One of the things I find most distressing about Michael Jackson’s death is the way in which people criticize and condemn the way other people grieve.
I cried when Octavia Butler died. I’d never met her or even seen her in person, yet I cried. Sobbed, actually, and not even just once. This woman’s books and stories had profoundly affected me as a human and as a writer, and I felt a sudden inescapable sorrow at her loss.
Yet… people are not allowed to react that way to Michael Jackson’s death?
My feeling is: Let people grieve how they want and need to.
Certain deaths and losses will affect me and not you, and vice versa. What we can do is respect that we’ve each had different life experiences to get where we are today. We have different heroes, different turning points, different inspirations. If it was playing Dungeons & Dragons that got me through a tough spot in my teens, maybe it was listening to Jackson’s Off the Wall album for you. Or watching Days of our Lives, or reading Lord of the Rings, or playing Donkey Kong for hours upon hours in the arcade.
Maybe Michael Jackson was a “sick, narcissistic pedophile” to you. Guess what? He was someone else’s inspiration. He was their reason for going into music or dance or fashion.
Let people grieve, you know? Let them tell you who was important in their lives, and why… and not just for the people you already respect.
When Katharine Hepburn died, I was crushed. She wasn’t a saint, but she touched my life in a way no other person has. Yes, she was a “celebrity” — and oh, how we love to hate them! But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t deserve to be mourned.
As a writer, I have a very profound respect for someone who’s mission in life was to touch other people’s lives. Although I loved Michael Jackson’s music when I was growing up, I would not say he changed or impacted my life in a meaningful way. That said, I fully understand that he changed many people’s lives, and I respect their loss.
5 thoughts on “Why We Grieve”
Thank you for sharing this. It is exactly what needed to be said. :)
Thanks, Steph. :)
Rae had a similar but slightly different take on it: http://raecarson.livejournal.com/190572.html
Thank you for pointing out that it's not just the person, whomever he or she might have been, that is being mourned, but what that death represents to an individual. I'd kind of understood that, but seeing it laid out like this helps me place others' reactions into a clearer perspective.
I think we all have our heros and hate to see our heros pass on. I felt the same way when Isaac Asimov passed on. Now I'm watching the nonstop Jackson coverage on hospital televisions. My grandmother as I type is in critical condition just waiting to pass on in ICU. She's another hero and inspiration to me as well. It makes me feel a little better that I don't have CNN calling me what she ate for breakfast or if she took an extra Flintstone vitamin.
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