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Stages of Monster Grief

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Characters who have been transformed from human into something else tend to get quite a shock, and change as much in morality and mind as they do in body. Much like the Five Stages of Grief, these formerly human characters may transition from stage to stage, though not necessarily in any order.

The usual first stage is Denial, the character pretends nothing is different, often harming themselves and/or others when their Horror Hunger goes uncontrolled, they ignore their new Weaksauce Weakness, or their human mask slips. If they aren't Driven to Suicide by taking a sunlit stroll, they reach Defiance, where they take out their anger at no longer being human out on the "things that made me this way!" This can get ethically messy if not all non-humans are evil, leading to Van Helsing Hate Crimes.

Speaking of whom, a few manage to hold on to their sense of morality and identity and reach Acceptance. These characters range from Friendly Neighborhood Vampires to Fully Embraced Fiends. They don't deny what they are, or bear grudges against their fellows, but in making peace with their non-human nature they may have also distanced themselves from humanity, no longer viewing it as a group they belong to or should give equal consideration to. It is however possible they form a Monsters Anonymous group to try to live among humans peaceably.

Which leads to potentially the most dangerous stage of Monster Grief... for humanity. When the former human reaches Betrayal, they consider themselves above base humanity and view it as toys, food, or insignificant specks. If they uphold a masquerade, it's only because humans have sheer numbers on their side and it's more fun to pull the strings from behind the curtain and prey on humanity from the shadows.

Compare Sheep In Wolf's Clothing, when a human who's been infected uses their "new allegiance" to betray the monsters in favor of their human friends. See also Stock Monster Symbolism, which this can overlap with.

    In character entry 
Hey, You!! Yeah, you, the one drinking the rats' blood. Don't act so surprised, you're not the only freak in this town, and lucky you, I'm in a sharing mood.

You're new to this whole "being a monster" thing, so I'll cut you a break. You're probably thinking this is all some horrible nightmare, or you just have some exotic new disease... well, sorry to break it to you, but you ain't human no more and the sooner you realize it the better off we'll all be.

After noticing the first signs, most "people" (and I use the term loosely) prefer to live in Denial and act like nothing's the matter for as long as they can... but sooner or later the Horror Hunger kicks in and they take a bite from whoever is nearest. Not a pretty picture. Seriously, it's like waking up and seeing a Tomato in the Mirror.

If they aren't Depressed enough to take a walk in the sun or hide in the woods, they'll get angry. And I mean really angry, cut out your sire's heart with a rusty wooden spoon and burn his castle down angry. These Defiant SOB's usually can't keep it in their pants, either; before long they'll start gunning for the rest of us, as if dying once wasn't hard enough.

Me? I'm at what you'd call Acceptance (and if you have a lick of sense, you will too). You wake up one night, realize forever is a long time to mope, and decide to make the most of it. Most of us are sane, and some even do a good impression of Mahatma-bloodsucking-Gandhi. That's not to say we're all "nice" or never hurt anyone, we just don't see the point in beating yourself (or your food) up.

Speaking of which, try to avoid the loonies who jumped at the chance to Betray humanity. These types think being a monster is an excuse to act like one. (Well yeah, we are monsters, but there's no need to be a monster about it.) Thankfully, these idiots tend to burn out pretty fast, what with ignoring the Masquerade and acting all Horror movie monster. ... but those that don't? Yeah, watch out for those. I don't know why, but these bastards seem to actually get stronger from all that puppy kicking, though they usually stop even looking remotely human.

Anyway, nice talking to you kid. If you have any questions, need advice, or a shoulder to cry on... find someone else!


