Downsizing Grief

The popular culture expects us all to toss grief around like rice at a wedding every time someone famous dies. But grief is not a small thing. What makes grief such a deeply felt emotion is the personal connection you have for the one who dies. To me, demanding that we all wallow in sadness over the death of a famous person is downsizing grief. 

PR: What a relief it was today to notice the inundation of coverage over the death of Muhammad Ali has abated (for now anyway — the funeral will ramp it up again). I’m beginning to feel like our popular culture is responsible for downsizing grief — for cheapening it by demanding we experience it each and every time a complete stranger who happens to be famous dies.

I don’t know if you ever watched the AMC series “Mad Men,” but I loved it. I own all seven seasons and have probably watched the entire series from end to end at least a couple times since its finale last year. For those of you who don’t know, “Mad Men” is a TV show set in the 1960s that follows the lives of the people who work in a Madison Avenue Advertising Agency. The show’s plot began in the summer of 1960 and its final episodes were set in the early part of 1970. It was cleverly written, very well acted and, except for some odd anachronisms, captured the decade of the sixties beautifully.

Season 2 takes place in 1962 and the setting for the episode “Six Month Leave” is the day after Marilyn Monroe is found dead. In one scene, Roger Sterling, the president of the company, finds the office manager Joan Holloway lying on the couch in his office crying. When he asks her what’s wrong, Joan expresses her grief over Marilyn’s death. Roger says to her, “It’s a terrible tragedy, but that woman’s a stranger.”

When it comes right down to it, I’m with Roger Sterling on this one. more

18 Comments on Downsizing Grief

  1. I thought I knew grief. I’ve never cried over a dead celebrity. I did shed tears after the Challenger Disaster. Also after 9/11. I didn’t shed any tears after Princess Diana died. My only thought about this whacko was that if she’d been home with her family instead of screwing some muzzie she’d still be alive. I try to not blame the victim – but I did in that case.

    I discovered I knew grief when Mrs. M. died last year after many weeks in the hospital. Many of you on here remember that after 64 straight days in the hospital she died in my arms. I had been at the hospital at least 16 hours a day every day. The hardest day for me was the day after she died. I woke up and had no place to go. And if you missed my thanks – thanks for all the kind words and prayers from all of you. You know who you are.

    You won’t know real grief until it happens to you. The real pain; the crying; the loneliness; the sleeplessness.

    So the people who are mourning celebrities they’ve never met; It’s not grief. They haven’t known grief. It’s just more pop psychology that they buy into on the internet.

  2. Will Penny: “That’s always the way, ain’t it”?

    Alex: “What’s always the way”?

    Will Penny: “Let a man die, right away he’s “good old Claude,” How was he ‘fore he bucked out?

  3. God bless you, Mr. Mxyzptlk. God bless you. I don’t even know if the there is a God, but even if there isn’t, God bless you anyway. I can’t even begin to imagine your loss. if there is a Heaven, I know you and the Mrs. will be there.

    Sorry, can’t type anymore. Keyboard’s all blurry.

  4. To Ann Thracts. Can you make it a 3 to 5 class rapids? I need some excitement. This bullshit is boring to hilt.

  5. Thanks, Vietvet. I can now say that I’ve gone from constantly reliving the last two days of Mrs. M’s life over and over again to now being able to picture her “being born up to heaven on the fluttering wings of giggling angels”

  6. My parents died, I didn’t cry. A pet cat dies, I cry. Etc. People know people will die. Animals don’t. When I cry for pets it’s like the Klingon scream into the afterlife to welcome our pets. But I know already they’re accepted.

  7. Full disclosure: the angels I picture carrying Mrs. M to heaven are not the beautiful angels of renaissance painters.
    They’re the angels from Monty Python animation.
    She would have liked that.

  8. Corona – I understand. I’m always the “strong one” who had to take pets to the vet when it was time. For the last one, a dog, I called the vet, stopped by and paid for everything ahead of time and then took her in later. I always stay for the procedure. I discovered I can’t sign a credit card receipt while I’m bawling like a baby.

  9. Grief is an interesting emotion. You can never be sure which relationship or connection is going to crush you.
    I grieved over the loss of my chocolate lab. I got choked-up for the longest time thinking about him. I grieved for a young man I used to babysit who senselessly ended his own life after a battle with depression which he lost. We were similar in many ways and our parents are best friends, hit so close to home. I grieved during 9/11, as a frequent traveler, there but for the grace of God go I. The only person whom I never met who I grieved for was a man named Michael Spencer (The Internet Monk), he ran a theology blog and his writings really spoke to me. A tragic short battle and he died extremely suddenly…the loss of his wisdom, voice and daily reminders of the joy of our faith were like losing a mentor.

  10. I cried a little bit when I learned that Brad Delp of Boston killed himself. His voice and music brought me so much happiness and great times. I saw him perform live twice within six months on their “Walk On” tour. The fact that he killed himself hit me on a deep personal level. I asked myself, “How come some make it and some don’t?”

    When my dog died over two years, I never knew grief like that. I can still cry on cue over her. I fear the day my folks pass. Hopefully YEARS from now.

  11. Death is inevitable. It’ll come eventually.
    From Lonesome Dove, my favorite western.
    A young Irish kid got bitten to death by a swarm of water mocossins, snakes, while crossing a river.
    They buried him on the river bank. Gus McCaul, the boss, asked if anyone wanted to say a prayer. None of the cowboys could.
    So Gus said, Sean was a fine brave fella, ashes to ashes, now the best way to treat death is to walk away from it, now let’s mount up and move this herd to Montana

  12. I grieve for the millions of aborted babies in the world.
    How many Bill Gates and Michaelanglo’s have we lost?
    Ever think of that? And the world weeps over a fucking gorrella!
    Gimmeafuckinbreak!

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