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Zayn Malik has left One Direction.

Why am I blogging about that? I can hear you asking the question right now. Why do we care about a pop group?

And the answer is, we probably don’t. But, as fans, as geeks, we care about our own fandoms. We cry when our favourite characters are killed off (in some cases we throw the book across the room and stomp off to bed to sulk…). We get upset when people we like leave a TV series. Some of us (and I’m looking at you, Firefly fans) are still campaigning to have our favourite series re-instated over a decade after it last aired. Why are our fandoms more legitimate than those of others?

Recently we lost Terry Pratchett. And while some of us are mourning him as a friend, many more of us are mourning the loss of someone we may never have met, someone we only really knew through his writing. We’re mourning him as fans.

While Zayn Malik might not be dead, to his fandom, it’s almost as if he has died, and their grief is both real and legitimate. To a lot of these (predominantly) very young girls, this is their first experience of real, genuine grief – most of them won’t have lost parents or grandparents. Some of them might not even have experienced the death of a pet.

Let them mourn his departure. Let them learn how to deal with bereavement in a safe way, and let them learn that the passage of time soothes even the deepest hurt. Let them learn this as a painful part of growing up, and hope that they will gain the skills to cope with future losses. Don’t belittle their sadness; these fans are genuinely bereft and struggling. Their fandom may not be the same as yours, but that doesn’t make it any less real, or any less important to them.

Be kind.