To Grieve For a Stranger

Lou Reed David Bowie

So this has been a shitty week.  We woke up Monday to David Bowie passing at 69 from cancer and today Alan Rickman.  Two of my all-around favorite people.  Whom I have never met.

I always feel strange crying for someone I don’t know personally.  They have family and friends who have a real, severe loss they are dealing with.  It doesn’t seem right that some weirdo they don’t know has taken this death close enough to their heart to be sad.  

The first time I experienced a profound sense of loss when a public figure died was when I was 14.  Nirvana was my favorite band.  (I’m not trying to be retroactively cool, it’s just the truth.)  Then Kurt Cobain died and I felt sad and wore black (well, I wore a lot of black anyway, I was a grunge kid after all) and mourned.  In fact, no deaths of strangers hit me that hard until 2013 when my husband sat me down in the living room of our apartment and told me Lou Reed had died.

Since I was an adult I was a little more self aware.  I thought it was kind of odd that I was so upset for someone I hadn’t met.  But I was.  I was sad for his family, sad for me, sad for the world.

When artists die we often say the world has lost something.  That’s true when anyone dies I think.  When my father died when I was in college I thought the the world was at a loss, even if a majority of the world didn’t know it.  But these people grace us with their art.  And when they are gone, they can no longer produce that art for us.  

So is it selfish that we’re sad?  Because we want more?  I don’t think so.  I think we’re disappointed, but I think a lot of us are also sorry for any suffering the person might have endured.  For the pain those close to them may feel.

This grief is a different phenomenon than grieving the loss of a personal friend or family member.  But we can’t help our feelings of loss and sadness.  And it’s something we can share with many other people.  People we know and people we don’t.  People all across the world.  So this grief is different, but valid.  It has to be, or else we would not feel it.

David Bowie will always be a treasure.  His music created a safe place to be in for so many different types of people.  Alan Rickman was a brilliant actor and had so many great roles.   They both seemed to be honestly lovely people as well.

Thanks for reading.  I really just needed to work this out.

Here is Alan Rickman reading “A Grief Observed” by CS Lewis.


Above artwork is Lou Reed and David Bowie by Guy Peellaert, from Rock Dreams (1970-1973).  Totally used without permission.


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