"I felt like I'd intruded on Michelle Dockery's grief."


Today, I was among the many who clucked sadly about a stranger’s loss.

I gossiped with my colleagues about the appalling sadness of life cut short and love thwarted too soon.

And then I got on with my day. This television star’s loss was not mine to grieve.

But that didn’t stop me from reading all about it.

Michelle Dockery plays Lady Mary on Downton Abbey – the kind of show that becomes so loved by those who watch it, they feel like the faces on it belong to their old friends.

We feel connected, building relationships with those on our screens.

So when Dockery’s fiance – John Dineen, a young man who was only diagnosed with cancer earlier this year – passed away on Sunday, people sent their love and good wishes to this woman across the world who they had never met.

And then we sent our cameras to his funeral.

Today, in many places online, you can look at the crowds at the church, you can read an account of the beautiful words Dockery read in his tribute.

They are moving and powerful as words are at funerals – for people who are gone too soon, who should be sitting alongside you in the pews – spoken by those who love you. Your family, your friends, your partner.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, today, an Australian superstar buried his father.

Keith Urban flew into the country to lay his father, Bob, to rest.


And we sent our cameras.

If you’d like, you can see what a rich and famous man looks like when he’s lost his father – a man to whom, Urban says, he owes his career and success – and is grieving with his brothers and mother.

It’s a curious line, wanting to honour loss and respect privacy at the same time. The passing of Bob Urban, or of  John Dineen, is worthy of comment, as both these men deserve our remembrance.

But their loved ones deserve to be given the space and time to grieve privately on one of the most difficult days of their lives.


The seats at their memorials deserve to be taken up by people who knew and loved them. Their words deserve to fall on the ears of those who share their loss.

They do not deserve to feel spied upon or uncomfortable in their grief.

They do not deserve to be conscious of the eyes of greedy strangers trained on them, hungry for a shot of tears, a snap of an emotional embrace. an unguarded moment of emotion.

I am as guilty as anyone of rubber-necking on strangers’ grief. I read the piece about the words Michelle spoke about the man she loved.

We are fascinated by death and loss, we are drawn to the raw emotion that surrounds it. Something real, something profound that we can latch onto, that we can feel.

But Michelle Dockery and Keith Urban’s loss isn’t ours to feel. And the days that they are paying tribute to the people they loved most in the world are not ours to invade.

They are days, of all days, to step back and turn away.

I wish I didn’t know how lovely the things Michelle Dockery said were. I wish I had allowed her the dignity of keeping those little pieces of her heart only for herself and the people who loved her fiance.

I don’t need to know what kind of suit a millionaire wears to his father’s funeral.

None of us do.