Grief: when celebrities touch our lives

The death of a high-profile individual, such as Muhammad Ali, can have a profound effect.

Grieving for a celebrity

Often when we think about grieving it’s in regards to the passing of our family members and friends. The concept of mourning those who we did not know personally might seem strange, but it is a very real phenomenon. This year many influential artists, performers and public figures have passed away. The death of a high-profile individual, such as David Bowie or Muhammad Ali, can have a profound effect on us.

The news of any death makes us reflect not only upon our relationship with the deceased, but also our own mortality. And the passing of a celebrity or famous person is no different. Those who live their lives in the public eye can have a significant influence on our own lives through their music, acting, writing, leadership etc. So the death of such a role model or inspiration has the potential to leave us in a state of shock and with a sense of loss.

The most important thing is to not deny or suppress this sadness – it is not any less valid than grief associated with the death of a loved one. As with any instance of grief, you need to allow yourself the time and space to work through the sense of loss that you’re experiencing. One of the best ways to do this is to talk about what you’re feeling with someone who you trust. More often than not, sharing what you’re going through when grieving helps you to process what has happened and to have your feelings validated.

When it’s someone in the public eye who has it died, it can be difficult to express to others, who perhaps don’t have a connection, your sense of loss. This is where online forums may be a good outlet to share your grief and feelings – but just be aware that not everyone on social media is there as a positive influence.

In 2016 we have lost many notable individuals, including David Bowie, Prince, Natalie Cole, Muhammad Ali, Alan Rickman, Ronnie Corbett, Jon English, Gene Wilder, Harper Lee, Bobby Vee, and Leonard Cohen – and with such loss comes the quotes from those who knew them well. These quotes can be comforting and provide an insight into how others saw them.

"David was a great star and I treasure the moments we had together… His music played a very strong part in British musical history and I'm proud to think of the huge influence he has had on people all around the world."
Sir Paul McCartney on David Bowie

"Muhammad Ali shook up the world. And the world is better for it. We are all better for it." 
US President Barack Obama

“For many of us Leonard Cohen was the greatest songwriter of them all. Utterly unique and impossible to imitate.”
Nick Cave

The value of expressing your grief, whether it’s for someone you knew well or someone who has touched you through their work, should never be underestimated.

Have you been particularly affected by the death of someone if the public eye?



    To make a comment, please register or login
    22nd Dec 2016
    I mourn the loss of so many who have given me pleasure through their music, writing and acting during my lifetime. Some people do go over the top and carry on as if they were personal friends of the deceased; celebrity worship has expanded with the internet and social media and for some it seems to be an obsession. Zsa Zsa Gabor shuffled off the other day. She, her sisters and her mother were the 50/60s equivalent of the Kardashians- gold diggers with no talent other than being famous for re-marrying. Zsa Zsa was in an episode of Mr.Ed once- the horse emerged with the acting honours! Takes all kinds I suppose.
    22nd Dec 2016
    I lost my best mate recently through an accident it was a hell of a shock to me but fortunately I had some close friends to talk to to ease my grief as I live overseas & couldn't get back to Australia to pay my respects.I think the same apply s to any famous person that dies & you have respect for to be able to express your sadness.

    22nd Dec 2016
    Why not? They are people, well most of them, anyway.
    23rd Dec 2016
    I grieved for the Syrian man who was the face of their atrocities - begging us to pray for the children of Aleppo. Does that count?
    I grieved when finding my ancestor died in abject poverty in the cold - and yet 200 years later their is nothing I can do about it.
    Is it just empathy or is it helplessness - I don't know - yet it haunts me.
    As for celebrities - no - we all have one life and they lived theirs to the fullest.
    28th Dec 2016
    Some die way too young due to the pressure of never having any privacy and turning to drugs illegal and legal, alcohol and other ways of escaping the constant attention.

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