Prince: The Passing of an Icon, Why It Impacts Us So Much

I was at the mall with my four daughters shopping for new shoes for all, when I received the news Prince had died. I shared the story with my girls, who looked at me perplexed as I tried to find a way to explain to them how significant his passing was, trying to find a comparative musician for their generation, but was amiss, Prince stood alone in a class all unto himself. He was a remarkable musician, creative genius and humanitarian.

As the day progressed, social media became saturated with an outpouring of sadness, shock, and remembrances, a humble tribute to late artists gone too soon, David Bowie, Michael Jackson, and Whitney Houston. If you were a child in the 80’s, these musical icons provided a cultural and musical backdrop moving from childhood to adolescence and into adulthood. And, similar to myself, children who grew up in the 80’s are adults, with careers, families and facing acute awareness with family elders in failing health or passing, that we are no longer young and not quite old.

The passing of great icons is a reminder on numerous levels that we are all human, regardless of fame, fortune, and opportunity. And to be human means we must die, and Prince’s passing is yet another reminder of our personal mortality. When we lose a musical icon and genius, it is not merely the death of one person; it’s the close of a chapter of culture, art, and music, and a reminder of the great mystery of being human; death and dying.

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, a psychiatrist and pioneer in a contribution of research on death and dying, who famously wrote the book On Death and Dying (1969), developed a model through her practice and research outlining the five stages of grief; shock/denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. In addition to these stages, she often wrote about how we are ultimately prepared to face our death, through a series of “mini” deaths; circumstances and events that result in loss and grief, and take us through the stages of grief, but by no means are as monumental as our personal death. Examples of “mini” deaths may include, loss of a job, ending a relationship, loss of a pet, moving residences, losing a friend or family member, aunt, grandfather or parent. All of these “mini deaths” prepares us in small, yet meaningful ways for our ultimate death.

The passing of Prince this week has been experienced by many as a “mini” death. His death is a shock for those who were close to him and those who “knew” him from afar. Prince’s death, the passing of a 57-year old man, is not what we expect to be an acceptable age to pass. We have subconscious belief that a good death is one earned after nine to ten decades on the planet, when in reality, death happens at any age to many people without the fame and notoriety that we never learn about. Prince’s death does serve as a reminder, that passing is a great unifier, and a call to action to embrace life, enjoy the small moments, reach out to loved ones, forgive, find purpose and meaning, and to use the gifts given to you, to make a difference in the world.

Over the next days and weeks, there will be speculation and details about the “why” of Prince’s passing. My hope is that people focus on his musical and humanitarian achievements and pay attention to what his death stirs up within one’s thoughts and feelings about personal mortality. Allow Prince’s passing be an inspiration, much like his music and humanitarian endeavors, to live life with purpose, intention, kindness, and love.

© Copyright Dr. Claire Nicogossian 2016

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