Why Do Celebrity Deaths Impact Us

The tragic passing last week of NBA superstar Kobe Bryant stirred strong emotions for some people.

It’s helpful to notice our emotional reaction to grief, as it can connect us to one another, and to the practice of gratitude.

Almost every single one of us can name a celebrity death that affected us. Maybe it was a famous performer who we enjoyed like Prince or David Bowie. It might have been someone who had a lasting impact on the world around us like Steve Jobs or Congressman Elijah Cummings. 

Why can the death of a stranger move us to tears? 

To a large degree it is because we feel like we have a relationship with them. They may not know us, but we know them. 

Due to social media and our 24/7 news and celebrity coverage, it has only become more prevalent in today’s society. Tabloids, magazines, and even some television stations feed this sort of interaction. The result is us becoming even more emotionally attached to our movie stars, athletes, and reality stars.

This all leads us to experience deeper feelings of grief when celebrities do pass, and perhaps we grieve more today over the death of a celebrity because of the way media saturates our lives. 

Social media has given us a new platform and opportunity to grieve publicly, both with friends and family as well as with strangers. For evidence of this, compare the passing of Prince last year to that of John Lennon in 1980. 

When John Lennon died, fans could only express their grief openly and publicly by gathering together at his apartment building leaving flowers and signs. By contrast, when Prince passed away fans had Facebook and Twitter to “gather on” and express their feelings and memories of him.

When it comes to grieving a celebrity’s death, what’s normal and what’s not?

Obviously, there are no statistics on how many people grieve over celebrities, but it is safe to say that it is fairly common. Grief from the loss of a celebrity is going to depend on each individual and their perceived connection to that celebrity. Loss of musicians tends to impact fans more, as often we connected with their music on a deeply emotional level.

Generally speaking, the death of a celebrity is not going to hit a fan as hard as the death of a family member would. While it is completely natural to feel sad, cry, or even feel anger about the passing of a celebrity, tune in to how long you remain in that kind of state and seek help if you feel increased anxiety or depression.