When I saw the news that we’d lost David Bowie to cancer, I cried. I text my mum and she immediately replied saying Radio 2 was playing Heroes. I put it on and cried some more. Sure, I was upset, but I’d had my moment and now I’d just get on with my day. When my day turned into a blur of tears and memories I realised I was actually grieving for someone I’d never met.
I didn’t know David Bowie in any real way, but I’ve learnt over the past year that there’s nothing more real than grief. Grief is complicated and life-changing, but most of all personal.
I have been a life-long David Bowie fan for two reasons. Firstly, I grew up in a house where both my parents were massive Bowie fans. Secondly, his songs have been part of the soundtrack to my life. My mum, a glam rocker at heart, fell in love with Ziggy Stardust. My dad had been dedicated ever since his Berlin trilogy. They saw him perform in 1987 at Cardiff Castle on the Glass Spider tour and I grew up knowing this was something special that they’d enjoyed together.
I’ve never been desperately upset over the death of a celebrity before, but I understand what grief feels like. I lost my dad just over 12 months ago. My mum, my sister and I discussed for hours what songs we should play at his funeral. There was so much to choose from; my dad loved so many different types of music. There was never any doubt we’d play a Bowie song. We settled on Heroes almost instantly. We told people they could wear a band t-shirt to the service to celebrate my dad’s love of music. I wore his Glass Spider tour t-shirt with pride that day.
It’s easy to connect my sadness to the loss of my dad, but I would never have predicted that the death of David Bowie would hurt me so much. 10 days on I’ve realised my sense of grief has been a response to losing someone who helped me to understand myself.
The tributes made in his honour have been glorious, but there have been a few attempts to grief-shame people into thinking that openly mourning for someone you’ve never met is wrong or childish or just not appropriate. That’s not true. During times of sadness, some peoples words do seem clichéd, but that doesn’t mean their feelings are any less authentic. If you have claimed to be “grief-stricken” or “devastated” by the loss of David Bowie it is not a perversion of language, it is your experience. Thinking grief should be based on a firm set of rules is bizarre. The tributes have been varied as he meant so many different things to so many different people, but a good friend and fellow fan sent me this; “What an awesome experience he had on this planet”. She’s right, he did.
There is one Bowie song that makes my heart beat faster for love and for loss. If you don’t have a song that can make you feel the same then I am sorry for you and I hope one day you turn and face the strange. For me, I’ve often put on my red shoes to dance the blues, I’ll always hope there’s a Starman waiting in the sky and I’ll never stop dreaming that we can be Heroes just for one day.