“I knew all the words to all his songs.”
“I’m dressing like him for the next five years.”
“I have his guitar pick from one of the 73 concerts of his that I went to and I’m going to get it implanted into my knuckles as a tribute.”
“If I stop crying, even while I’m asleep, a Rube Goldberg machine is triggered that sends a marble with his picture on it down a ramp that triggers an action figure of his to climb a ladder that then lights a lighter with one of his album art wrapped around it to light, making a balloon in the shape of his left pectoral to inflate and pop that then scares his pet chinchilla which I kidnapped to run around a wheel that tightens a few strands of his hair I ripped from his armpit to tighten and trigger pepper spray to blast directly into my eyes so that my mourning for him will never stop, even while unconscious. Happiness, even celebrating the happiness that his music gave to me and could continue his legacy, has no place in this world anymore.”
“Uh, I’m his mother.”
There’s no winning the grief game. Particularly when it comes the death of a celebrity. I get it, music resonates with people and we’ve had some major musical icons die recently. But I’ve seen a grotesque game online of people trying to one-up each other on who gets to claim more mourning points because of how connected they are with the deceased.
When David Bowie died, I was sad, but when I expressed it in a group, someone immediately asked what my favorite song of his was/is. I admitted that my connection to him was more due to feeling I lost my virginity by watching him shake is kielbasa in Labyrinth. The person who challenged me snorted and started reciting lines from a deep album cut off of one of Bowie’s cocaine year albums that Bowie can’t even remember recording.
“What do you want, a trophy? A medal depicting someone balling their eyes out clutching a copy of Hunky Dory while a dog named Major Tom howls at the figure’s feet?” I (wish that I) asked the antagonistic despondent person.
“I just grew up with his music and it shaped who I am so–”
“So did his bulbous package and 80’s bouffant in Labyrinth! Somebody’s death shouldn’t be a way for you to gain more points. Their death isn’t about you. Go back and listen to that album and cry alone or pay tribute to Bowie by masturbating thinking about him and Mick Jagger rubbing their ribs together.”
It doesn’t matter if you celebrate the myriad of tracks Prince wrote for other people and the only song I enjoy is “Batdance,” he was still a complete stranger to both of us and our woe is comparable. It only gets more granular if you make it a competition. Does a widow deserve more sympathy than the deceased’s mother, or is the child entitled to the most empathy. Congratulations, child without a parent, you win the “most entitled to the highest level of heartache award.”
No one’s grief is more poignant or profound than anyone else’s. There’s something very different about sharing your experience, the ritual of exchanging stories of the deceased as a communal grieving, and trying to hijack the narrative to make yourself seem more sorrowful.