It's a cliché (and Truth in Television) that when a parent finds that their child's goldfish or other beloved pet has died, they'll try to replace it with a new one and pretend the original pet never died. The Replacement Goldfish trope is when a character follows this line of thinking to fill in the emotional void of a loss they've suffered.
In realistic settings, this could be an orphan taken in by a parent who has recently lost a child (to death, relocation, etc). In a sci-fi setting, the typical trope is the lonely scientist who creates a robot, android, Artificial Intelligence or clone in the image of the deceased. Often it's a Robot Girl or Robotic Spouse, or Robot Kid in the case of a dead child.
If the new "goldfish" is unlucky, they constantly live in the shadow of the dead person and feel they can't measure up, which can also be the secret disappointment of the Mad Scientist. If unwary visitors are unlucky, the Living Doll Collector will try to use them as parts or playmates for their replacement. If this is combined with Clone by Conversion (i.e., turning someone else into the person they lost), we are definitely heading into Mad Scientist territory.
The Motherly Scientist is someone who legitimately loves the new creation for themselves, either as the original creator or surrogate.
When a lonely scientist fills the void by cloning himself, he is a Truly Single Parent.
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- In Joseph Jacobs' "Gold-Tree and Silver-Tree", Gold-Tree is poisoned by her evil mother and presumed dead. Her husband is devastated, but moves on and marries another princess. (Notably, revival by kissing never occurs to the prince.) However, the second princess finds the dead/sleeping Gold-Tree and revives her. While the Prince is happy to be reunited with Gold-Tree, he assures the second princess that she is still his wife as well, and all three of them go on to live Happily Ever After.
- In Back to the Outback, after assuming Pretty Boy the koala was "murdered" by Maddie and the others, he watches the world mourn him on the news for less than a minute before moving onto adoring Giggles the quokka, who they even gave his blanket to.
Pretty Boy: What? He stole my snuggly! That’s my snuggly! I KNOW WHERE YOU LIVE, GIGGLES! YOU’RE DEAT MEAT!
- Averted in Charlotte's Web. It's stated that while Charlotte's daughters do become Wilbur's new friends and help soothe the pain of her death, they can't replace her.
- Due to Elsa's apparent abandonment of her sister in Frozen, Anna seeks to fill the void left behind by her and find someone who truly loved her. And she found one in the form of Hans, who promised to her that he would never shut her out, and afterwards, she immediately agreed to marry him after getting to know each other for a while. Unfortunately, it is later revealed that said man only used her for his own goals and when her usefulness is up, he callously abandons her to die. But then later she gets informed that there is someone who actually loved her and that is Kristoff whom Anna just realized.
- Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio provides a sobering Deconstruction of this trope. In this adaptation of The Adventures of Pinocchio, the eponymous puppet is created when a drunken Gepetto, who is still angry and grieving from the loss of his son Carlo twenty years prior from collateral damage from World War I, cuts down the tree he planted next to Carlo's grave (and which Sebastian J. Cricket has made a home out of) and carves it into a very loose effigy of the boy. The deconstruction takes up the first half of the film when Gepetto tries to get used to said puppet and treats him identically to Carlo, not caring that Pinocchio has developed an identity of his own. This leads to an argument between the two where Gepetto angrily calls Pinocchio a burden for joining Volpe's traveling circus against his wishes, resulting in a hurt Pinocchio returning to the circus to earn money for his father. Gepetto, distraught over Pinocchio's disappearance, realizes that the kid loves him like a father regardless after Sebastian calls him out on it, and never compares him to Carlo again once he sets off to find him.
- In Mary and Max, Max gets a new goldfish after each of his previous ones dies, each new goldfish being named "Henry (Roman Numeral)". There's a montage that shows the passing of several Henrys.
- Megamind has an interesting variation on this; after the movie's namesake supervillain apparently manages to defeat his longtime archnemesis Metro Man, he quickly finds his victory to be completely meaningless (since he had no other purpose in life beyond that and being over-the-top villainous), and ends up mourning the death. Using leftover DNA, Megamind decides to create a new superhero that can stop him and maintain the status quo. Averted, as the replacement ends up being even more evil than him.
