Grief Counselor Shares 3 Reasons Why We Mourn the Deaths of Celebrities

December 28th 2016

This year has had its fair share of loss with the deaths of several public figures and celebrities, most recently actress Carrie Fisher who died Tuesday after suffering a heart attack.

The death of a public figure, celebrity or influencer can leave many in mourning even if they don't personally know the person. 

Mourning a celebrity death isn't the same as that of a family member or close friend, and no one is trying to equate the two, as they're different kinds of losses. The death of someone in your family like a sibling, for example, is a deep and personal loss compared to the loss of a well-known actor or musician.

So why is it that we grieve over people we didn't even know personally?

ATTN: spoke with David Kessler, grief and healing specialist and best-selling author, who revealed the three main reasons people mourn the death of celebrities.   

1. "Grief is a reflection of a connection that we've lost."

Kessler wrote a Facebook post on Wednesday about public grief, in which he noted the debate about "public grief" and whether or not it exists. "The answer is yes it is real grief," he wrote in the post.

"First of all, grief is a reflection of a connection that we've lost," Kessler told ATTN:. "So if you think of grief as a connection, of course we connect with a Carrie Fisher or a George Michael. Of course, we connect with celebrities."

2. They were part of our upbringing and growth. 

He explained that while you may not have known the celerity or public figure that the person still may have played a role in your upbringing. 

"We may have not known them, but they help us know ourselves," Kessler said. "Their songs may help us know [ourselves], we may remember where we were when the first 'Star Wars' came out or what it was like to see Carrie Fisher in the newer 'Star Wars,' and they connect us to our youth. And help us know ourselves a little better."

3. We want them to have "happy endings."

Though our favorite celebrities may not be our real friends and family, we're still rooting for them - so to speak and a sudden, premature death isn't how we want to see their careers or lives end.

"They become so familiar to us, we don't want to be surprised by their ending and we want them to have a happy ending. So we don't like hearing that George Michael was alone on Christmas when he died. That doesn't feel good for someone we knew, so it produces sadness in us," Kessler explained. 

You're allowed to mourn.

Just because you didn't know them personally doesn't mean you're not allowed to feel sadness in their deaths. Kessler offered a suggestion for those who may wonder how to mourn the passing of a public individual.

"You can do something as simple as lighting a candle in their honor," Kessler suggested. "You can do something as if it were grandma but you're not going to her funeral, but you're lighting a candle in their honor."

And grieving on social media is perfectly fine, too, Kessler added.

"Social media is like the new town square," Kessler said. "The really wonderful thing about social media, is it allows like-minded people to get together."

Lastly, he suggested that if there's a party or event in their honor — go. "Whether it's going to their star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame or going to a concert or something public in their honor, go to it," Kessler urged, adding that then you won't have to grieve alone. 

Share your opinion

Was there a celebrity death this year that made you particularly sad?

No 11%Yes 89%