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Social Function of Death and Mourning

Mourning in its simplest form is equated with grief over the death of someone. It describes the complex behaviors in which the bereaved participate. One of the key elements of mourning is the dressing. Wearing dark clothes is practiced in many countries although other forms of dressing are also worn. In many cases, mourning practices take different form and this is in regard to the status of the individual who has died. Public figures like religious leaders, state leaders, and celebrities’ exhibits different practices and style of morning. The magnitude of your status may call for a large audience mourning for you which may receive even international attention (Andrew 63).

In the modern world, technology has changed the face of mourning and especially on the number of people who mourn an individual. The presence of web has played a major role in increasing the number of individual that grief over the death of an individual (Stone & Pennebaker 17). For example the use of facebook, twitter, and blog spot among other internet service increases the segment of the public that are informed than the traditional media. This in most cases leave the question on whether the population of the mourners is real or false identification.

Mourning in the modern world has been used to serve various purposes which include teaching the world, making money, making celebrities, and raising money among other purposes. With increased technological innovations and improvement, these purposes have changed in their magnitude with time and the hauntology of death today.

Michael Jackson’s versus Princess Diana’s Deaths

Death and funeral of both Princes Diana and Michael Jackson can be taken as social dramas. Both went through the model of social drama which is recognized by four phases. These phases include breach or the social recapture of the norm, crisis which widens the breach, redressive action which is meant to contain the spread of the crisis, and lastly the integration which reorders the social norm.  In the first phase it can be found out that both had experienced divorces before but for Diana it may have attracted mass attention when she divorced Prince Charles, which can be considered as a melodrama.  There death, in crisis phase, can be considered as a tragic drama which was surrounded by mysteries and intrigues. Their burials in redressive phase and the following enquiries into their death was a theatrical performance.

Thenumber of mourners after Michael Jackson death was overwhelming when compared with Princess Diana and this was so due to the role played by the web.After the death of Michael Jackson, the news spread so first and the number of people who were mourning him was very large. People across the nations gathered in designated places to mourn his death. Being an entertainment celebrity, the majority of the mourners were his fun especially among the youth but this does not imply that the old generation did not mourn him for he was a world figure. As discussed earlier, the magnitude of mourning in most cases is determined by the status one hold in the society. Michael Jackson being an international figure in the entertainment realm commandeered a large number of mourners across the boarders. Other factors played a major role in the large number of mourners of Michael Jackson. In comparison with another public figure like Princess Diana, the number of mourners of Michael Jackson outstripped Diana’s mourners yet she was an international figure.

The death of Diana is considered to be an Aristotelian tragedy owing to the impact it had in international front.  It is considered a tragedy as it invoked fear and pity from millions of mourners around the world. Rather than creating a protocol through her relationship with real life situations and her audience and adorers, the death of Princes Diana came to be constructed through the media. The perception of her death in the media was constructed by her assertiveness in the loyal family and how she had became endeared to the public. Her death under the chase of paparazis sometimes appears more like a drama that is a tragedy drama.  Her death and funeral presents a global drama that had mass appeal. Her adorers were not only the consumers but also constructed by the event. The life, death, and funeral of Diana can be considered to be a quasi-sacred relic which shows how social dramas can be played locally and internationally. There were various issues ranging from AIDS, un-working and unhappy marriages, media, and others which she fought and which are still incarnated in her image.  There was a tragic emplotment of various events which surrounded her death and theatrical staging locally and internationally which showed a universal audience, which in a way may never have been. These perhaps are some issues that set the death and mourning of Princes Diana apart from Michael Jackson although both deaths have a dramatic staging.

Technology has played a major role in changing the face of mourning but this leaves us with doubt of mourners identification where we ask whether the number is real or false identification. In times of Princess Diana’s death, little had been done on internet media and thus web did not play a major role in her death and mourning. On the contrary, Michael Jackson death was well publicized through the web enabling large number of people to mourn him. This role of web of determining the number of people who mourns an individual leaves with the question of mourners’ identification. Services like blogspot, twitter, facebook, and wikipedia among others reported crash after the death of Michael Jackson. This shows the numerous messages that were cutting across the web net and as we know those who you communicate to through such services is not necessarily that you know them. When we mourn an individual we do so because we have certain attachment to those individual and we feel a loss when such individual departs from our lives. The number of people that received the news of Michael Jackson death did not necessarily mean that they had any attachment with his entertainment especially non-lovers of secular music. Nevertheless, by the virtue of getting the information on the web, they also expressed a loss and mourned his death. In the real sense, this was a false identification of Michael Jackson mourners (Stone &Pennebaker 24).