- In the first Monica's Gang films, one of the stories involves Monica, who is dressed as a mouse for Franklin's costume party, getting hit by his shrinking ray and saving several mice from a group of hungry and apparently malevolent cats. One of the mice ends up falling for her, but when he kisses her, she grows back to her usual size and is escorted back to the party by Maggy. After an extended sequence in which he silently mopes about losing her, he saves a female mouse who looks remarkably similar to Monica, complete with a red dress, from a mouse trap, she kisses him, and they prance into the sunset together, as the live-action Mauricio de Sousa watches them from nearby. The entire final part can be found here.
- Dr. Finkelstein does this twice in The Nightmare Before Christmas. The first is Sally, who proves very undesirable, rebellious and disobedient. Exasperated, Dr. Finkelstein gives her freedom and makes a female robot who uses half of his own brain. It's also worth pointing out that this was Sally's suggestion.
Dr. Finkelstein: Think of the conversations we'll have, my dear.
- In the animated movie Starchaser: The Legend of Orin the original love interest is strangled in front of the hero but no worries, in his adventures he'll soon find a princess on another planet to fall instantly in love with, voiced by the same actress.
- In Disney's Tarzan, the titular character was adopted by Kala who recently lost her baby to Sabor. Kala and Kerchak did agree that Tarzan "could never replace the one [they] lost."
- In Toy Story 3, when Lotso returns to the little girl who accidentally left him behind at a picnic trip, he is shocked to discover that her parents bought her an identical Lots-O'-Huggin' bear.
- One joke lampshades the use of this trope in science fiction:
"I saw a movie today."
"What was it about?"
"Oh, you know, the same old story. Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy builds new girl."
- Ron White of Blue Collar Comedy makes reference to this when his girlfriend's dog died, but after she proved inconsolable he took her to a pet store and she found a new dog to love. Then...
"A few weeks ago her father passed away, and I'm thinking "I think I see a way out of this." We get in the car, and she doesn't know we're going to the old folks home..."
- The song "Silver Bride" by the folk metal band Amorphis is about a widower who creates a woman of gold and silver to serve as this. It was inspired by a passage from The Kalevala, the Finnish national epic that has inspired much of Amorphis' work.
- Olivia Rodrigo: The singer accuses her ex-boyfriend in "deja vu" of moving onto a girl who is a lot like her and even reusing a lot of the same tricks and gestures.
"Do you get deja vu when she's with you?"
- In The Protomen's Rock Opera, Mega Man is a goldfish for the fallen Proto Man. In a way, Proto Man could be seen as a variation — the son Dr Light never had, since Wily murdered his girlfriend.
"They call you hero. I call you my son."
- As well as one for Sniper Joe.
- The Megas version of Protoman also sees Megaman as this.
- Alson in The Megas Doctor Lights' song is about how Megaman is the Replacement Goldfish for the son he never had. Unlike most example the song has Doctor Light loving him unconditionally and is scared to death that he has to send out his son to fight Doctor Wily, as he's the only one that can do so.
- The title character of the Voltaire song "The Mechanical Girl" was created by a tinker who had lost his daughter and made her to be a new one. Although Voltaire takes pains to avert this trope; the tinker is specifically making himself a new daughter, not a clone of the former one:
...his daughter passed away that summer
and though he knew he could not replace her
he missed his family
- A Biblical example: early in the Book of Job, Job has great worldly wealth, respect and honor, and ten wonderful children. Then, Satan kills off all seven of his sons and three of his daughters. At the end of the Book of Job, Job marries again and sires a replacement seven sons and three daughters, and said daughters are specifically stated to be the most beautiful in the land.
- In The Kalevala, mythical master smith Ilmarinen is widowed and, in his loneliness, searches for a new wife. No maiden accepts him, fearing to meet the fate of his dead wife. Having forged the sky and the miracle machine Sampo, he decides to make himself a perfect wife from silver and gold. It turns out badly, as the new wife says nothing, feels nothing, and is as cold as a stone. In the end, disappointed Ilmarinen pushed her back into the forge, destroying her.
- Dungeons & Dragons:
- In 4th Edition, there is an Epic Destiny called "Hordemaster". As one of its features, you gain a number of followers that, upon your death, take up your mantle until such a time you can be resurrected. Conveniently, your replacement is mechanically identical to you, but your party might not be so warm to him/her.
