Step In

The news of Prince dying this week,  has me reflecting, or rather, the reaction to the news of Prince dying this week, has me reflecting.

Facebook was flooded with comments, reactions, and the like (by the way, THIS, is the only post that resonated with me personally,) and I was struck by a particular genus of comments, paraphrased as:   “I’m devastated,” or “I’m heartbroken.”

Now, I try my best to be on proper side of the fine line drawn between curiosity and judgement;  I promise, I’m really not judging, but I am so curious about these reactions to celebrity deaths.

My personal reaction was, this is sad…somebody died, and that is always sad. I was taken back to moments of my life, but that was because of the music, not the man; that’s one of things music does, it imprints upon us, times of our lives.  I like the music of Prince, and appreciate what appears to be a life filled with Prince, being Prince…he seemed authentic. And in listening to the interview I noted above, I gained insight into the man, Prince, from people that KNEW Prince.

But I was not heartbroken, and my life was not shattered, so I’m left with curiosity about the people that professed these feelings.

I suppose the answer for everybody will be different.

Some, perhaps, just don’t know what it really means to be heartbroken, or better stated, we all just have a different scale of emotions. Others, perhaps, enjoy being part of something notable, and just feel the need to chime in.  Others still, perhaps, just chose the wrong words. I’m sure there are dozens more, but I just don’t get it. What is really going on, when we feel compelled to publicly pronounce our “heartfelt sorrow” regarding the death of a person we likely have never met, and probably do not really know, aside from their public persona.

EDIT #1: I continue to reflect, and it occurs to me that I have ignored empathy. Can empathy rise to the level of being heartbroken??? I guess that depends on the scale of emotions I mentioned earlier. For me, no, I doubt my empathy for others pain will ever rise to the level of my heartbreak over Brady dying. I’m okay with that, and it doesn’t erase my empathy, it expands it to new levels. But other people may have empathy that for them is stronger than any personal experience and thus they feel, heartbroken.

Now of course, I’m coming at this from the perspective I have, from the reactions I personally experienced, when Brady died.  I will venture to say, that more people that know me and my F(r)amily, commented publicly about the death of Prince, than the death of Brady.  Mind you, this is just my gut talking, not some forensic analysis of the facts, so absolutely, I might be wrong.  But regardless, it causes me to draw this conclusion: People will post publicly about a celebrity dying, and express their sorrow, because they are not connected personally; that anonymity is giving them the freedom to jump in.  Where in contrast, the pain of people we personally know, is just too real; it is just too damn impossible to fathom that pain is real, and is so close you can touch it, and that it could happen to you.  It freezes people, into non-action, and I understand… Been there, done that.

But when somebody you know is hurting, go to them.  If you are willing to mourn the loss of a celebrity, you should have an even greater willingness, to join a friend in their time of need, whether their loss is large or small.  Step into their world, and feel their pain.  I know it’s scary, and you don’t know what to say, and you’re busy, and you forget, and you rationalize that somebody else will do it, or that it doesn’t matter,  or that you will just remind them of their pain, and on, and on, and on.  But I’m telling you, having learned this from many people doing it for me, your personal life will be so much richer, and full of meaning, if you do.  And the amazing part is, all you have to do, is step in.  You don’t have to say anything, you just have to step in, hold somebody’s hand, and let them share a little piece of their sadness.




  1. Ken, as always words that need to be heard.
    I feel that these public occasions for grief are catalysts for people to express emotion for all they have held within, the pain and suffering for which they never found an outlet. So often when we cry for others losses we are also crying for our own.

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