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Attack on Titan: An underlying element of Eren's characterization, as he learns to cope with his new status.
  • Ophelia of Claymore when she becomes an "Awakened Being", which she had previously had a fetish for hunting. At first, she's in such denial that she hasn't noticed any changes, even her new Horror Hunger for guts doesn't tip her off when she attacks Clare. However, when confronted with her visage reflected in the water, she become immediately distraught and self-pitying. She then blames the heroine she was fighting for all that's happened to her (Accusations that are surprisingly accurate, but whether or not Ophelia knew they were true or was just lashing out from grief is a matter of speculation). She then attacks the heroine, but soon realizes her situation, as having lost control and turned into a monster, she cannot complete her quest for revenge. Accepting this, she then allows Clare to kill her, as they had the same target for revenge and Clare would continue on.
  • Hakkai, of Saiyuki is unfortunately unable to kill all those who made him this way, as killing them was the process that made him that way. He does almost turn to suicide, before being convinced otherwise. Then he goes into a stage of denial, when he turned down Sanzo's job in hope of living a peaceful life. His defiance stage is arguably when Banri attempts yokai solidarity and he shoots him down hard, putting forth his own opinion on the matter, and he only accepts his nature when he removes his limiters to save Gojyo. Note that since he killed a thousand demons while human, and has since only been forced to remove his limiters in much more dangerous circumstances, it wasn't that he needed to remove them to save Gojyo. It was an acceptance thing.
  • In Shiki, every one of the stages can be observed in the various undead characters.
  • A major element of Tokyo Ghoul, as Ordinary College Student Kaneki Ken finds himself transformed into a Ghoul after an organ transplant. He compares his situation to the protagonist of The Metamorphosis, and struggles with a Horror Hunger that can only be satisfied with human flesh. He's fortunate enough to be taken in by a group run by a Vegetarian Vampire, and slowly adjusts into his new existence with their guidance and support. When he finally does embrace his Ghoul nature and begins to kill, however, he becomes a Hunter of His Own Kind and engages in Monstrous Cannibalism.

    Comic Books 
  • In 1990 Marvel Comics presented an ongoing story of Lifeform, a hideously mutated young man, through annual issues of The Punisher, Daredevil, The Incredible Hulk, and Silver Surfer. George Prufrock was exposed to an artificial virus which quickly mutated him into a man-eating monster. After several battles, Prufrock learns of a scientist named Lamar Kwiat also suffering from the virus and tells Kwiat what is in store for him if he lives. In a combination of acceptance and driven to suicide, Kwiat agrees it would be for the best if Prufrock ate him. Prufrock does so. . . along with everyone else in the hospital.
  • Invoked on Crimson. Joe tells Alex that "smart vampires have something called "the five phases of the undead", and that he is on the third, Denial. Later, Alex finds the vampiress that infected him and discovers that she killed his girlfriend to provoke him, making him go into Defiance, so he pursues and kills her. After that, he finally admits that he is a vampire and starts his Acceptance. Joe even lampshades it saying that he is "not anymore in Denial".
  • In Marvel Zombies 4 Jack Russell claims he has gone through all five stages of grief and has finally accepted his werewolf curse after years of struggle. Teammate and best friend Morbius thinks he simply no longer cares whether he lives or dies and is later proven to be right.

