Why do some tragedies that ride the 24/7 media wave feel so personal? Why did the sad, accidental death of Natasha Richardson make my girlfriends feel like they'd been punched in the gut? I heard repeatedly, "I just can't get over it."
Almost all of these women had never met Natasha Richardson, been at the same premiere, market, or parent meeting. There is the celebrity factor, a sense of intimacy that people feel with famous folk. We know details of their lives, although they usually don't even know we exist. In the case of Natasha Richardson, we've seen beautiful, vulnerable, open photographs that make us feel we know her or could hang with her. But we don't, and we didn't. We do know she was a mother and a wonderful actress playing a mom we related to in 'The Parent Trap' remake. We were aware that in her real life, she had a famous mom and that she was a mom. Her revealing eyes and almost naked smile seemed to say, "I've lived, I've loved, I've lost, I've survived...and I'm still having an f-ing amazing time."
My girlfriends and I loved that attitude. She could have been one of us, hanging at our 'women goddess' parties. It wasn't an anonymous mother/daughter suffering this tragedy. It was someone we'd come to kind of know through movies where she was a young, textured woman, a mom, etc. like us; through post-trauma and sadly post-mortem images where she smiled out at the world like we often tried to do despite what was crashing in our private lives. We could imagine her on the slopes with her warm inclusiveness. We could see her larger than life husband because we'd watched his heroic dramatic turn in "Schindler's List"; we could feel for her awesome activist actress mom even more because we'd bonded with her characters and persona. We could empathize with this multi-tasking mom, actress, wife, making light of her injury, so that the show of life could go on. Women know about that.
But how interesting for an actress to turn the glare away from herself. It's so, well, mom-like. Maybe that's part of what draws my girlfriends and myself to her. We all imagine ourselves in her position, how 'random', as our children might say, the awful accident was. Of course, we imagine our friends, spouses, and especially children hitting their heads on bathtubs, basketball and soccer floors, skateboard, snowboard, and bicycle collisions. We moms don't want to be over-protective, so we try to not over-react. But what if this one head bump is the one that seems fine, but needs special attention?
I have been struck by the predominance of women, as opposed to men, who so personally feel this tragedy about Natasha Richardson, someone they didn't in actuality (let's face it) know. Maybe it's a gender thing. We could have been her (albeit less watchable), juggling our loves, losses, and lists of a woman's life's to-dos. She could have been us, relating to this tragedy, worrying about our own beloved children's and their father's falls, not focusing on our own self-protection. Historically, women are caretakers. In grieving Natasha Richardson, let's make a point of making a little history and taking more care of ourselves.