- In the Forgotten Realms setting, the mad beholder crime lord Xanathar loves only two things and two things alone: himself (par for the course for beholders) and his pet goldfish, Sylgar. If anything happens to Sylgar, bad things happen to his underlings. Therefore, if Sylgar ever ends up dead, his cronies go behind his back, procure a new goldfish (or even another type of fish if they're really in a pinch), put it in the bowl, and pretend it's Sylgar. It's been implied in the fluff that this has happened multiple times in the past (which, given how long goldfish in real life tend to live, is possibly a near-weekly occurrence and a well-honed survival skill among members of the Xanathar Guild). In at least one adventure, it's said that even relatively low-level adventurers can have a chance of surviving an encounter with Xanathar if they manage to hold Sylgar hostage.
- In Exalted, the Celestial Exalted get reborn after they die. The Exalted part goes on into a new person, retaining some small bits of its memories and personality traits, while the human part dies. Most new Exalts are treated by their peers that remember their previous lives as being the same person, even though they are not and have personalities of their own. (Swan was Desus, Contentious Sword etc)
- In the storyline for the Magic: The Gathering set Planeshift, Yawgmoth (the Big Bad) grants Crovax (the Dragon) a Replacement Goldfish for his lost love, Selenia. Later Crovax lures Gerrard (the main protagonist) to the dark side with false promises of a Replacement Goldfish of his own, though Gerrard sees through the ruse in time. It is unclear whether Crovax realizes that his Selenia Mark II is not the genuine article.
- Warhammer 40,000:
- Angron may have pulled this on an entire Legion of Space Marines. One of the Emperor's Primarchs, Angron landed on a world where slave gladiators were the heart of the entertainment industry. Taken as a slave, he received the same cranial implants as the rest of them: the Butcher's Nails, a literal, if permanently on, Berserk Button. When the Emperor reached his homeworld, Angron was in the midst of leading a slave revolt, and refused to leave his "Eaters of Cities", even though certain death awaited in the next battle. The Emperor teleported him away just before the battle and threw him into command of the War Hounds Legion while half-mad with grief, leading to the deaths of several members of the Legion before one managed to get through to Angron and convince him to accept them...but with a name change to "Eaters of Worlds" (World Eaters to outsiders), and the Butcher's Nails implanted across the Legion.
- Fulgrim and Ferrus Manus were once close friends due to their shared perfectionism. When Fulgrim defected to Chaos, he tried to convince Ferrus to join him. This failed, and Fulgrim ended up killing Ferrus in a duel. Fulgrim hasn't given up on having Ferrus Manus by his side — he has tasked Fabius Bile with creating a clone of Ferrus who will be willing to join Chaos. Each time Fabius does this, the clone refuses to join Chaos, which leads to Fulgrim killing the clone and blaming Fabius for making the clone "wrong".
- As a method of apologizing to his roommate Rod for having an Incompatible Orientation, Nicky in Avenue Q finds a boyfriend for Rod. Ricky, who other than being muscle-bound, is an exact copy of Nicky. Rod is thrilled.
- Little Eyolf, Asta Allmers is considered this by Rita and Alfred after the death of the eponymous character (their son). The fact that Alfred and Asta grew up as siblings and he repeatedly treated her like a brother and called her "Eyolf" doesn´t help - and Asta is pretty creeped out when both Rita and Alfred clings to her for support. She takes another option and leaves quickly.
- Two examples in Love Never Dies:
- The Phantom uses Meg Giry as a poor-man's Christine after he leaves Paris for New York (the lampshading of which causes an enraged Meg to kill the real Christine.)
- The Phantom builds a full fledged Christine robot. Yes, really.
- Miss Saigon: After losing his Vietnamese bride Kim during the fall of Saigon, American soldier Chris reluctantly decides to get on with his life and finds new love with a woman named Ellen, not realizing that Kim survived and gave birth to his son. Typically, Ellen is played by a white woman with blonde or red hair, but towards the end of the show's first Broadway run, she was played by an Asian actress. Suddenly, it seemed very likely that Chris married Ellen not to get on with his life, but because she reminded him of his lost love Kim.
