The death of Osama Bin Laden…How should you feel about it?

Today I’m hijacking my regular “questions I get asked” Monday post in favour of blogging about what has been all over facebook and twitter (my sources of news) this morning.

An instant twitter trending topic, I’ve been watching with great interest people’s reactions to the death of Osama Bin Laden earlier today at the hands of US forces.  I’ve seen a whole lot of facebook updates, watched President Obama’s announcement, read a few news articles online, and watched more than a few arguments break out already.  Some pretty full-on ones.

There are a range of hugely different reactions going on to his death.  At ground zero in New York(the site of the 9/11 bombings) celebrations have erupted.  Have no doubt that there are parts of the world where, right now, this event is seen as a huge tragedy.  A world-famous-in-New-Zealand radio host has been getting very irate on her facebook page as she repeatedly asks that people not come to her page with their anti-American arguments defending Bin Laden.  She says she will not have ‘the devil’ defended on her page and warns that she will delete such comments, which she has been doing.  Also a woman who runs a gorgeous personal development website for women has been getting involved in conversations on her own facebook page where she has been suggesting that while Bin Laden has done many evil things that violence is never the answer, that it begets more violence, and that death is never something to celebrate under any circumstance.  She has since written a wee article talking about tolerating others opinions and emotions and says that since her facebook comments earlier today she has had many people leave her facebook fan page.  And twitter holds the full spectrum of comments from “today I’m very sad to know that osama bin laden is dead” to “Osama Bin Laden is dead. Way to go, Team America!” to “To celebrate the death of another human being is nothing short of disgusting to me.”

Now first things first – my opinion on the matter?  I’m actually not going to share it.  Let me be clear that above I have listed what I have read without commenting on whether I agree wholeheartedly, disagree completely, or anything in between.  How I feel about Bin Laden and his death is not at all relevant here.

What I do what to talk about is the first thing that occurs to me – considering the work I do –  as I read all of the articles, comments, and particularly the arguments, and that is how quick we are to tell other people how they should react to this, what’s ok and not ok to feel around death, and what big problems this causes in general around death and grieving.  I’m less interested in how people feel about his death than I am in how they feel others should feel and what they think is ok to feel.

Death (any death) will be a source of all sorts of emotional responses – some we are comfortable with, some we are uncomfortable with, some we think are ok to feel, and some we think are definitely not ok.  I’ve seen many a tweet about Bin Laden’s death today that go like this “I know it’s terrible to say this but…..I’m relieved OBL is dead” or “I know death is never a reason to celebrate….but I kinda feel like celebrating”.

Whenever you catch yourself using a phrase like “it is terrible to say/think A, B, and C” about a death you’re setting yourself up to believe that there are certain ways you should be feeling and certain ways you shouldn’t, and that these rules apply to other people as well.

Death is a natural part of life. No more or less natural than birth.  And there isn’t only one appropriate response to it. It’s never a cause just of pain or just of celebration…but a mix of the two. There isn’t a wrong way to feel about a death.  Not about this death.  Not about any other death in your life.  When you find yourself setting rules about how you or others should or shouldn’t feel about a death, particularly of the “you must never look at death that way” variety just know that you are setting yourself and others up for potential guilt in the future when you’ll have to try to deny some of your own emotions around loss in your own life, because you’ve been telling yourself and others that these particular emotions are ‘wrong’.

That’s my two cents.




About Kristie West

I'm a Grief Specialist and I help adults who have lost a parent. I am known for positively changing people's experience of the loss of a parent in less than 4 hours.
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4 Responses to The death of Osama Bin Laden…How should you feel about it?

  1. Millie Ker says:

    Non judgement – way to go, Kristie!

  2. Jenny Cutler says:

    Interesting thoughts, Kristie.

    I sometimes have a Shirley McLaine-type moment with death ( wonder if you read all her books, years ago?) – babies falling off the junks into their watery depths and parents not even looking back, just having a sad moment as they watch them go under……

    made me think of that and wonder why people make it a talking point. think you’ve worked it out – they talk when they believe they may have Got it Wrong. keep writing your great stuff.

  3. Pingback: “A death should never be celebrated”. Why I disagree. | Kristie West – Getting Beyond Grief

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