On Grieving Those We’ve Never Met

I woke up this morning to a text from a friend. “Snape died!” At first I thought maybe she’d been doing a re-read or re-watch of Harry Potter, but then I got several more text messages and I checked the news. The world has lost an amazing person, Alan Rickman.

I’m not ashamed to express my heartbreak or to tell you that I’ve cried real tears today.  I’m not ashamed that I’ve been texting friends, posting on Facebook, and chatting on Twitter about the true sadness I feel over a man I’ve never met.  And yet…I’ve seen a lot of eyerolling and annoyance at public grief over the loss of a celebrity.  Posts about how it’s ridiculous to feel sad over someone you don’t even know.  Posts about how it’s not a real grief.

I couldn’t disagree more.

Did I ever meet Alan Rickman? No. Nor have I met David Bowie, Robin Williams, or countless others whose deaths I have mourned. You don’t have to be best buddies with someone to have them have an impact on your life. Alan Rickman’s art brought me great joy. He portrayed one of the most complex characters from a book series that holds my heart. He’s made me laugh, cry, and think. No, we weren’t friends, but I will miss him just the same.

Grief is grief. Mourning the loss of another human is what makes us human. It’s what reminds us of the fragility and value of this life we have. Surely, those closest to these celebrities are dealing with a different level of grief, but our grief is grief too. Our loss is real, whether you grieve with us or not.

What a testament to those who put their art out there to be grieved by those they’ve never met. I can only hope to be so lucky as to have that kind of influence in my own work.

Thank you, Alan Rickman, for being a storyteller. You will be truly missed.


  1. I couldn’t agree more, Erin. It might seem ridiculous to grieve for someone we have never met, but these people had impact on our lives and – it’s a little selfish, but true – they’ll never be another character in a movie/play that can make us think/laugh/cry and therefore they’ll be missing from our lives. Not as a friend or family member, but as an influence and inspiration.

  2. I agree wholeheartedly. I, too, shed real tears this morning upon learning the news. The world lost a great one today and I will continue to mourn his death. His art is his lasting testament, and you are right, if we could all be so lucky.

  3. So, admittedly, I have mostly been on the “feeling no grief for the death of those I’ve never met.” Honestly, until I read this post. And I remember that I cried REAL tears when your Dad died. I’ve never met him, and I’ve never met you, but your loss hit me in the heart. And I realized it doesn’t matter if Bowie or Rickman or Williams was famous, it matters that they are PEOPLE, and they are gone, and many many people are mourning that loss. Whether it’s a world-wide social media grief, or a private, personal grief. It’s totally okay for me to feel it too.

    Anyway, thank you for posting this. I realize I do not need to censor compassion or sympathy, ever. Thank you for the reminder.

    Hugs to you, my dear.

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