On the case of Princess Diana the issue of mourners’ identification does not arise. After the News were spread, only those who had close attachment to her and her work made some effort to take flowers and messages of their towards her death. It took a little more effort to mourn her than it was for Michael Jackson thus clearing the authenticity of her mourners (Andrew 43).

In the past decades, death was seen as a loss and played no important role in the future of the society. On the contrary, this has changed in the world today. Though death is still perceived as loss in the society in that the position the position that was occupied by the dead in the development of the society is left vacant, death do play a significant role in the development of the same society that lost (Rayner & Singh 16). This is explicit in the death of Princess Diana and Michael Jackson. In the case of Princess Diana, she has featured a number of times in contemporary art after her death. In a way, Princes Diana is said to have died although she is still much alive among her audience. These arts focus on her public and private life. As we known Diana was a woman of high-profile charity work, compassion as well as difficult marriage. These attributes of her life are used by artist as a way of educating the society on good virtue and the consequences of vice to the society. Apart from educating the society, the artists have contributed in the development of the economy though sales made from their work. Apart from the art work, her death led to opening of memorial sites in London and sites are centers of attraction leading to the wellbeing of the economy of the country. In the world of media, they have also benefited from deaths of great figures in the society through publicizing of information and especially when there arise an unclear basis of death of such figures. Media makes a caught on this by publicizing all sort of information they get regarding the cause of death (Andrew 34 Rayner & Singh 18). In the four stages of social drama, the death of Diana was a crisis stage that moved her from her life to a new status where her audience identified with her. It is still considered that though Princes Diana died, we are still alive, and this created a new reference to from “her” to “we”. Her burial was a theatrical performance which many thinks it was the latest and may be the last of such state performance.

In the case of Michael Jackson death, the significance to the society is totally different from Diana. Musician took advantage of his death to rise by releasing new song in memory of Michael Jackson. These songs sold very well unlike their previous songs. This led to personal improvement economically. Apart from the sale of other writers’ songs, Michael Jackson songs sale recorded the best sale in his life time. Songs that were not ranked in top songs were recorded among the top songs and increased the sale volumes of his songs.

In the two scenarios, a difference is evident on the significant of death and mourning in the world today. For the case of Princess Diana the benefits related to the death are more towards serving the entire community rather than serving individuals who are is a position to make caught out of it. On the other hand, Michael Jackson death seems to serve only few individual thus benefiting only a section of the society rather than the entire community. The interpretation of this is that as the world continues to become more modern, individualistic approach towards life is continuing to take centre stage and death and mourning are part of this recent development.

Apart from the positive aspect of death and mourning in the society, an opposite of the same is also evident in the case of the death of the two figures. In Princess Diana’s death some people in the society wanted to make money out of non significant issues. For example, a magazine was published in 2006 showing a paramedic trying to fix an oxygen mask over Princess. The editor of the magazine defended her action by saying he did so because it had not been seen. The aim behind such publication is well judged as a means of earning a living out of an episode and such action did not serve any significance to the society at the time, rather it was disrespect to the memory of the Princess. Michael Jackson death on the other hand does not lack element of people using the episode to make money. Few days after his death, concerts were thrown to his fun by other musician in the name of celebrating his live over the world. Though the theme of such concert was celebrating the life of Michael Jackson, there was a hidden theme which was publicizing of those musicians and making many out of such concert. A difference occurs on the way the vice of making money out of a tragedy is undertaken. In Princess case or in old days those who wanted to make money out of an event capitalized on the negative side of the episode. With this, they knew they would spur the society to want to know more about the issue under coverage thus increasing their publication. This some time did not go without being challenged and sometime the pioneer ended up losing. On the contrary those in the recent days are capitalizing on positive side of any event of death. This prevents them from encountering challenges from the wide society and in most cases they do realize their goals (Andrew 56).

It is commonly accepted that the present is determined by the past. Death and mourning has played a significant role in the development of the society (Holland 11). Michael Jackson death has led many to appreciate who they are and what they are regardless of circumstances that may be surrounding them. Michael Jackson had a controversial background of his life but this did not stop him from becoming a star in the entertainment field. On the other hand, Princess Diana did not have any controversy with the society but lived a life that was against her wishes. Both characters had big challenges in attaining their dreams due to different circumstances but they conquered their circumstances and rose to public figures. Their deaths serve as a stepping stone to the society to rise up and face their life challenges and make their present time brighter than ever before.


In conclusion, death and mourning has a significant role it plays in the social realms. Parts of these roles are positive towards society development while others are detrimental to the growth of any given society. This then calls for every individual in the society to embrace that which is positive after death and mourning for the benefit of shaping the society towards the right direction of development.

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