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Coping with the death of a celebrity that profoundly affected our lives can be difficult.
The death of a celebrity can bring about a mix of emotions, ranging from grief to nostalgia.
-Dr. Jason Holland, Lifespark
Even though we may have never met the person in “real life” that doesn’t necessarily make it feel any less personal. After all, these are people that we grew up with, welcomed into our homes, and shared with family and friends.
In 2018 so far, we’ve said goodbye to a number of celebrities, including Anthony Bourdain, Margot Kidder, Kate Spade, Neil Simon and Aretha Franklin (just to name a few), prompting an outpouring of remembrances and comments across all channels of social media.
Saying Goodbye to Celebrities We Lost in 2017
The death of a celebrity (as well as others’ reaction to it) can bring about a mix of emotions, ranging from grief to nostalgia. Such reactions are perfectly normal.
It is also normal to want to honor that person’s memory and/or participate in public remembrances. If you were personally affected by a celebrity’s death and feel moved to engage in such rituals, here are some thoughts on coping with the loss of a public figure.
1. Celebrate their life and work.
A great way to celebrate the memories and positive feelings that a celebrity brought into our lives is to reconnect with the films, music, and television shows that made you fall in love with him or her. Better yet, invite those you shared them with to join you in this celebration.
2. Share in a community of grievers.
Sharing a favorite memory of a celebrity in a public forum, like Facebook or Twitter, can help to connect us with a larger community of grievers who were similarly affected by the death. When done with sincerity and respect, such expressions are typically well received. But post on social media responsibly and consider that there are people out there who may be distressed and triggered by emotionally-evocative posts. More on that below.
3. Take stock of what can be learned from the experience.
These losses can also impact us because they serve as a reminder of the fragility and transience of life, particularly if the death was sudden and untimely. In this respect, such an experience can provide an opportunity to reflect on the impermanence of life, re-evaluate what’s important, appreciate the time that we still have left, or emotionally prepare for future losses.
4. If you were already feeling down, take good care of yourself and limit your exposure to news and social media commentary on the death.
The limited research on celebrity deaths suggests that people who are already feeling distressed and having difficulty finding meaning in life can end up feeling worse after frequent exposure to news and social media reports about the death. For example, large-scale studies have found a slight uptick in suicide attempts in the early aftermath of a celebrity’s death. So, if you were already feeling low and find yourself drawn to the media chatter surrounding a celebrity’s death, make sure to give yourself a break from the hoopla and carve out time to take care of yourself. And if you are feeling really overwhelmed, consider talking to a professional.
What is your favorite memory of a celebrity we said goodbye to recently? Share your goodbye to a celebrity that has passed in the comments below. We want to hear your stories!
Fu, K. W., & Yip, P. S. (2009). Estimating the risk for suicide following the suicide deaths of 3 Asian entertainment celebrities: A meta-analytic approach. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 70, 869-878.
Koburger, N., Mergl, R., Rummel-Kluge, C., Ibelshäuser, A., Meise, U., Postuvan, V., … & Hegerl, U. (2015). Celebrity suicide on the railway network: Can one case trigger international effects?. Journal of Affective Disorders, 185, 38-46.
Lee, J., Lee, W. Y., Hwang, J. S., & Stack, S. J. (2014). To what extent does the reporting behavior of the media regarding a celebrity suicide influence subsequent suicides in South Korea?. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, 44, 457-472.
Yang, A. C., Tsai, S. J., Yang, C. H., Shia, B. C., Fuh, J. L., Wang, S. J., … & Huang, N. E. (2013). Suicide and media reporting: a longitudinal and spatial analysis. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 48, 427-435.