- In One Touch of Venus, Rodney Hatch is promised by Venus (his divine Magical Girlfriend) he'll never be lonely for the rest of his life, but being the 1940s housewife he sees her as doesn't appeal to her. So she goes back to her ancient homeland without saying goodbye. He's wondering about her promise when he suddenly meets a Country Mouse with a familiar face (since she's played by the same actress) who's willing to settle in the suburbs with him.
- Invoked unsuccessfully in Pippin: when Pippin is trying to cheer up Theo after his duck gets sick and dies, he brings him a lamb (or, in one production, a puppy). Theo takes one look at it, says, "That's not a duck, dummy!" and runs off.
- In Pokémon Live!, Giovanni made MechaMew2 to replace Mewtwo, who escaped from him.
- Heavily implied in Romeo and Juliet:
- The nurse speaks about how she lost her daughter, who was Juliet's age (she nursed them both), and she treats Juliet as her daughter instead. (Besides that, her husband is also dead. This probably explains why she's still living with the Capulets after all these years—she lost her family, and she adopted a new one.)
- Tybalt's parents are never shown, and he seems to be very close to his cousin's family, even fiercely self-identifying as a Capulet, although Lady Capulet claims he's "her brother's child" so, technically, he wouldn't take the Capulet name, being related to Lord Capulet only by marriage.note The family's grief at his death is so strong that modern adaptations, like West Side Story, often go right ahead and make him Juliet's brother. It's been suggested that Tybalt's parents are dead, and that he considers his aunt and uncle to be his parents. Lord and Lady Capulet are said to have lost many children besides Juliet, including (probably) sons, which might make this a two-way Replacement Goldfish.
- Lady Capulet is herself only 26. She might be a Replacement Goldfish for her much-older husband's first wife.
- In The Rose Tattoo, Serafina notices that Alvaro, aside from his face, has a body like that of her late husband Rosario. She is startled again when Alvaro mentions that the truck he drives has bananas in it, though it's an 8-ton truck, not a 10-ton truck like the one Rosario drove, and it's just bananas. When Serafina tells Alvaro that Rosario had a rose tattoo on his chest, Alvaro gets one for himself, and puts rose oil in his hair to make the resemblance almost complete.
- In the Offenbach opera Tales Of Hoffmann, Dr. Coppelius makes a clockwork image of his dead daughter, whom he passes off as the original. Hoffmann falls in love with her and this makes the clockwork go haywire.
- Westeros: An American Musical hints at Littlefinger's crush on Catelyn Stark from the original story and keeps his Crazy Jealous Guy attitude towards Catelyn's daughter Sansa intact, strongly hinting at Littlefinger seeing Sansa as a replacement for Catelyn.
- Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc: In chapter three the students find a laptop containing the program Alter Ego. It was built by Fujisaki, who was murdered in the previous chapter, and looks just like him. It also serves as a replacement for Owada after Alter Ego creates a simulation of him to cheer Ishimaru up
- In the spinoff game Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls it appears Monaca is trying to turn herself into one for Junko Enoshima. Albeit the original plan was to corrupt Komaru.
- Extra Case: My Girlfriend's Secrets: Sally's first boyfriend, John, died in a car accident, and her next boyfriends are always people who resemble him in some ways, though given how much she mourns her other boyfriends and cares for Marty, she still loves them in a genuine way. Despite feeling some jealousy towards John, Marty is understanding of the pain Sally is going through and doesn't fault her, since he also lost loved ones in a car accident. Unfortunately, Sally's Split Personality, "Seira"/Shadow, only sees Sally's later boyfriends as replacements for John and seeks to stitch together their body parts in the mad belief that she can bring John back.
- In Little Busters!, whenever Komari witnesses blood or death, her repressed memories of her dead older brother resurface and force her into a Heroic BSoD. The only way she can wrench herself out of that state is to pretend that some kind of appropriate nearby person is actually her brother and act like nothing is wrong as a Stepford Smiler until she can push her negative feelings back down enough again. In the good end Riki manages to break her out of the cycle and force her to accept reality, but in the bad end he agrees to pretend to be her brother and they stay that way.
- In To the Moon it is revealed that Johnny once had a twin brother called Joey, who was their mother's favorite son, however Joey was killed when his mother accidentally ran over him, and after that Johnny became this trope in his mother's mind, going as far as Johnny adopting Joey's tastes, his mother always calling him "Joey", and even she making him take beta blockers which caused Johnny to forget everything about Joey.
