If you are anything like me, you might hate grieving celebrity deaths. Part of it feels so disingenuous because we didn’t even know them. Their death will not create a hole in your daily life nor will you experience the feeling of missing them. So why then, are some of us so affected by the death of public figures a.k.a. complete strangers? I was so sad to hear that Carrie Fisher died. Why? Let’s talk.
Look, whether we like it or not, iconic people we enjoyed from afar had an impact on us. Although we didn’t know them personally, their work or image personally spoke to us on profound levels and may have directly or indirectly helped us through difficult times. And while you may be sad for their family or may have pity for the way they died, the sadness experienced has everything to do with what this person provided to you. It is self-focused (because you did not have an interpersonal relationship with them) but it is not selfish. People affect you, whether they are near or far… so be sad all you want when they pass away. Grief is a very legitimate thing and grieving the death of a celebrity is therefore nothing to be ashamed of.
Phew, with everything I said above, it’s like I had to put my psychologist hat on to believe that it was okay to grieve the death of Carrie Fisher. On the day she died, I found myself crying at random times, confused by how much of an impact it had on me. I soon realized that in order to grieve well, I had to acknowledge what this woman did for me. It was a great exercise because I was completely oblivious to the fact that her Princess Leia character may have helped shape me into the woman I am today. As a very young child, I would watch Star Wars on an endless loop. Princess Leia was a manifestation of how transformative the 60’s and 70’s were for women and I definitely benefited from it. I was always a tough little girl in the early ‘80s, playing superheroes and WWF with the boys on my street, and while some of it was definitely relevant to my temperament, hearing Princess Leia in the background may have additionally played an instrumental part in my early sense of power and independence.
It was only upon realizing how significant this character was to me, in not only providing entertainment, but in providing inspiration and empowerment, that the lump in my throat and the knot in my stomach turned into an exhale of peace and appreciation. I even realized that in my attempt to keep my 2 year old daughter away from the “someday-my-prince-will-come” old-school princess mindset, I had forgotten that there was at least one old-school princess who was a complete and total badass…one who waited for no man to come rescue her. Boom! “Into the garbage shoot flyboy.” God I love her. RIP Carrie. Thank you.