Why Shouldn’t We Mourn Prince?
Many people, including those close to me, were psychologically devastated by Prince’s death. Others couldn’t have been more confused by this mourning for a man that many people had never even met. Prince was certainly prolific. He won not only seven Grammy awards, but an Oscar for his film Purple Rain and a Golden Globe for his “Song of Heart” in Happy Feet. Not bad for a self-taught guitarist. But is it healthy or normal to mourn for someone who you don’t know personally?
Researchers developed a word for this kind of relationship not long after the explosion of TV made these one-sided relationships commonplace: parasocial relationships. Parasocial relationships can be good or bad. On one hand, people with intense attachments to celebrities are likely to have poorer mental health, on the other, people often build their sense of community and self in some part based on artists, performers and other celebrities who have deeply influenced them.
But all these questions about what is normal miss the point. It’s not about the man, this incredible artist. It is about what he represents. The pain comes from the loss of meaning that our friends feel. Prince, his music, his philosophy, his approach to life meant something special to people and his passing represented a lapse in that passion and meaning.
Instead of leaning towards judgment of those feelings as being dramatic or disproportionate to his untimely death you could wonder what the underlying feelings are for your friend.
Try asking them these questions.
1. What does Prince’s passing mean to you?
2. Why does it make you feel the way you feel?
3. How have things changed?
4. What will you miss?
If you can be inquisitive about the underlying feelings that cause these reactions, you may reach a new level of understanding in your relationship and as a result, feel less confused and judgmental about what appears to be an overreaction to a sad event.
As Sheila E., one of his most notable collaborators, said of his passing: “Through his music, we were able to express what seemed impossible to say. Through his creativity, we were able to imagine and dream the incredible, to create a new reality. Through his hard work and determination, we were able to believe in the ability to overcome those obstacle set before us.”
Perhaps by empathizing there is a lesson here for all of us. Thanks again, Prince. RIP
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