Grieving for a Stranger

When a public figure dies, social media tributes pour out from fans.

Over a short amount of time, these tributes can often be met with cynicism. They can be met by people claiming that other’s expressing their grief are “attention seeking” or that they’re “making it about themselves”.

Sometimes, of course, that might be true. But it doesn’t make it a bad thing.

Yes, we don’t know celebrities on a personal level, but the only connection we have with them is how they make us feel through their work. So when something happens to them, outside of sparing thoughts for their loved ones, of course our minds are going to think about how it affects us personally.

After all, the relationship has always been a one-way street. So, if we’re allowed to love them, admire them, worship them, take meaning from them, then we’re also allowed to grieve for them. In any way we choose.

When I received a text yesterday morning asking if I’d heard that Frightened Rabbit frontman Scott Hutchison had gone missing, I cried in the middle of a professional networking event.

I spent the rest of the day checking the news every 30 minutes to see how the search for him was going.

When the news came in today of his death, I was inconsolable.

It left me thinking about the many drunken Frightened Rabbit gig hugs I’ve shared with my best friend over the years.

It left me thinking about what his lyrics mean to me.

It left me thinking about when my uncle went missing and was found dead after completing suicide.

It left me thinking about the darkest times I’ve had with depression.

It left me thinking about the painful, traumatic, but ultimately freeing day that I finally told my fiancée about the suicidal feelings I experience.

It left me thinking I shouldn’t keep those suicidal feelings a secret anymore, because the more we talk about mental health – all of us – and the more accepting we are of its complexities, the more comfortable people like Scott Hutchison will feel to speak openly and know that suicide does not have to be the inevitable end, and the closer society will come to be able to offer the right support for people.

In living, Scott, to me, was a musician who poured his heart into his profession. He was the creator of some of my favourite songs, my favourite live music memories and was a vocal proponent of the importance of hope.

In dying, Scott will still be all those things, but now he’ll also be a sad reminder for me to keep talking about my mental health. No matter how difficult I find it.

For anyone struggling with today’s news, you’re not alone. Even if it feels like you are.

Hug a loved one, chat to a stranger online, or check out any of these wonderful organisations. People want to listen, I promise.

Stay open, stay safe.


© Carl Burkitt 2018

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