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How Grief Over Celebrity Deaths Helps Me

Photograph by Getty Images

This week has not been good for 69-year-old famous men of British origin. The world said goodbye to David Bowie and Alan Rickman, both of whom died of cancer.

Screw you, errant cells of mass destruction.

As I watch my friends, family and acquaintances mourn these two celebrities via social media, I feel a kinship to all of them. In the last 10 years, I have grieved the deaths of my daughter and both parents—all of whom died of cancer.

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This universal grief being bandied about with memes and photos and status updates make me feel less alone in the grief I live with every day. I won't lie, though. As unattractive as it seems, a part of me (small, gratefully) scoffs at the dramatic reaction I have seen. "How can I live in a world without Alan Rickman in it?" Well, Sweetheart, you simply do. Figure it out.

The better part of me, though, feels immense empathy for all the folks who might be introduced to grief through the losses of these two creative icons, made more intense with how their deaths were piggybacked.

Grief sucks, my friends. It's hard to wrap your head around, you can't believe the world could move on without these people you love (even from afar), and you find yourself stuck in this place of just wanting to crawl in bed and remember.

I get it. Oh, do I get it.

Perhaps what I am most hopeful for would be that people who are genuinely grieving over the deaths of favorite and beloved celebrities might take a moment to connect the dots between their loss and the loss friends and acquaintances might feel on a daily basis after the death of their own loved ones.

Another thing I have noticed is the seeds of anger and resentment from some folks about how the world already seems to be moving on from the initial shocking news of David Bowie's death. As the story broke on Monday morning, our newsfeeds were a veritable wallpaper of David Bowie tributes and video shares and personal reflections of what he meant to us.

By Wednesday evening, some folks were bemoaning the absence and comforting presence of those Bowie photos, videos and memories from their feed. There was a hollowness in the serious fans to see that others were already moving on, griping once again about meaningless things or posting selfies and photos of their lunch.

Yep. In a nutshell, that is one of the most devastating rubs of grief, of grieving. Life moves on.

No matter how many pieces your heart has broken into, no matter how many tears you may still be shedding, folks move on. It is the nature of the grief beast. And for those of us who live in grief, it stings.

I'm not certain of the significance of any of my musings. Perhaps what I am most hopeful for would be that people who are genuinely grieving over the deaths of favorite and beloved celebrities might take a moment to connect the dots between their loss and the loss friends and acquaintances might feel on a daily basis after the death of their own loved ones. Many of us mourn loved ones who not only shaped our lives—as I am learning Bowie and Rickman have for so many—but people who were also part of the day-to-day of our lives.

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That wish of mine is self-serving, to be sure. At the crux of it, though, is empathy. And can empathy ever be a bad thing? No, I think not.

May David Bowie and Alan Rickman rest in peace, and may those who loved them never forget, all while feeling a bit more in touch with their friends and family who might be grieving daily.

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