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Why Losing A Public Figure Feels So Personal

February 10, 2020

It felt like a punch in my gut combined with a sickening whirlpool in my belly. Even as I felt the physical proof that the news of nine people dying in a helicopter crash was indeed quite personal, my higher brain confronted me with another truth.

You don’t know them.
You shouldn’t feel this way.

Then the mediator part of myself stepped in and put everyone on the same page with this third truth.

Even when it’s not personal, it’s human.

Public tragedy pulls the legs out from under our sense of normalcy, sobering and softening up even the most hardcore among us.

Unlike personal loss, public loss does not hide from public view. We cannot pretend it’s not there just because it is not ours. It is harder to turn away, to ignore it, to stuff it down.

While our connection to a public figure may not be personal, it is deeply intimate in that when they die we often revisit the time in our lives when we first connected to them, both mentally and viscerally. It may feel as if that part of our life exited with them.

Watching the true power of human compassion and connection emerge over the last couple weeks I began to take heart even as I lost heart as a mother and a human.

This is what we humans are truly capable of I realized. Grief does not have to be the isolating, stigmatized, and marginalized experience it was for me at 25 when my husband suddenly died.

Watching grief take center stage in people’s hearts and voices confirms what I’ve long suspected…

The best container for the human experience of grief is other humans.

Sharing our stories, tears, and memories is the way we heal and collectively hold what we cannot individually carry.

To see grief get a voice at the table of life, right next to love and joy, soothed my old wounds in a new way.

This is what is possible for every human who loses a loved one in death; not just celebrities or public figures. This is what is possible when we give a voice and a face to our pain and our love and the depths of our humanity.

-Monique Minahan

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