Why Do Celebrity Deaths Make Us Grieve So Much?

By Roshni Ramesan

Despite having never met them, a lot of people feel an overwhelming sadness whenever a celebrity dies.

We’re only halfway through the catastrophic disaster that is the year of 2020 and yet we’ve already lost so many people, either due to the coronavirus or otherwise.

As the number of coronavirus fatalities keeps rising, it seems we have almost become desensitized to the suffering of other people.

One thing that hasn’t changed despite a pandemic is how much we collectively grieve the loss of a celebrity.

The entire nation came together to publicly grieve the deaths of Irrfan Khan, Rishi Kapoor and more recently, Sushant Singh Rajput.

So why is it that we feel so deeply sad for people we never personally knew?

Just to be clear, your grief is valid

Grief is something that you must give space to be experienced. Pushing your feelings down for the fear of ridicule by others is not healthy.

“Feelings are signals-if you feel sad about a loss, it’s a signal it had some meaning to you,” says clinical psychologist Natalia Skritskaya, Ph.D. at Columbia University.

Celebrities are supposed to be immortal

Celebrities seemingly exist in another realm, one without the concept of time.

When we listen to certain music or watch movies, we consider them to be timeless, we can watch them over and over again and the actors don’t grow old.

In the back of our minds, we believe that they will live forever.

So when the news of their death reaches us, we become surprised and sad at the fact that they’ll never make new art again.

It also forces us to confront our own mortality, the fact that someday our loved ones will also die and so will we.

It feels personal yet public

The death of a celebrity is a public matter.

It seems obvious that the death of a public figure would involve public displays of sadness, commonly through social media.

And yet, the losses feel personal because celebrities are part of our lives, they may have played a character that you related with, they may have written songs that are associated with a defining moment of your life or they may have created art that was part of your childhood.

When they die, a little part of our past dies along with them.

Social media allows you to take part in collective mourning. Sharing pictures, old videos or recounting the highlights of the celebrity’s life becomes a sort of ritual that helps to get over grief healthily.

Give yourself time to feel the grief by identifying and exploring it through writing or talking about it.

When a celebrity dies, their faces are plastered everywhere for a while after their death. After a while, some people may find it distressing to be constantly badgered by seeing them all the time, making it difficult to deal with grief.

In such situations, you should limit the consumption of news on the topic of their death. This isn’t done to avoid feeling sad but simply to not get overwhelmed by details of their lives which will inevitably be talked about for a while after their death.

People get over their sadness in their ways, what works for one doesn’t necessarily work for the other.

Robert Frost once said, “The best way out is always through.” We must get through our bad days to get to the good ones and the best way to do that is by making our way through them, one step at a time.

Originally published at https://edtimes.in on June 23, 2020.

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