- In Umineko: When They Cry, Kinzo Ushiromiya's secret lover, Beatrice Castiglioni, died from giving birth to their daughter. This drove him into such grief that he essentially groomed their daughter into becoming a replacement for her; not only did he name her Beatrice as well, but as she grew older she began to look so much like her deceased mother that Kinzo deluded himself into believing she was her mother's reincarnation. This would eventually result in him raping her and getting her pregnant.
- It's revealed in Zero Time Dilemma that this was the reason Sigma created Luna before the events of Virtue's Last Reward. His wife Diana died to a circulatory illness gained from the moon's weak gravity about three years into the 45 years of development for the AB Project, so Sigma created a robot in her image partially to fill the void and partially to give him a semblance of company while living in solitude on the moon. Luna does come to start to develop feelings for Sigma, but feels she's Just a Machine and can't ever act on them. And while Sigma loves her, he only feels he can love her as a daughter and not romantically. Somewhat oddly, due to the his personal chronology involving Mental Time Travel, Sigma actually met Luna (and watched her die) before he ever met Diana.
- Used very literally in the beginning of Abe Kroenen where Kroenen's initial interest in Abe came because Abe reminded him of his dead goldfish Wolfram.
- Bittersweet Candy Bowl has Lucy on both sides of it, with her being this for Mike's lost love interest Sandy, and Paulo being her replacement Goldfish when Mike rejects her. It doesn't go well for her either time.
- Done horrifyingly in Dubious Company, when Raque realizes Elly looks like a younger version of her beloved king.
- In El Goonish Shive, Grace's DNA was artificially crafted, but the project was hijacked into a replacement for a scientist's daughter, who died in a car crash. Grace considers the original Grace her mother and calls the scientist her grandfather.
- Considering the method of reproduction of the Uryuoms, that's actually the relationship she has with them.
- A somewhat strange example in Girl Genius involves the Sturmvoraus family. After Anevka Sturmvoraus is exposed to the Geisterdamen's summoning machine by her father, her brother, Tarvek, builds a life-support chamber connected to a pneumatic clockwork girl, so that she can still communicate with the outside world while being kept alive and protected. The puppet becomes sentient to the degree that when the organic Anevka actually dies, it goes on believing that it is still being controlled by a living master, instead of being self-aware, and fools everyone but Tarvek as well. Eventually, the Anevka personality of the puppet is deactivated after it turns out to have "inherited" a little too much of the family's betrayal gene, and is replaced by the personality of The Other.
- Zigzagged-to-averted in Gunnerkrigg Court. Antimony is part-fire elemental, which means that, due to Bizarre Alien Biology, she literally took her mother's soul when she was born. The end result is that she greatly (but-not-completely) resembles her mother, which distresses her father to no end, caught as he is between this trope and Maternal Death? Blame the Child!, despite not wanting to play into either of them.
- Inverted in Kevin & Kell: George Fennec falls in love with Kevin's sister Danielle, who dies helping the main cast defeat a rabbit terrorist group. Shortly afterward, her double from the human world gets trapped on 'Furth', and due to the nature of the portal between worlds, becomes Danielle in appearance.
- As we find out, Marena from Keychain of Creation is actually Misho's lover in his past life and he remembers her as such, not as the current-day Marena. This causes a lot of frustration.
- The episode "Caroline's Doppelganger" from A Lesson Is Learned But The Damage Is Irreversible uses this trope heartbreakingly.
Father: Darling, you can't spend every day searching for your real self. You'll waste living the pale reflection of her life!
- In Misfile, Ash is Kate's surrogate for her dead sister. Kate explicitly saying she needs to find a sister in her in one strip. Naturally, boy turned girl Ash finds this turn of events rather disconcerting, to say the least.
- Sluggy Freelance
- This occurs several times to underline the repeated theme "that which redeems, consumes". First, the Riff from the Dimension of Lame accidentally killed Torg and Kiki in an experiment, so, in order to redeem himself, he kidnapped their counterparts from an alternate universe to replace them. Then, when the AU Torg tried to get back home, DOL-Riff tried to get him back, inadvertently kidnapping the Torg from the main Sluggy-verse as his replacement. And he apparently repeated this process at least five times. This led to The Legions of Hell invading and ravaging the world, all because Riff wanted to make things right. And then, when Torg returns home, he finds that his version of Riff went to the same lengths to get one for him, kidnapping a squid-monster version of Torg from Another Dimension and hiring cloners to create a clone of Torg.
