As the 2016 came to an end, my social media feeds were a mix of people distraught over everyone (and everything) we lost, people focused on remembering the good things only, and people criticizing those who mourned the deaths of celebrities.
Seeing posts like the last reminded me of my reaction when Prince died. I spent most of the day reading memorials, listening to his music, and crying. I’d known of Prince and his music for years; I enjoyed his music when it came across my path. Who can ever forget his epic performance of Purple Rain in the rain at Super Bowl XLI? Since I hadn’t emotionally connected to his music, my reaction caught me by surprise. Eventually, I posted this on my Facebook page:
Although I didn’t know the songs Prince performed very well, some of the music that other artists made famous are among my favorites. “Manic Monday” and “Nothing Compares 2 U” in particular come to mind.
Is it odd then, that this loss has hit me so hard? Perhaps it’s the visceral understanding that without his fearless devotion to being authentic, the world of music would be vastly different.
The deaths of such iconic artists as Prince, Alan Rickman, George Michael, Carrie Fisher, and Debbie Reynolds don’t diminish the deaths of people we know and love in our real lives. The day before Carrie Fisher died, I heard that one of my writer friends, who had become an auntie of sorts to me, had passed away alone in her home. While she was important to my life, and our small community of writers and editors, my friend wasn’t connected with my family, and since she lived thousands of miles away, I couldn’t attend a memorial service.
However, I drew comfort in the grief I saw other express for the loss of Carrie Fisher. It was reassuring to me others were feeling a loss too, even if it wasn’t for the same person. Their sadness didn’t make mine matter less; it made mine easier to bear.
Sometimes it’s easier to mourn publicly for someone who helped create art we all share.
Everyone experiences grief and loss differently, and it’s not up to anyone else to police how they express these feelings.