Sunday, July 24, 2011

on the devaluing of death...

This will be one of the few occasions that I feel compelled to post about something that I am sure people will disagree with, but at the end of the day, I just don't care.  I feel that what I have to say needs to be said and I feel that this subject hits a bit too close to home for me lately.

Within the last 2 weeks, I have heard about the death of one of my closest friends, many people in an act of personal rage and statement in Norway and the death of a celebrity most likely due to her personal battle with drugs and alcohol.

All three of these are sad, tragic things in which as a human being I am compelled to  grieve whether it be my personal loss, the loss I feel as a human on this earth when I see the needless deaths of the innocent at the hands of a sick individual, and the loss I feel as a fan of an incredibly talented artist.

I would be lying if I said that the first thought I had about the passing of Amy Winehouse wasn't along the lines of sad, but not surprised.  After all, she very publicly battled her substance abuse demons for years and will always be remembered by her own words "they tried to make me go to rehab, and I said no, no, no." But she DID go to rehab.  More than once.  And unfortunately never seemed to be able to beat it.  Like MILLIONS of other people in this world.  Having the means to seek help, does not mean that the monkey on her back was any less insurmountable for her than a person who can't afford treatment.  All she had was the world knowing her problems and her failures in this area of her life and judgement that we all seem too quick to dole out because apparently, the celebrity is somehow less than human in this culture now a days.  It makes me sad, angry and sick to my stomach.

And at the end of the day, her death IS a surprise and IS important and deserves to be mourned.  She was only 27 years old.  And was looking healthier than she had in a while.  And now she's gone.  Her life, her spirit, her talent to be gone from her family, her friends and all of those who enjoyed it in our lives.  Why must we be so quick to judge, devalue and compare the quality of the tragedy of death?  We stingily dole out our condolences and support based upon our own ideals of the quality of the person who died, the circumstances of the death and so many more little ridiculous qualifiers that we somehow feel the right to be the judge and jury.

Amy Winehouse's death was simply noticed because of her celebrity.  19,000 deaths a year are purported to be due to drug use in the US alone.  And alcohol abuse is linked to 75,000 deaths per year between the direct affects of its abuse and the number of people who pass away due to driving under it's influence.  Why is it okay to vilify her and devalue the mourning of those who are sad and care about her death because she fell victim to something that chances are, you're related to or at least know, someone who is dealing with those very same demons?  And if it were your brother or sister, or child, or parent, or friend who died because of their addiction, would you be so quick to judge, be hateful and /or laugh or be seemingly joyful and/or unfazed about it?

I've seen many show disgust at the seeming shift in news coverage from the tragedy in Norway to Amy's passing.  But honestly, Amy's passing yesterday was breaking news.  So it was reported.  And so was the continuing Norway coverage.  The news media has a job to do, report on the news as it is happening.  And they did their job.  Why are we so quick to judge how a culture we are a part of creating by our obsession with celebrity, deals with the passing of one of our creations?

At the end of the day... About 70,000 people die in the world everyday according to WikiAnswers.  And that is about 70,000 sad tragedies every day in this world.  Death is death.  Loss is loss.  And all deserves to be valued, grieved, mourned and acknowledged.  We have to stop judging and categorizing things that should be free from those judgements.  If not for the people who we've lost, for the people who are left behind, dealing with their pain.  I know what it's like to feel that somehow your loss is being judged and categorized to a lower level of importance and I can PROMISE you that it is one of the worst things to do to those who are just trying to get by every day.

Every person who lives and has lived has their own unique path, story and potential. And no matter how that journey ends... it is always a loss.  It is always sad.  And there are always those who are left saddened, shattered and broken.  Don't try to lesson or cheapen their pain because of your own ideals.


  1. Beautifully put, my friend. I wish I could have said it like this myself, but the attacks on her just bothered me so. Being someone who understands, on a deeply personal level, inner demons and so on, I know, in a way, I am transferring, but it is good to know that I am not the only one who feels this way. Thank you for your compassion, insight and eloquence on this subject.

  2. Beautifully put, my friend. This whole thing really bothered me. I think perhaps that I have always related to her, a tiny bit. I have found I am taking all of this devaluing of her death slightly personally. Probably since I have had some of my own demons to deal with in my life. Thank you so much for your compassion, insight and eloquence. I am going to have to post this on my FB. I hope that's ok. Love you!

  3. You are amazing! My sediments exactly!

  4. Amazing. But, not surprising. These are my sediments exactly (in more elaborate, better phrased, organised words!!! lol). Thank you for sharing this!!