Sunday, 12 February 2012

RANT: Respecting other people's grief.

Picture from The Flower Shop

Today is an extraordinarily sad day, both for the world, and for Merseyside. While the world mourns one of the best selling female music artists of all time, Merseyside mourns a little two year old lad from Kirkby who was murdered nineteens years ago.

On the 11th February 2012, R&B singer and actress Whitney Houston was found dead in the bathtub of her hotel room, according to news reports. She was 48 years old. Whitney was famous for her stunning voice, but infamous for her stormy marriage to singer Bobby Brown and battles with drug addiction. James, on the other hand, was a two year old child who was abducted by two young boys during a shopping trip with his mother on the 12th February 1993. He was tortured, mutilated and dumped on train tracks, where his body was found two days later.

Obviously these two deaths could not be further apart on the scale of tragedy. While the poor child was just beginning on the journey of life when it was cruelly snatched from him, the singer had lived a life filled with fame, glory, riches and excess. While James' fate was not his own, Whitney knew exactly what her addictions would do to her if she did not conquer her demons. While the Liverpool tot did not have long on this earth to spend with his family, the New Jersey actress was married and had a child of her own, and a family who got to watch her grown up and blossom.

However, these two deaths have one glaringly obvious similarity that people seem to have overlooked: - both of the victims were loved.

I have witnessed statements and comments from many people today saying that Whitney Houston's death is completely unimportant when compared with the death of James Bulger. With the advent of social networking sites, I see more and more people willing to push their judgements upon others, irrespective of who their comments upset. As a Merseyside girl myself, I can completely understand the anger of the local people, and I can see how the injustice and the pain has clouded the situation. But as a bystander, someone who knew neither James nor Whitney, I can see it from a different point of view. The way I see it, no matter how someone dies, it is always the loved ones of the victim who feel like their world has ended.

I cannot, for one millisecond, pretend I understand how James' parents, Ralph and Denise felt when they found out how their precious son had met his fate. I cannot understand, and I hope to never understand. Unless you have been through it yourself, it is impossible to comprehend. I was only five years old at the time of the murder, and while I was too young to understand the gravity of the situation, the case haunts me more and more as I grow older.  I sincerely believe it will affect me even more when the time comes to start a family of my own.

What I do understand, however, is how it feels to lose someone to an addiction. What it feels like to watch someone kill themselves slowly and painfully, with an apparent lack of regard to the people who love them. Without aiming for a "poor me" autobiographical account of my childhood and teen years, I lost one parent to drug addiction at an early age, and continue to watch the other spiral out of control battling the demons of drink. Every day I worry, waiting for that knock on the door, or that phone call to say that the battle has been lost, that their body has been found. I know what it's like to grieve for someones life before they have even lost it. So for that reason, I feel so much sympathy for Whitney's family, almost as much as I feel for Denise and Ralph. Because I understand. Because I can comprehend. Because I've been through it, and go through it every day.

I respect that some people will find my view controversial, people may misinterpret it as comparing senseless, vulgar murder with self-inflicted death by excess. I can only assure you that that was never my intent. My only intention is to try to make people understand that everyone who dies was loved by someone, and leaves a hole in that person's heart forever. Regardless of circumstances, regardless of how it happened, regardless of fame or fortune, regardless of age, regardless of whether they were someones child or someones parent, regardless of whether or not you believed they brought it on themselves...

They were loved, and grieved for, and missed. Please respect that.

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