As you can imagine, I have been receiving calls and emails this morning from the press asking me to provide tips on “the loss of Zayn Malik” from One Direction. At first glance, I thought he might have died and quickly looked up the story so I could comment effectively. But he didn’t die– he is simply leaving the group to move in a different direction– one away from his One Direction life. In fact, he declared that he wanted to live as a “normal 22 year old.”
Fans have reacted with everything from well wishes to anger to depression to extreme frustration and sadness. Why?
Social media and reality shows allow fans to have an all-access pass to watching and experiencing the growth, hopes and successes of their favorite stars over time. These young celebrities start out just like their fans in many ways– unknown and hopeful. Involved fans root for their favorite unknowns, cheer for them and even vote for them as they become a recognized entity and eventually, a star. But rather than these stars feeling untouchable to fans, they feel more like friends and family members.
Adding to what I view as the “reality effect,” music has an added benefit of creating and putting an indelible mark on our memories– providing a time stamp on important moments in our lives. It’s as if these stars are present in our lives, offering a comfort on bad days and a celebratory song on good ones.
So it’s not surprising that when Zayn Malik said his farewells to One Direction, many fans started grieving his loss as if he was walking out of their lives. It’s a break up for them, too. Fan watched him move from young hopeful to star from X-Factor to international recognition. And now he’s leaving.
While it may seem silly to many, parents and mentors can provide an ear to listen and a shoulder to cry on as their devoted teens watch Zayn Malik move forward with his life. Shrugging off your child’s feelings will not win you any awards– so be empathetic without matching their intensity. You may even remember and share how you felt about a musician when you were younger but know that without the internet, you didn’t get as close and share in the life of that band member like your child feels s/he did.
As we know, time heals all wounds and of course, devoted fans can remember the good times simply by turning on One Direction and dancing to their hearts content. That’s the great thing about music– you can listen to it just as you remember it, over and over.
And of course, devoted fans can still watch their favorite group move One Direction forward without Zayn Malik– a change, yes, but as many of us can attest, change can be good even if it’s different.
Fans can also cheer for Zayn as he continues to post about his life independent of One Direction. They may even feel happy for him once the sting subsides– and as all pain does, this one will too.
So– bottom line. You may think it’s ridiculous but your devoted teen is really feeling pain and experiencing what they see as a real loss. Be gentle with them. They’ll thank you for it.