Michael Jackson and The Five Stages of Grief: Acceptance
Last week I told myself that Michael Jackson’s memorial service would be the event to push me into the acceptance stage. Once I saw his golden casket and his brothers lined up in tribute I accepted that he is really gone. Here we are at the end of the line, and although theoretically the stages of grief can occur in any order and even cycle back and forth on top of themselves, acceptance is where we have to stay. It’s not an easy thing to do, but everytime I’m tempted to fall back into sadness, anger, or denial I focus on doing the following:
Remember The Luxury of Passive Grieving. I’m a big softie anyway, so Stevie Wonder singing “Never Dreamed You’d Leave In Summer,” always makes me cry, memorial service or not. But what I didn’t expect was Michael’s daughter Paris telling the world how much she loved her father breaking my heart even more. This pretty little girl cemented the fact that my grief over the untimely loss of an icon is minuscule compared to the grief that his family must feel. I refuse to imagine myself in her shoes or in the shoes of anyone in the Jackson family – its just too painful. We all have the luxury to not deal with this loss directly because our lives are not directly affected, and the Jackson family is fantastic for allowing us the chance to be a part of saying goodbye to Michael. At this point, accepting that Michael Jackson is gone and letting him rest is the best gift we can give to those who knew him best.
Cherish The Memories. Michael Jackson is part of my best childhood memories, but since his death I look back at the old days with a touch of sadness. Accepting that he’s really passed on means that those memories need to go back to the sparkling, happy moments that they really were. Who didn’t dance around their living room wearing one glove – probably a winter glove, but a glove nonetheless? Who doesn’t have a memory connected to one of Micheal’s masterpieces or, for those of us who were lucky enough, remember listening to screaming fans or even being one of them at a concert? Who didn’t try to Moonwalk or do the Smooth Criminal lean to no avail? Those beautiful memories are the same whether Michael Jackson is with us or not, and it’s time for us to appreciate having had those experiences instead of letting those memories make us sad.
Let Life Go On. Did you know that my favorite unhinged black woman, Cynthia McKinney, was kidnapped last week? Or that American troops withdrew from Baghdad? There’s also a heath care vote coming up that could change our lives, and it looks like the Northeast Corridor is finally getting some summer weather. Many of us have become obsessed with watching videos and listening to music and sacrficed our own greatness in the process! There are dozens of things I should write about besides Michael Jackson, and as much as I’d love to indulge myself by dwelling on my favorite black pop culture icon EVER I’ll just allow WWTD to always remain a safe space for all things Michael and stay well-rounded from this point forward.
Do Something. Whenever I’m feeling blue I just get some airbrushed nails – yes those are my fat little fingers above, right hand representing the glove and left hand a total tribute to his legacy. When the last rhinestone falls off it’s probably time to move on, but looking at them everyday makes me happy that there even WAS a Michael Jackson. Likewise, I’ve heard of people getting tattoos or giving to charity, and of course pretty much all of us have been on a steady binge of Michael Jackson tunes and videos. I’ve been rediscovering and discovering the music of Michael and The Jacksons and it’s been a cleansing but joyful journey. If you haven’t yet, make sure to indulge yourself in what we do have left – the music and the moves. Find a Michael Jackson tribute party and dance as hard as you can or just do it in your bedroom alone and once you’re done, move on. It’s very necessary.
Stop Watching. I haven’t watched this much cable news since the 2008 election, and now that the details of Michael Jackson’s will and memorial have been exposed I’m not going to watch anymore. Miko Brando needs to go back to playing soduku or whatever it is he does with his free time besides appear on “Larry King Live.” The “experts” and “family associates” will have to fade into the background, and the commentators will have to stop their speculation on who gets the kids, how Michael died, and everything in between. Aside from the upcoming autopsy report, the discussions have become unnecessarily sensational and there is nothing else we need to hear. Michael Jackson deserves more respect than that, and those of us who really cared about Michael and his legacy have to be the ones to drive that respect. Most importantly, we can’t waste energy and outrage responding to hateful nonsense spouted by the same racist politicians and commentators who’ve had too much opinion on all things black for years like clockwork. People like Bill O’Reilly EXIST to make us outraged, so let’s not fall into the trap of turning Michael Jackson’s death into the burden of explaining racial dynamics to America yet again. None of this helps us to accept our loss.
Remember His Legacy. Michael Jackson’s memorial was a true homegoing, one of the most beautiful aspects of African-American culture. Instead of hanging our heads in sorrow we had the chance to celebrate everything that Michael meant to the community and bid him farewell with the belief that he’s moved on to a better place. Whether you believe in an afterlife or not, it’s impossible to deny the beauty in the pleasure of having had this man here on earth and that is what acceptance is really about. He felt closer to us as an American and as a black American, but even the smallest villiage in Tanzania with nothing more than a water pump and a transistor radio had Michael Jackson, too. I thank him for firmly anchoring pop culture to black American traditions of dance, song, and language, and praise him as a humanitarian and inspiration to the world. That is the legacy that Michael Jackson leaves behind, and that – not the loss – is what we need to hold onto forever.
Throwback Video: Michael Jackson dances with The Nicholas Brothers
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