The reason folk are saddened by death is because they are directly affected by the upshot of someone’s demise. But others are what I call fundamental sympathisers, so much that they’re able to put themselves in the shoes of the deceased or loved ones of the late. Regardless of how much they knew the dead person.
They’ll be those whose stomachs flipped and were overcome by a dark heaviness at the news of BOSASA boss Gavin Watson dying in a car accident this week. While others couldn’t give a rat’s ass about his passing because of the alleged corruption he was involved in while alive. And then there’s the rest of us who think Mr. Watson isn’t dead, but somewhere on an island sipping Piña Coladas after staging his timely passing.
The fact is, death affects us in different ways and people have their varied methods of grieving. Take for instance how some people would choose to only speak about the good side of a person at the funeral, despite how despicable that person probably was.
But it’s also not a good look bashing a someone who can’t defend themselves, despite overwhelming evidence that they were a vile human being who deserve to rot in hell. It’s better to rather not say anything about the deceased, in public at least. Like former President Thabo Mbeki’s unfavourable comments about Winnie Madikizela-Mandela in the wake of her passing, to which Madikizela-Mandela clearly couldn’t defend.
Forcing yourself into other people’s shoes, especially at the passing of a celebrity or a popular individual only because it’s the latest craze to hashtag RIP XYZ and replace your DP with a photo of the dead person is simply faking the funk. We saw it a few months ago after Nipsey Hussle’s murder, where timelines were littered with condolence messages from individuals whose knowledge of Nipsey is cringe-worthier than a Hlaudi Motsoeneng interview. Posing as a genuine sympathiser defeats the point of it all.
Lacking the societal emotional response seems to make one look like a bad person. It would obviously be wicked to rejoice at someone’s death, but the passing of a person you didn’t particularly get along with often leaves you questioning whether you’re an evil person or not.
A fella I went to Primary and High School with died in a horrific car crash a few years ago. He was the rambunctious, conceited typa dude. I didn’t like the guy. But learning of his accident had me interrogating myself. I thought ‘gee, what an awful way to go…but it is what it is.’ I didn’t have much remorse really, mainly because his death doesn’t erase the douchebag he was and for the mere fact that his passing has no impact on me. But I can’t imagine the pain it left on his loved ones, and sadly am not allowing myself to step in their shoes.
The psychological reaction that occurs in response to perceived attack or threat to our survival is ‘the fight or flight’ response. But when death occurs in our lives, there are a myriad emotional responses and ways of grieving, it seems.