Friday, January 15, 2016

Grieving for Public Figures

This has been a very tough week. Like many of you, I was jarred from sleep by the words "David Bowie is dead," from my local NPR station. I don't think I've ever jumped out of bed quicker to confirm the news on of all places, Facebook. Yeah, I know. Facebook.  I went to a social media site (a site that I have a love/hate relationship with) for more information about his sudden death. Immediately, I began to cry as his face popped up over and over on my feed. Yes, it was a sad day, but being there with others who were grieving about him made me feel less alone. Thank goodness I am not the only person who cares that David Bowie has left this world!

When I was writing Death Becomes Us, I was sitting alone in a fire station waiting for the crew to come back. My friend Katie called in a panicked state to inform me that Michael Jackson had died. (Farrah Fawcett had died earlier in the day. Poor woman. Overshadowed by the King of Pop.) I felt like a part of my youth had died. I wanted to commiserate with someone and nobody at the station cared one way or the other that he had passed. I felt ashamed for my feelings. But, let me be the first to tell you that nobody should be ashamed to grieve. Grief is part of life and it is perfectly normal. Heck, it's normal to feel more grief about your cat dying than your grandpa. But, when you live in a culture that doesn't exactly embrace grief, to the point that they would appreciate it if you got through it quickly (in seven easy steps!) and preferably somewhere else, what is a person to do?
I wanted her hair, but I wanted his dance moves.

Go to social media. Create a meme. Share your stories. I didn't know David Bowie, but his music meant a lot to me, especially when I was younger and a little bit strange. Okay, I was a lot strange. Still am, just in a different way. Anyway, in 1987, a friend asked me if I wanted to go see David Bowie at Kemper Arena.  She had tickets for 2nd row center on the floor and I was like, not only yeah, but HELL YEAH! I was 17 and my hair had recovered from my self-inflicted chop job I did in 7th grade. I remember wearing a white t-shirt, army green cargo pants and black boots. When I saw that we had tickets in front of one of the more popular kids at my school, I felt for a brief second that I was cool. This sensation was prolonged and sealed (at least in my mind) when Bowie sang a portion of China Girl to me. At least I think he did. It felt that way. And seeing as I was taller than everyone around me, my giant head is the one he focused on as he sang. I saw him years later at the Warfield in San Francisco. Once again I was on the floor, but I couldn't get anywhere near the stage because my date was a total goober who didn't like Bowie. That was our last date.

Then yesterday, I found out that Alan Rickman had died of cancer at the same age as Bowie. I didn't think I was going to get through the day. I loved Alan Rickman. I loved him in Die Hard, Sense and Sensibility and of course as Severus Snape in all the Harry Potter movies. His voice. His large expressive face. It was all too much.  But, this is what life is. If you've loved a lot, and yes this includes celebrities, you are going to grieve a lot too.

Do I have a solution? No. Just be kind to those that grieve, even if you can't relate. You'll get there one day.

So, was this a tough week for you? Did Bowie sing you to sleep? Did Rickman's evil charm make your toes curl? If not, has there been a public figure that died that really got to you?  Share if you dare.

If you want to read about my love for Michael Jackson and my exploration of death, you can get my book at Amazon or Barnes and Noble or from the trunk of my car, but please ask first before opening it.


  1. Wonderful post. I liked Bowie's music but not a huge fan. I loved Rickman, though. For me it was his character in Galaxy Quest and the angel in Dogma. I've been doing some plotting for my series and it's about vampires and angels. I was getting to the point of needing to work on the character of Metatron and it was Rickman's performance I was seeing in my head. I had been working on details for that the day before I heard he passed away.

    And there was Lemmy from the band Motorhead, also dead of cancer at 69. Seemed like the entire universe decided make humans mourn.

    Thanks for the column.

    1. Thank you! Yes, it's been quite a week.

  2. Bless you! Someone who adores Alan Rickman almost as much as I do! I loved this man, truly. I am a sane, sensible, mature woman past 40 and I have grieved for him as much as a family member. It's April and I am still grieving for him and not apologizing one bit for it. I always wanted to meet him and still hoping that if I remarry, I can find someone like him. Thank you for this article. We should cherish those close to us in heart because we never know when it will be the last time we meet.

    1. I'm sorry you are still grieving. The great thing is that you can still watch his movies and visit him for a little while.
      Thanks for commenting!

    2. Thank you so much for your kind words. You are so right, we can see Mr. Rickman thru his work and visit with him. The grief has lessened significantly because I have read that one of the reasons we grieve for "public figures or celebrities" is that thru their work, they help us learn about ourselves or are with us during significant times in our life, such as death of parents ,divorce and it truly feels like you have lost another person because people like Mr.Bowie and Mr. Rickman have been on the journey with us as well thru their work and music. I honestly feel, as my mother told me when she was dying with cancer, Mr.Rickman would have probably rather been remembered than grieved for and would want people to do good for others and honor his memory! I feel for his wife Rima and keep her in my thoughts often. With all this being said, I would still love to find a man that would have some of Mr. Rickman's qualities and that wonderful, dark chocolate and velvet voice wouldn't hurt either!


Comments are welcome and appreciated!