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Lately, it seems to be that there isn’t a week that goes by without news of a celebrity passing. With each death, another group of fans is left devastated. Each new one filling up my social media feed, and each one having one last five minutes of fame. Is this just mourning sickness in reaction to the media coverage of the death?
But why do we grieve for those we dont know? If we aren’t family should we grieve? The answer is yes. Regardless of personally knowing them, they created a gift or talent that ourselves, as fans enjoyed. The loss leaves us with the sudden reality that the last thing you saw, or heard is possibly the last thing they created.
People grieve in the finality of it all. One last song, one last film, one last time we see them in their craft. And that is saddening.
Personally, over the last few years, nothing affected me more than hearing David Bowie, Adam West, Carrie Fisher and Chester Bennington had passed away. Each one of these artists impacted my life, and to know they weren’t here to continue on mastering their craft really blew the wind out of my sails.
Bowie with his fashion forward image and sound. Fisher with her self empowerment and openness about living with mental health. Adam West bringing Batman to the small screen. Chester Bennington being a voice I needed in my teenage years fronting the band Linkin Park. Each one of these people shaped my impressionable years and I think I have the right to at least feel sad at their passing. I have invested my time, sometimes money and emotions into the person. so I do feel an attachment.
Social media is now the go to platform for our thoughts at all times. Replacing crying into your pillow, and having a good face to face with your friends. But with social media, there will be someone who feels the same way you do. This is why the internet is dangerous, as well as powerful. For every one person who accepts and understands the way you feel, there will be three or more people who will either try and capitalise on it or inform you your feelings are invalid due to the fact these celebrities are out of reach, and use that for their gain.
We’ve seen enough celebrities passing way to know what happens next. It begins with a mass of messages, Facebook statuses, images being shared, or quotes on twitter. It then travels to anger and disgust if the celebrity has died from an addiction or unfavourable circumstances. The shift then changes to the fans. Then after a very brief time, it seems they are forgotten, until someone else passes away with a similar circumstance. A very fickle cycle.
Maybe the animosity towards the grief for stars comes from a general dislike for the current term ‘celebrity’? Even if fame is earned through genuine talent, people are indifferent about it. It is not on the same level as a family member, or a close friend. But for many of us , celebrities can act as all of those things.
Famous people can influence our lives through their work, music or films. They help shape the soundtrack to our lives. We can take comfort from them which we may not find in our own loved ones.
We all deal with loss in our own way and your time will come. No matter how you express your grief when your idol passes away, let’s hope there’s someone who understands, whether in person or through a screen.
Mass grief, mourning sickness and how media plays a part
For those of you unfamiliar with the terms mass grief or mourning sickness, you can think of it as… a collective emotional state or condition that groups of people go through in the wake of a celebrity death or public trauma (like September 11). One of the best known examples is when Princess Diana passed away. Remember all those flowers outside Buckingham Palace and all those people crying? None of them knew her but all were deeply affected.
Mourning sickness has also been called ‘recreational grieving’ but don’t let the name fool you. It is not recreational in the common sense of the word. As opposed to conscious recreational (activities you choose to do), this form fits to the unconscious, something you will have no control over.
Mourning sickness is often seen as a by product of the media coverage on a topic or how social media is relating to an issue. Using celebrity deaths as an example (think of Princess Diana or Michael Jackson for the moment), the media coverage was hyper-attentive and bordered on intrusive or voyeuristic. This type of coverage has become known as ‘grief porn’. It may be a cynical view but look at any news paper. Most of the time, it is bad news that make the headlines.
As I alluded to above, there is nothing abnormal about crying over someone you don’t know. You invested time (and sometimes money) into them and built a real emotional connection even though you never came in contact. Mass grief and mourning sickness are normal conditions. They can be amplified by media coverage but ultimately, it comes down to your personal connection to the person or public trauma being grieved.
What are your views on grieving celebrity deaths and mourning sickness?
Do you have a view on anything talked about in this article? Do you agree that mourning sickness is real? Let us know in the comment box below.