• Sydney, Australia

Michael Jackson? The Grief of Sudden Death

Michael Jackson? The Grief of Sudden Death

What is your reaction to the death of Michael Jackson? Are you intrigued by the media response or as a fan or admirer, in some way affected? Retail sales have increased and collectors cashing in selling memorabilia. Anyone owning LP copies of early recordings see their value rocket as people hunger for something of the pop icon.

Whilst a frenzy of activity emerges amongst loyal fans, closet fans emerge – many surprising themselves – whilst others observe with some incredulity.

What is this all about? What desire, emotional attachment, accompanying feelings or grief is associated with the death of this public figure? It seems that the death of an Elvis-type figure invites individual and collective expressions of grief. This is particularly the case when the death is sudden. We are reminded of how fragile our existence is and how alone we are. When death is sudden, we have No Time for Goodbyes.

Whilst Michael Jackson is considered public property, anyone in their 40s or 50s has associations of an earlier era. At the same time they started out in the world with the whole of their lives stretching out before them. His achievements outweigh what many have mastered and this awareness might spark regret, shame or grief. Camaraderie develops between people share their memories of the Jackson Five in the 1960s/70s.. However, we are alone in our memories of Jackson who was part of our youth, who had a life and who has died. A reminder that we too, one day, will die – we do not know when nor do we have control over it.

For later followers, he held another promise. The dawn of celebrity worship with normal people jettisoned into stardom, is now possible, in theory, for anyone. When they do, often their lives are tortured and lonely. Michael Jackson globally captivated the world with his music, performance agility and message that Anything is Possible?. However, when cut short, we are reminded of our aloneness, the fragility and uncertainty of our existence and reminder to live well since we know not when it will end. We just know that it will.

Coping with Grief 

Written by: Clare Mann