- Corsica has also been replaced at least 37 times. Hereti-Corp has a long standing business account with the local pet shop. Of course, since Corsica is a non-sapient frog, this is easier to do, and certainly explains why Frog has never figured this out.
- In one Story Minute, after a woman writes a "Dear John" letter and leaves her husband, he builds a robot duplicate of her. "The second time, she didn't leave a note."
- This xkcd strip has one character describe doing this in a video game, and then start to evoke a "troubling" extension of the concept to real life.
- In Atop the Fourth Wall, Harvey considered Linkara to be a replacement for his deceased son, although he wouldn't admit it. The 2012 Christmas episodes involved the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future trying to get Harvey to accept his son's death and that Linkara will never replace him.
- In Demo Reel, Rebecca Stone unknowingly is this for director Donnie, replacing his dead actress mom. They have the same Raven Hair, Ivory Skin, the same issues with the industry and she keeps getting roles in his movies where the original dies, but the remake makes them survive or come back to life in ways that don't make sense.
- She's still around, but since Nella gained the confidence to tell The Nostalgia Chick that she was going too far with the abuse, Elisa unwillingly filled the abused best friend role.
- Epsilon in Red vs. Blue acts as a replacement goldfish best friend for Caboose, replacing Church. Of course, he has the original's personality and memories, so it's not too big of a deal for him.
- And then he is replaced by Washington. Church originally takes it with a sour attitude, but eventually learns to accept it by the end of Season 10.
- Agent Texas was one of these for Director, to replace the original Allison.
- Rooster Teeth had a great moment during their Minecraft episodes. One Running Gag in the series was Ryan's pet cow, Edgar — the animal kept wandering in to his house, so Ryan dug a pit, put in a glass ceiling, and kept Edgar in a dungeon of sorts that thoroughly disturbed the rest of the cast. During "King Ryan, Part 1," Michael snuck into Ryan's house and broke Edgar out, only to find at the end of "King Ryan, Part 2" that the dungeon was back and so was the cow. Ryan had spotted Michael's work and silently led a new cow into his house, then repaired the dungeon while the others were busy. When Michael protested that Edgar was still free (actually, Geoff unwittingly harvested him for leather), Ryan clarified, "Edgar is the one in the hole."
- Becomes a Deconstructed Trope in RWBY. While stuck in the Ever After, Jaune discovers a village of living paper creatures called Paper Pleasers. Determined to protect them, Jaune becomes The Caretaker for them, even going so far as to name them after the people he's met over the years. Problem is is that they don't want to be protected: they've done their purpose and they want to Ascend and be resurrected as something new. However, since Jaune has a very poor opinion on that, he purposefully prevents them from doing so, leading them to take a Determinator stance in being Driven to Suicide. When Team RWBY learn of this, they are unnerved by this and when the Paper Pleasers finally do Ascend, Jaune takes it badly.
- Played for Laughs in the Scott The Woz episode "Chia Pet", where Scott replaces his dead, broken and smashed Chia Pets (which he nonetheless attempts to treat like actual living pets) no less than three times.
Scott: What better way to mourn the loss of a loved one than to fully replace them?
- Twitch Plays Pokémon Emerald: The day after accidentally releasing her Oddish, A went to the Safari Zone and caught twenty-nine Oddish and a Gloom. One of them ended up as a member of the party, was evolved into Vileplume, and named Cabbage the White after Cabbage, the released Gloom from Twitch Plays Pokémon Red.
- WitchCraft SMP: A textbook deconstruction. As revealed in her biography in the Enchanted Library, Prismarina is born as one for her older sister of the same name, such that her parents can try to move on from her passing in a boating accident. However, her parents resented that Pris was her own person and never lived up to the golden child status of her namesake, causing Pris to grow up with many issues with self-worth. Meanwhile, the spirit of the first Prismarina despises that her parents tried to replace her and has been trying to seek out a body-vessel for her soul to come back in.
"They hoped that maybe they pretended that this was their first child, that it would be a way out of their grief and pain, yet it only prolonged it indefinitely."