkness 2, Jackie Estacado is haunted by eerily lifelike visions of his girlfriend Jenny, who died in the first Darkness game.
  • Maria could be considered this to Shadow in Sonic Adventure 2.
  • Subverted in Dragon Fable. The fact that Warlic and Xan's teenage rivalry led to the woman both of them were crushing on, Jaania, being imprisoned in a crystal is a major factor in both of their motivations (Xan in particularly wants revenge on Warlic for it). Then Jaania gets out, and she's so royally pissed at both of them that she freezes both them and the player character solid and goes on to become a Knight Templar.
  • In Blue Tea Games' Cursery: The Crooked Man, The Crooked Man's fiancee had died before they could get married and he went insane with grief. While she has been reborn as the player character's sister, her spectre still haunts the areas where she lived and died until the Crooked Man triggered the sister's memories.
  • Ke'ri is this to Lon'qu in Fire Emblem Awakening. It's made worse than the standard since she died in an Heroic Sacrifice to save him.
  • You would never expect to find this trope in a first-person shooter, but Halo 4 ends with the realization that there has been a romance brewing in this series since the first game, and Cortana becomes this for the Master Chief in the end.

    Visual Novels 
  • Higurashi no Naku Koro ni: Satoshi Houjou's disappearance (he disappeared a year prior to the story's events, and hence is believed by most to be dead) is the main drive for Shion Sonozaki — how this affects her changes arc by arc (it depends if she's subject to the local Hate Plague); she may throw herself into a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against those she sees as responsible (i.e. almost everyone she knows), or she'll devote herself to looking after Satoko, Satoshi's little sister. It should be noted, however, that Shion only seems to truly believe that he is dead during the arcs where she goes on her RROR (she believes her family killed him because of the prejudice against his family). In other arcs, she seems to hold at least a little hope that he will return (even if it is to reassure Satoko, who believes this as well). The final arc in Kai reveals that he is indeed alive, but in a coma. She decides I Will Wait for You.
  • BEATORIIICHEEEEE!!! In the first half of Umineko no Naku Koro ni, it appears Kinzō's desire to revive his dead mistress pushed him to start a gruesome ceremony that involves sacrificing his own family (and more often than not, himself). And in the second half of the story it turns out Kinzō was dead more than a year before the start of the game. Actually the original Beatrice, Beatrice Castiglioni, died by giving birth to her and Kinzō's child. This drove him to despair, and he ended up raping their daughter as she grew up to look more and more like her mother. Said daughter gave birth to a child, and she too died shortly after. Kinzō then gave that Child by Rape for Natsuhi to raise because herself couldn't conceive an heir; her response was to throw the baby off a cliff. Said baby survived miraculously but grew up broken physically and psychologically, to the point of developing multiple Split Personalities and planning a murder motivated by love. For Want of a Nail indeed.

     Webcomics  
  • Inverted in Tower of God. Rachel didn't die, she tried to kill Baam seemingly nowhere and believes along with the rest of the cast to have succeeded.
  • Jovia in Starslip
  • In Gunnerkrigg Court, both Surma Stibnite and Jeanne are this, to a degree.
    • Jeanne actually has her own Lenore; an unnamed elf whom she was divided from by the Court-Forest war. Even when he was alive, she was constantly longing for him and sending messages to the Forest. And when they both died as the result of a plot by the Court leaders (and Jeanne's jealous Stalker with a Crush), her grief and anger was so strong that she lived on as a ghost, dwelling for hundreds of years, at least, in the spot where she died, violently attacking anyone- good or evil- who came down there. Jeanne Used to Be a Sweet Kid, but her actions make it clear that she's just an Empty Shell now. There is nothing in her but sorrow and the desire for revenge. Unusually for the trope, she's an example whose sadness drove her to evil instead of stasis.

