How come when celebrities pass it feels so personal to us? How can we feel pain for a person we never met personally?
When Kobe Bryant passed in February 2020, all I heard was a bunch of men in my life say they feel like they were reliving the death of their cousins, uncles, and even fathers. When Kobe passed.
When Aaliyah passed away, I was in the car with my mom and dad driving back from Dallas, Texas to St. Louis, Missouri, and at one point, I pulled a cover over my head and let the seat back and cried. My daddy was driving, and I was in the passenger seat, and I remember my mom saying, "Lisa, are you okay?"
I remember watching and learning about Selena in the 2000s, and my heart breaking like Selena was kin to me.
When Nipsey Hussle passed, I felt that. I had learned about Nipsey Hussle probably a year before his passing. I knew he was in a relationship with Lauren London, but I did not realize that he was a rapper. I was in grad school at that time. During that time, I was in a community class where we had to research a philanthropy project. The professor had given us a bunch of books to read and projects to learn about, but I soon realized that there were not many people in this list of things outside of white people. So I started to look up philanthropy, and I came across Ermias Asghedom, which I learned was Nipsey Hussle. I began to research his work and realized he was living the dream I was aspiring to live. I didn't understand philanthropy until I read about Nipsey. That day in March, which just happened to be the same day that Selena was murdered too, I was at my sister's house sitting at her dining table with my little brother and her. I was on Instagram, and I saw the headlines that Nipsey had been shot. I am like, "whoa, wait, wait." My siblings were like what? What happened? I told them, but no one knew what to say.
When they finally announced that he passed, I felt like a mentor had just passed. I grieved his death so much that I couldn't watch the memorial on TV. But that day, my sister and I went to a town hall meeting. My sister and I were getting heavily involved with community activities, and that day the St. Louis County prosecuting attorney was holding a town hall meeting. I know I couldn't watch Nipsey Hussle's memorial, but I knew I was doing something that Nipsey had been teaching his community.
Why did it hurt so bad? Why did these deaths trigger an emotional breakdown?
Some of us grow up with celebrities. We look at celebrities, and we realize that we legit grew up with them even though they don't even know we existed. Other times we turn to celebrities because of the impact that they had on television. Sometimes we watch an athlete or listen to an artist pour out their heart. We look at them, and we say, "I aspire to be that way."
When our families are not able to teach us the things we want to do and when they can not provide opportunities for whatever reason, we turn to these celebrities, and we envision ourselves in their shoes. We see ourselves in them, and we have high hopes that one day that will be us.
When celebrities pass, it does put us in a situation where we are reliving those moments of grief. We are triggered by remembering what it felt like to cry, miss, and go into the shock of missing the person. When Kobe passed, it was during a time where I had just closed the chapter of my mom passing. I had been in such a bad mental space. Naps were my best friend. I remember Kobe passed on a Sunday. I woke up early that morning to make my way to church. I left the church and came straight home. I ate lunch and went to sleep. I woke because I did hear my little cousin yell, "Kobe just died in a crash." I honestly was like yeah this ain't going to work for me. I am going to continue to lie down. Then my best friend texted me and said, "Best friend, Kobe." I replied and said, "What happened best friend?" He said, "Kobe and others were killed in a helicopter crash today. And they said his daughter was with him, and her body perished."
I was sick. I fell into the trap of "I can't just grieve." I cried. I cried like I knew Kobe. I cried like Gigi, and her friends were my students. I cried like I knew everyone on the helicopter. It had reminded me of the death of my father. The passing of my mother. The death of my friend Michael. And all the funerals that I had been attending throughout my life. At the end of the week, I remember posting Facebook: "I miss my daddy." Because at that moment, I missed my dad and the only person I wanted to be with was my daddy. I was a little girl who was crying out for her daddy.
Celebrities' deaths do have an extreme effect on us. Whether we realize it or not, or whether we admit to it or not, those deaths trigger us in ways that we don't even understand. Celebrities provide a space for us that we do not necessarily understand. Also, when celebrities pass we come to the realization that they are human. We realize that the have families and that they have loved one. I think we know this, but we don’t truly embrace it until we actually see that something human has happened to them...death. For whatever reason, death makes us look at lifer differently. We all have an expiration date and we all know it. However, it is hard for us to really spend time in the thought of ”one we can be here and the next we can be gone.” Some of us obsess over death while others do not even think about it. But when celebrities pass we tend to have realize that death is going to happen.
For me, the death of Selena and Aaliyah made me tap into my emotions.
The death of Nipsey Hussle and Kobe Bryant made me allow the tears to fall.
These deaths made me tap into areas of my life that I had been holding on to and not wanting to address.
So, yes, when a celebrity dies, we feel it. We take it personally, and it does feel like we lose someone very close to us.
On the morning do Friday, June 26th, 2020, I woke up to the sad news that St. Louis’s very own Baby Huey was shot and killed. My heart broke. St. Louis is such a proud of city of people who are successful and “make it out.” Most people my age grew up hearing Baby Huey’s “POP lock and drop it.“ We grew up dancing to this song and any time there is a St. Louis gathering you already know that “Pop lock and drop it“ is one the songs to get the crowd hype. He wasn’t that much older than me. St. Louis has so much violence yet so much love and we’re fighting many battles all at once. The death of Baby Huey definitely made me sick. I had to go to the park and sit for two hours and cope. That literally broke my heart. All I could think about was how and I about to release this blog and one of my city’s very own just passed.
Their deaths, their passings have such an emotional impact on us because of the connection we feel like we have developed. We often times hear stories of celebrities and we tend to relate to them. We hear their stories and learn where they come from and we develop a personal connection. So, when they pass, we tend to feel like a piece of what we found is not broken off and lost forever.
Rest in Power Baby Huey. You put on for our city and we will put on for you.
Rest in Peace to all the celebrities we have lost throughout the years.
I hope today your eyes were opened and your heart received some love. As always, I hope you love you the way you love the world.
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