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Mourning Those We've Never Met

April 12, 2021

Don't let anyone shame you into feeling bad or weird for mourning celebrities or figures you don't personally know. You're human.

A handful of celebrity deaths have hit me pretty hard over the last few years. I danced in the streets of New Orleans after Whitney Houston’s death. I sat in shock with my cousins after watching the news and seeing that Michael Jackson had died. I cried like a baby when I finally acknowledged that Prince had passed. (I thought it was a hoax and he was re-branding or something.) I stood in my kitchen hoping to find an article that said Kobe Bryant was OK just to see that him, his beautiful daughter and their traveling companions had died.

Each person was a complete stranger to me yet I had grown up with knowledge of their lives being impacted by them all in a different yet special way. Each death felt as heavy as those of my own relatives and friends.

With the passing of Chadwick Bosman, then Cicely Tyson, and now DMX, I’ve been reminded of how deeply someone you don’t even know can affect your life.

Since I was eight years old I have been a fan and admirer of DMX. From his music to his movies to his prayers I felt like he was connected to not only my life but my sister’s and friends as well. We all have so many memories of how his music or appearance helped us. He was one of my first crushes. Someone who’s imperfections were never hidden yet they took nothing away from his charm and star power.

I often see people criticize the mourning of celebrities and other respected individuals upon their passing and I’ve never understood it. How does proximity determine your empathy? Why do I have to know someone personally in order to feel affected by them leaving this earth?

The truth is that you don’t have to know someone in order to feel those very human emotions towards them. You are not required to have met them in order to feel compassion for their family or feel as though the world has lost something because they are no longer here.

As we navigate what seems to be more unexpected and sometimes expected deaths of figures that feel larger than life. Don’t feel compelled to feel guilt about your grieving process. If 2020 and the impact of COVID-19 has taught us anything it should be that life is a series of unpredictable events that we can’t control. We can only live with and get through each event as best as we can. Don’t feel bad about having feelings. You’re human.

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