    Fan Fiction 
  • In The Not So Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Oy! Angelina, Bree struggles to adopt the Cullens' human-friendly diet and explores the emotional repercussions of living up to that decision, the temptation to abandon it and some really compelling arguments by Alec on why the Cullens aren't role-models.
  • Many Jak and Daxter fanfics tend to focus on this, due to Jak's Superpowered Evil Side.
  • The Return has charted the protagonist's descent through all stages from denial (ended rather harshly with the creation of a new demonic daughter), defiance (allow her to denigrate and abuse her inadvertent transformers), acceptance (with the creation of a whole brood of fellow demons and daughters), all the way through to the cusp of betrayal. Only the fact her new human "friends" are a bunch of above the law mercs who let her kill and feast on flesh with impunity is preventing that final step.
  • One now deleted crossover of Naruto and Bleach featured Naruto, after death, being transformed into a Hollow. At first he attempted to communicate with other Hollows as though they were rational humans and learn what had happened to him and how to undo it (Denial). When it became clear a fellow Hollow planned to eat a human, he lashed out and killed the offending party before fleeing back to Hueco Mundo (Defiance). Faced with the reality of his situation, Naruto descended into a typical Hollow mindset within that world, killing other Hollows in a mindless rage (borderline-Betrayal). Finally, he regained his senses and chose to deny his base urges and seek companionship among shinigami (Acceptance).
  • In the MLP: FIM fanfic My Roommate Is A Vampire Octavia spends much of the second half of the story after being bitten by a Lycan progressing through the stages. Fortunately her vampire marefriend is a member of Equestria's Monsters Anonymous and they help her get to Acceptance.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Because Seth Brundle's painful and humiliating metamorphosis into the titular creature of The Fly (1986) is a slow one, he cycles through denial, horror, fascination with his newfound abilities, and finally acceptance in its one month+ period. He still wants to be human again even as his mind becomes more instinctual and survival-driven, however, and the ultimate result is he hits the defiance and then betrayal stages, trying to forcibly merge himself with his human lover and their unborn child to create one entity, along the way maiming the man who was the Unwitting Instigator of Doom for his Tragic Accident. The spectacular failure of this plan leaves him even worse off and suicidal, but he has to convince his lover to end his misery.
  • Michael goes through this in the Underworld movies, completely disbelieving what he's seeing, forcing himself to eat normal food and then deciding ah screw it; living forever with Kate Beckinsale, it could be a lot worse.

  • Tobias in Animorphs doesn't become a "monster", but he does go through a lot of angst after getting stuck as a red-tailed hawk, and even attempts suicide in book #3. Over the course of the series (and especially before getting his morphing power back), he slowly loses his humanity, to the point that in book #23, he can't remember to make human facial expressions like crying.
    • Played straighter with Arbron, who begs for death when he realizes he's trapped as a Taxxon forever. He gets over it, and leads several revolts against the Yeerks.
  • Diario de un Zombi has Erico, who goes from denial to acceptance and finally to defiance. Notable since his version of acceptance is self-centered apathy, while defiance meant reconnecting with humanity and defying his Horror Hunger to the last.
  • In the Revelation Space Series, after Captain John Armstrong Brannigan becomes part of his starship, the Nostalgia For Infinity, he skips over the denial stage as his consciousness is reforming, but he hits the suicidal depression heavily as he relives his dark past and realizes what he has become, attempting to cut himself in half with a Wave-Motion Gun. In Defiance, he becomes reclusive and rarely interacts with the crew of the Nostalgia For Infinity, only rarely manifesting as a Virtual Ghost through augmented reality displays. Acceptance comes when he assists the former Villain Protagonist of Revelation Space, Ilia Volyova, in rescuing colonists from a doomed world and then setting about trying to survive the return of the Precursor Killers, the Inhibitors.
  • Eden Green has human characters become infected with an alien needle symbiote; they go through various Stages of Monster Grief at various speeds.
  • Worm has Noelle, a.k.a., Echidna go through this, though for her the Denial was short-lived and Anger came in bouts. The Betrayal resulted in a massive battle which, despite claiming fewer lives, was more damaging to the Protectorate than many Endbringer battles.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Being Human has the title characters transition through these stages as they attempt to stabilize in the Acceptance stage. No easy task for a setting on the mid to low levels of Sliding Scale of Vampire Friendliness. Horrifyingly, Mitchell actually goes to the Betrayal stage in the season 2 finale.
  • Buffyverse:
    • Buffy previously flashed back to Angelus getting re-ensouled; Angel covers everything that happened before and after. It should be noted that this is an inversion of the trope as well, since Angel identifies more with Angelus than with with his original self, Liam - who, by the end of the show, he barely remembers being. It could be said that his grief was more over losing his freedom as a vampire by regaining his humanity than having been a human who was turned into a vampire. With his stages being:
      • Denial: His attempts to continue his life as a vampire despite his re-ensoulment.
      • Defiance: Angel never got to properly experience this stage, since Darla killed all the gypsies who re-ensouled him. He instead took it out on himself during his self-imposed 100 year exile from humanity and vampirekind. Angelus, however, did get to kill Jenny Calendar and an older male relative, both descendants of the gypsies who re-ensouled him.
      • Acceptance: After he met Whistler and Buffy.
      • Betrayal: Either after making love to Buffy and losing his soul, or....well, stay tuned...
    • Doyle coped poorly with the revelation of his demon side, and his marriage to Harriet soon crumbled. However, the point is made that his demonic heritage probably wasn't the only reason their marriage broke up. Upon learning about demons, Harriet found the thought of studying an entirely new set of cultures and pastimes intriguing, whereas Doyle just wanted to pretend his demonic side didn't exist.
    • Spike, meanwhile, is harder to tell since at least some of his madness after getting his soul was driven by the First Evil tormenting him. He seems to reach Acceptance at some point in late season 7 of Buffy, much to Angel's chagrin as he saw this as Spike coping with the guilt too easily. Also unlike Angel, Spike does identify more with his human self, William, having kept many of William's traits even when soulless, and got his soul intentionally as opposed to Angel who was cursed.
  • On The X-Files episode "Hungry" the Monster of the Week was a cannibal who viewed his compulsion to eat meat (i.e., human brains) as an addiction, and even went to Overeaters Anonymous. He bonded with another attendee, his downstairs neighbor... but eventually he ate her brain. Goes through 1-3.
  • Stage One perfectly played on The Vampire Diaries by Caroline Forbes in Season two, episode two, "Brave New World."
    • Damon shows all the signs of being at Stage 4: Betrayal.
  • Subverted on True Blood: Jessica's immediate reaction to finding out that she's a vampire is a little happy dance and a shout of joy as Bill tells her she won't be returning to her abusive parents at all. She doesn't start to think that she's a freak of nature until later.
  • An episode of Forever Knight featured a vampire girl with multiple personalities. In two of her three personalities she was so strongly Stage One that she could go out in the daylight. The third personality was Stage Four, of course.
  • This is a big part of In the Flesh as zombies have to reintegrate into normal society; not just for the zombies themselves but the families and those affected and the community at large. Kieren and his family are deep, deep into denial, which slowly breaks to acceptance of his condition and past suicide. However that's nothing when compared to Rick and his family, who try mightily to act and think a's though he isn't undead.

