Is it possible to grieve for someone you don’t know? When they announced Whitney Houston’s death, I felt a deep sense of loss. I never saw or met Houston but I loved her music. Her songs were the soundtrack to many milestones in my life and I felt so sad at the tragic loss of so much talent at far too young an age.
As I watched a recap of Houston’s performances in the days following her death, and then some of the coverage of her funeral, I was struck by how many lives she touched by both her talent and her death. Were we bereaved at the silence of such a beautiful voice?
This isn’t the first time I’ve experienced a sense of loss following the death of someone famous. I remember experiencing shock and disbelief at the news of Tim Russert’s sudden death; and a real sadness when Peter Jennings died. In both cases, it felt as if I’d lost a friend. After all, I let these newscasters into my home every day when I watched the news. I was influenced by their reporting and in doing so, their opinions and observances impacted my life. I really missed them when they were gone.
So I ponder, am I grieving? How does feeling sad and a sense of loss differ from the grief I might feel while mourning the death of someone I know? I think the answer is in the word “mourn.” I can feel a terrible sadness, a sharp sense of loss, and I can truly miss a celebrity or high profile individual. But I’m not really mourning. Their death doesn’t impact my daily activities and the sadness doesn’t linger.
I bounced back quickly after Jennings' and Russert’s deaths. I continued to watch their newscasts and got used to the new anchors. When I saw an exhibit at the Newseum that paid homage to Russert, I truly enjoyed revisiting his legacy. I feel a twinge of sadness listening to Houston but I know that one day soon, those songs that are the soundtrack of my life will once again conjure happy memories of my milestones.
What I will remember from these three deaths is the lasting influence these individuals had on my life. What a gift they had to impact me and so many others in such positive ways. That’s something worth remembering.
Robbie Miller Kaplan is an author who writes from a unique perspective as a mother who has lost two children. She has written How to Say It When You Don't Know What to Say, a guide to help readers communicate effectively when those they care about experience loss, now available in three individual volumes: "Illness & Death," "Suicide" and "Miscarriage." Additional titles are available as e-books: "Death of a Child," "Death of a Stillborn or Newborn Baby," "Pet Loss," "Caregiver Responsibilities," "Divorce" and "Job Loss." All titles are in Amazon's Kindle Store. Click here to order.
Top Image: In this Nov. 22, 2009, file photo, singer Whitney Houston receives the International Artist Award onstage at the 37th Annual American Music Awards in Los Angeles. Houston, who reigned as pop music's queen until her majestic voice and regal image were ravaged by drug use, has died, Saturday, Feb. 11, 2012. She was 48. (AP Photo/Matt Sayles, File)