Max Gladstone has written a really good article on mourning over at Tor.com: On Alan Rickman, Loss, and Morning Our Heroes. Just wanted to share that with you. It’s full of stuff to think about, as per usual with Max.
Neither Bowie nor Rickman were major figures in my personal pantheon, but I know the feelings. I cried when Terry Pratchett died. I was on tour, about to give a presentation at a middle school in Seattle, when I heard the news. I was worried about the Q&A I always do at the end of my school presentations, because kids very often ask, “Who is your favourite author?” and I knew that if they asked that, I was going to cry in front of the entire 8th grade.
Crying in front of the entire 8th grade is a nearly universal human fear, I think, along with spiders and falling.
Of course they asked, and as anticipated, I cried, but I managed to turn it into, “Hey, isn’t it amazing how deeply art and stories can affect us? I never met this man, but he changed my life, and here I am crying.” Nobody laughed; I think they understood.
The next question was about music, and I sang for them, which is something I hardly ever do at a school. Singing in front of the entire 8th grade is also a bit intimidating, to be sure, but I’d already done the very scariest thing, so singing seemed more doable than usual. My very public sorrow had opened me up and made me braver.
Grief can feel so vulnerable that we just want to hide, but I think mourning – looking that grief in the eye and acknowledging it to yourself and/or the world – can make us less afraid. Terry Pratchett changed my life, and I will never be able to thank him. If I can face the pain of such a loss, what’s the worst the 8th grade can do?