    Video Games 
  • World of Warcraft
    • The Forsaken and the Blood Elves in cover the entire spectrum. Playable characters generally vary between Defiance and Acceptance with notable villains veering into Betrayal. The creation of the Blight and the general attitude of the Forsaken also carries undertones of Betrayal.
    • So do the Worgen, the cursed people of Gilneas who have found a way to control their lycanthropy curse and use their werewolf strength for the benefit of the Alliance.
    • One rather tragic story is that of Lilian Voss. One of the first quests a Forsaken character has is to console some other Forsaken who are in the Denial stage, and Lilian reacts rather badly, running away when you try. Later, you find her being held prisoner by the Scarlet Brotherhood (which is odd, seeing as they usually simply kill undead on sight) and she's still in Denial, claiming her father will save her. Then she finds out that her father - who is a member of the Brotherhood - has disowned her and has ordered her execution. This nudges her past the second stage into the third, and dangerously close to the fourth in mere seconds, killing the guards, and sending her on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge the next few times you see her (often leaving dead members of the Brotherhood in her wake), and she seems to be handling herself well from there.
    • Sylvannas' entire characterization is the stages: she starts out in Denial, attempting to ignore her undeath so she can re-integrate with elven society, but when they (including her sisters) excommunicate her, she moves on to the third phase and spends every waking moment in sheer Defiance of Arthas for denying her a just death. After Arthas is finally defeated, she decides she has no purpose and commits Suicide... at which point, the sheer horror of The Maw destroys her sanity, turning her into a sociopath who Accepts her undead existence and makes a deal with the ruler of The Maw, the Jailer, to return to life as the new Lich Queen, on the condition that she perform tributes of death and war. She does a relative minimum of skirmishes and lip service at first, but over five expansions the racism and stress worsens her already broken mental state, which finally erupts when her sisters reject her a second time, causing her to embrace Betrayal, where she fully commits to the Jailer's plans and instigates a World War with the intention of killing everyone.
  • Sephiroth in Final Fantasy VII goes through something like this after finding out he's not human, though no outward physical change is involved until the final phase. He starts out in denial, ignoring the constant flags that his abusive Mad Scientist father could have experimented on him at any time for the sheer hell of it. Then after multiple suspicious events and an investigation into the Nibelheim Reactor's monster labs, he flips out at the possibility that he's something like the artificially-created mako-monsters, and rages in Defiance against Shinra who made him that way. Then he comes to believe he's a Cetra and lashes out against humans in general, mostly because (supposedly) humans screwed the Cetra over during a cataclysm 2,000 years prior to save themselves. Finally, he discovers out his true heritage as an Eldritch Abomination, and Acceptance is accompanied by Betrayal when he prepares to destroy the world because he no longer cares about anyone on it.
  • In the Sapphism sapphic]] werewolf interactive novel Moonrise, the player character can express all the stages of grief over their non-consenual transformation into a werewolf.

