We’re Only Worth Who We Know

I’d never heard of Amie Harwick before today. I’d only vaguely paid attention to the name Drew Carey. I certainly wouldn’t have been able to identify them, or said what they were known for. A friend posted on Facebook this morning about her death, and it was odd because the headline spoke of her as the latter’s ex-fiancée. It was hard for me to understand why I should care about the ex-fiancée of a second-tier celebrity I barely knew.

I had to do some digging to discover that Amie Harwick is a therapist in Hollywood, primarily focused on sex and relationships. She had helped a great number of people with overcoming abuse and difficult mental health issues, and was apparently killed by a former boyfriend, Gareth Pursehouse, against whom she had had a restraining order.

It seems to have been a senseless, tragic death, but the fact is I only know about it because of a tangential connection to someone the media thinks people care about. If she hadn’t once been engaged to Drew Carey, it would have been a second-tier back page new article, or possibly just an obituary.

Of course, people die every day. People are murdered, commit suicide, die of old age … it’s literally part of the world, and part of life. It isn’t possible to be as upset about the death of a stranger as it is about the death of a loved one. But, when someone with a greater sphere of influence dies, there are naturally a wider range of people who are affected by it. Think of when Robin Williams died, or more recently, Kobe Bryant. Their families were presumably devastated, but so was the world.

It seems that the greatest celebrities in the world – those with the greatest influence over strangers they’ve never met – are entertainers. Perhaps it makes sense that we mourn our entertainers the most; after all, they provide us escape from the pain of the world around us. But when someone who truly did the world good, who made life better for other people through their dedication and work, it seems unfair that they aren’t mourned for their work, but rather for who they were in relation to others who were better known than they were.

What’s particularly upsetting is that most new outlets seem not to have even bothered to reference who she was; only who she knew. Her worth to the media was in her relationship to a comedian – an entertainer. Not even an active relationship – a past one.

It’s enough to make me wonder – who am I? Am I myself, a person of my own with my own virtues and values? Am I just a husband? Am I a father? What is it that defines me?

I can’t pretend to have answers to these questions – they’re going to be different for every individual, of course. But it just seems sad to me to only be known as an attachment to some other person, as if you were owned by them, a part of them, and not a whole person of your own. And this sadness only enhances the tragedy of death, because it devalues who the person was in life.

Amie Harwick was a therapist, a child, and adult, and a whole person of her own. She deserves to be mourned for her own death, and not someone else’s loss.

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