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 in real life, 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 himself 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 metaphorically 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 and 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.

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 and 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!

Examples of Stages of Monster Grief include:

Anime and Manga

  • 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 from 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.

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 The 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".
  • Marvel's most well-known lycan is Jack Russell - the Werewolf by Night; he claims he has been through all five stages, and seems to have settled on Acceptance. Vampires in Marvel usually degrade into Betrayal, but there are exceptions. Hannibal King tends to be in the Denial stage, and is a sworn enemy of other vampires. Morbius despises himself (not surprising, seeing as his condition is mostly his fault) and by his own admission, doesn't care whether he lives or dies, and can usually be placed in Defiance. Jubilee was in Acceptance for the most part, doing her best to cope (usually only using her vampire powers to defend her adopted son Shogo) until she was cured by the Phoenix Force.
  • Ben Grimm was in the Depression stage for a long time, but is usually in Acceptance, though he is occasionally prone to short bouts of Depression.
  • Bruce Banner has always - and will always - despised what he has become, but by now he has realized that the Hulk is a burden he will never permanently rid himself of, and has reluctantly reached Acceptance. Of course, there has always been the fear - among himself and others - that he might someday lose control and reach Betrayal. There are many alternate realities (some of which he has witnessed) where that has indeed happened.

Fan Works

  • 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 Super-Powered 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).


  • Because Seth Brundle's painful and humiliating metamorphosis into the titular creature of The Fly was a slow one, he transitions from horror, denial, fascination with his newfound abilities and finally acceptance in its one month period. Somewhat subverted, however, in that he still wants to be human again.
  • 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.


  • 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.

Live-Action TV

  • Being Human (UK) 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.
  • On one episode of The X-Files, 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."
  • 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. 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.

Video Games

  • The Forsaken and the Blood Elves in World of Warcraft cover the entire spectrum. Playable characters generally vary between Defiance and Acceptance, although the Apothecary quests, pre-Wrath Gate quests and many of the new quests in the Cataclysm expansion veer heavily towards 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.
    • Player Character Demon Hunters seem able to handle themselves pretty well; NPCs, not so much. Illidan himself had... issues with the transition.
    • 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 eventually killing her father. She seems to be handling herself well from there, but still despises necromancers of all types.

Tabletop RPG

  • 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. 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.

Web Comics

  • 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.
  • Vampire Cheerleaders had it the other way around. The new vampire was a little too conformist, so she started with "So, we're evil now? Let's go kill someone for lunch?.. Not evil? Fine, too" - then quickly got Drunk with Power and did something so dangerous and stupid her creator almost killed her - then got creative and helpful, and embraced ideals of her creator ("the Team Spirit above all", which is why she tried the whole vampire cheerleader thing) - then developed enough of ambition to run for senior class president, enough of sense to not let this to get into her head much... and enough of diplomatic skills to mostly turn the crowd on her side after being exposed as a vampire (not that it hindered Paranormal Mystery Squad in any way, but this greatly helped later) - and after the old vampire left became their leader.