When Doves Cry – or when people do after sudden death of a beloved celebrity

When Doves Cry – or when people do after sudden death of a beloved celebrity

When a celebrity dies sometimes it feels like we have lost a friend or family member. We didn’t really know them, but because of how their art affected our lives we feel an emotional connection to them. Celebrity interviews, Instagram, gossip: all these tidbits of information make us feel we know intimate details of their lives and can make us feel even closer to them.

We grow up with celebrities and at times their lives feel so intertwined with our own. That’s how many felt about Prince. Many of his fans were in their mid-teens/early twenties when his first hit came out – they grew up with him.  They’ll remember dancing freely and furiously to Prince’s hit 1999 in 1999 and going crazy (as he directed) when he first screamed out his hit Let’s go Crazy. They shared their love of his music with their kids, so the reverence was inter-generational. And he was still rocking, bringing out new material, right up to the week in which he died. So when we heard the shocking news of his passing (and to say it was shocking is no exaggeration) it was like a big hole opened up.

Something familiar was gone and could never be replaced – no doubt reminding all his contemporaries, all of the fans who grew up with him, that their time was running out, that the Grim Reaper IS waiting for them around the next corner! Because if Prince could die – he who lived his dream and had so much money there was little left unreachable to him – then how safe is anyone? Prince could afford the best in medical care, didn’t suffer the stress of a 9-5 (or more usual 9-9) job or late bill payments, worked only because he wanted to, not because he had too, yet he STILL died prematurely.

Proximity to death is scary, but what many felt went beyond that: it was also deep sadness. There will never be another Prince, after all! He personifies the word “icon”. That kind of talent, charisma, and ability to touch so many of such diverse age, musical preferences, and people in so many countries right around the globe – that does not come frequently. It is absolutely natural that such loss would trigger sadness for many.

Prince, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson: all icons with enviable success, yet they died so young! At 57, Prince survived the longest.  And they all died due to an addiction (well, they haven’t confirmed this about Prince, but all signs are pointing to this). Feels like from those who have a lot, much is also taken, but in a different form of currency. They can afford to buy drugs and keep their “day job” plus they can hide from the legal and other impacts of taking drugs for longer than us mere mortals. Addiction is killing our neighbours, family, and friends, but there are no headlines declaring these losses.

When something as tragic as Prince’s premature death happens, we who have family members with addictions or other mental illness are reminded that our loved-ones’s lives also in danger. When the celebrity icon’s death is by suicide,

as it was for Robin Williams, there is the fear that the natural sadness caused by the loss of an icon could trigger suicidal thoughts and a desire to actually self-harm in the depressed. This is what family members should also look out for where they are caring for someone vulnerable – and it is something to watch out for in yourself if you are depressed. Social media allows a space to share feelings of grief which can reduce isolation, but depression makes you reflect inwards, and that grief can compound your disease. If that is the case, seek help: talk through your pain with a loved one or professional through helplines or through your family doctor. If you notice a worrying change in your loved-one, you’ll need to try to talk to them, and encourage/direct them towards professional help whether in Canada or in the USA, there are national helplines to try for immediate help from which you can seek more local help.

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