     Web Original 

  • Reginald's wife in Doom House died before the story begins, which made Reginald very depressed.
  • Allison from Red vs. Blue, whose death many years before the series begins arguably is indirectly responsible for everything that happens in it, as it royally screws up her boyfriend/husband, who goes on to become the Director of Project Freelancer, which proceeds to get deep into Crazyland. Mostly in the Director's efforts to get his beloved Allison back.

     Western Animation  

  • Exaggerated in The Simpsons episode "I'm Goin' to Praiseland". When Ned Flanders invites his date Rachel Jordan to stay at his house (to sleep in separate rooms, of course), she's skeeved out by all the photos of his late wife Maude, the Maude-shaped bedsheet indentation he preserves with sprayed starch, the robe he hands her, monogrammed with her name, and his calling her "Maude". None of which prepares her for her discovery, upon awakening the next morning, that Ned has cut her hair to resemble Maude's.
    • In an adaptation of The Raven from the first "Treehouse of Horror", Marge filled this role.
  • Yue to Sokka in Avatar: The Last Airbender . While he does get a new love interest (who he met before Yue), he also spends a lot of time thinking about Yue, even after he gets together with Suki. As shown by his reaction to Suki's teasing during the Ember Island Players's depiction of her Heroic Sacrifice. Doesn't help that the moon is brought up from time to time.
  • In The Legend of Korra we have Hiroshi Sato's wife, who was murdered by firebending gangsters. Her death resulted in him secretly supporting the Equalists, supplying them with weapons to fight off benders.
  • Nora Fries from Batman: The Animated Series, whose demise drove her husband Victor Fries to become the villainous Mr Freeze. This backstory proved so effective that was adopted as the official origin of Mr Freeze, making Nora a Canon Immigrant to The DCU.
  • Bill's ex-wife on King of the Hill is named Lenore, clearly trying to invoke this, but she's actually The One That Got Away. (Or rather, the most notable of many who got away.)
  • In Regular Show, Skips had a lover named Mona who he used to skip with every day. When she died during a fight with a school bully, he vowed to always skip in her memory as well as changing his name from Walks to Skips.

     Real Life 
  • Virginia Eliza Clemm Poe, the wife of Edgar Allan Poe and inspiration behind the various Lenore characters he wrote about. She was his thirteen year old cousin whom he married when he was 27, although their marriage was (according to some biographers) never consummated. Poe was more interested in hearing himself talk than having sex. Nevertheless, when she died of tuberculosis at the age of twenty nine, Poe never quite got over it.
    • Poe's mother is perhaps the ur-example...an actress abandoned by Poe's father, she died of (assumed) tuberculosis when Edgar was two or three years old. According to some accounts, when she was found, her toddler son was curled up with her, trying to find comfort from her cooling body. (This was after he'd watched her "die" repeatedly as Juliet on stage, only to see her alive and well in the dressing room afterwards...is it any wonder that love, beauty and death got all mixed up in the poor kid's mind?)
  • Princess Diana to Prince Charles although he got better.
  • An enigmatic individual by the name of "Sook" was allegedly this to Truman Capote. His last words were "It's me, Buddy." "Buddy" apparently, was Sook's nickname for him.
  • Ravens themselves will often form monogamous pairs and become deeply depressed if their partner dies. Possible inspiration for the poem?
  • Joe DiMaggio married Marilyn Monroe in 1954, but they divorced in the same year. They became close again in 1961, and it was rumored that they might remarry. When she died in 1962, he arranged her funeral and would send half a dosen roses to her grave 3 times a week for the next 20 years until his death. He never remarried or talked publicly about Marilyn or exploited their relationship, unlike others. When he died in 1999, his last words were "I'll finally get to see Marilyn."
  • MMA fighter Denis Kang was on a 23-fight unbeaten streak when his girlfriend, fellow MMA fighter Shelby Walker, died of an apparent overdose. Since then, he has only won 7 of 16 bouts.


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Just FriendsUnrequited Love TropesLove Cannot Overcome
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