    Tabletop Games 
  • All over the place in Vampire: The Masquerade and Vampire: The Requiem. Notably, the Tzimisce in Masquerade take Embracing The Dark Side to its extreme in the form of Body Horror flesh crafting. More generally, the Sabbat is all about the Betrayal stage, while the Camarilla tries to keep everyone in Acceptance. In Requiem, the Ordo Dracul go the other way, seeking to transcend vampiric weaknesses (though not necessarily become human).
  • Changeling: The Lost uses this trope as a metaphor in the Courts. The courts represent everything from Acceptance, Denial and Defiance, while loyalists and Clarity Zero changelings have chosen Betrayal.
    • More specifically, Spring Court represents Denial, Summer Court represents Defiance, and Autumn and Winter courts represent different methods of Acceptance.
  • Promethean: The Created exhibits this trope with Refinements. Aurum is Denial - the Promethean pretends to be human in a (usually futile) attempt to pass among them. Stannum is Defiance - the Promethean turns his anger on those around him and seeks fulfillment in such. Mercurius, Ferrum and Cuprum are Acceptance - admitting his inhumanity, the Promethean pushes the limit of his "soul" (Mercurius) or body (Ferrum), or simply retreats from the world for a time (Cuprum). Centimanus, Refinement of Flux, is Betrayal - the Promethean utterly abandons the quest for Humanity, choosing to sink fully into his monstrous nature. (Ironically, if Promethean were a game about creatures that were once human, Centimanus would be Acceptance. But because it's about monsters trying to become humans, it's precisely the opposite of what you're trying to do.)
    • Notably, Cuprum embodies one of the classic stages: Depression, which would normally be the most difficult to put in a role-playing game.

  • The Kingfisher: The young vampires in this comic are shown adjusting to their new unlife. Only one doesn't have moral issues, having been a killer in breathing days, but Nick the Cutter has other problems.
  • Zebra Girl is a whole comic about this (the protagonist is turned into a zebra-striped demon). When Sandra snaps and enters the Betrayal phase, things get very dark.

    Web Original 
  • Entirely Presenting You: The story follows a teenage girl as she comes to grips with gaining powers of a 'vampire.'

    Western Animation 
  • Trollhunters: Stickler mentions briefly that there is a stage of adaptation to changelings, who are trolls that can turn into humans. Jim then goes through it when he has to turn into a human-troll hybrid. He starts off excited about his new strength and speed, he quickly starts losing it once he realizes he can no longer be in the sunlight or eat human food and that his appearance has notably changed. He runs away, but eventually his friends and family catches up to them and admit that, even if he's not the same, they can and want to be a part of his life and he is still the same inside.