What a week.
At times it’s seemed like the whole world is in mourning; collectively, frenetically sad.
It’s easy to seek solace in mass grief in a time when the outpouring of strangers is only a click away. But the anonymity of the internet also makes it easy to lash out when we see people behaving in ways that we don’t like, grieving in ways that we wouldn’t.
There’s been a fair bit of that this week, and it has made me very uncomfortable.
I am so very lucky. Few people I know really well have died. The ones who have were mostly all very old, having lived long and rich lives.
I don’t know how I would react if I lost a parent, my brother, a close friend, a dear cousin. I don’t really even want to think about it.
But I do know one thing. My grief would be my own, and how I chose to display it would be up to me.
So what if the vast majority of mourners didn’t know the deceased personally? Why does that matter? Someone can be a significant figure in your life, without ever really being present. Losing the people who inspire us, encourage us and reassure us can be shocking and sad. And those emotions are real.
In some ways it seems incredible to me that anyone would think it’s OK to admonish someone for their response to a friend or family member’s death. Or that anyone thinks it’s useful to get on Twitter and complain at mass public outpourings of grief.
But that’s what has happened this week.
There are two very visible examples. One is Angie Bowie.
Estranged from ex-husband David Bowie for thirty-odd years and ensconced in the Celebrity Big Brother house, after being told of Bowie’s death Angie made the decision to stay where she was.
She also chose to share her feelings with the world through the Big Brother diary room.
Let’s be clear. These were her choices. No one forced her to do those things. Angie Bowie made a decision based on her own feelings. We don’t get to choose what those feelings are, and we can’t possibly know what passed between her and Bowie all those years ago.
If you sat around watching her reaction, or read about it in the press and then tweeted about how disgusted you were, you are part of the reason that TV was made in the first place. Your high horse does not absolve you.
On hearing of Alan Rickman’s death Harry Potter co-star Emma Watson posted a picture of him with a quote of his about feminism.
“There is nothing wrong with a man being a feminist, I think it is to our mutual advantage,” the quote read.
People did not want to hear it.
Emma Watson met Rickman when she was a small child. She grew up working alongside him, and going by what Daniel Radcliffe said in his tribute to Rickman, he was a huge supporter of his child co-stars, and an important mentor.
Alan Rickman’s greatest screen moments:
Rickman was also a political person. We know that. We don’t know what he and Watson might have talked about when they got together. We don’t know anything more than what Watson shared.
Which is something he said that she obviously took to heart and is part of how she will remember him.
Who are we to judge?
There is no way to gauge the impact of someone’s death on someone else. To try and put limits around what grief is and how we feel it is incredibly unfair, and completely pointless.
You cannot make someone feel as you do. As artists, both David Bowie and Alan Rickman produced work that was joyful, challenging and unique. What I love about them will not be the same as what someone else does.
How I process their absence will not match what you do (or don’t) do.
But just because you don’t agree with someone’s response, doesn’t mean it’s wrong.