The grief process regarding celebrity deaths

Photo of Chris Cornell via
Photo of Chris Cornell via

Mourning people admired by millions

By Cazzy Lewchuk, Opinions Editor

David Bowie. Prince. Carrie Fisher. Most recently, at the time of this writing, Chris Cornell.

Far too often we hear of another beloved entertainer passing away. No doubt we’ll see another famous name trending soon due to tragic circumstances. Inevitably, we will see memorials and expressions wherever we look in the days that follow. #RIPCelebrityName will start trending, your friends will suddenly reveal how much they’ve “always” enjoyed their work, and tributes of various appropriateness will pop up around the world.

Don’t mock people for feeling sad for celebrities. Death is a very sad thing, and it’s even more tragic when the star was still active and making work. It’s sad to realize we will never hear David Bowie sing again, or watch Princess Leia in Episode IX. These are people whose faces and voices were known to nearly all of us.

The works of celebrities bring joy to millions of people around the world, sometimes for decades. They are people we grow up watching, admiring, and listening to. We may not know them personally, but we can gauge perceptions from their image and interviews.

It’s all the more tragic when the celebrity dies in an accident or from some other unnatural cause. No life is long enough, but when someone who isn’t even a senior citizen kicks the bucket it comes as a larger shock. It’s a bad reminder of our own mortality. We live vicariously through celebrities in their music and movies, so knowing that there won’t be anything new from them is difficult.

When a celebrity dies, it’s not just that person—it’s the little bit of each of us associated with them that dies as well. I have fond memories of jamming to David Bowie. Soundgarden and Audioslave were staples of my dad’s radio stations. And what hormonal teenager didn’t have funny thoughts about Princess Leia in that golden bikini?

Death is a part of life. Celebrities aren’t immune to it, but their popularity may make their passing more meaningful to more people. We may not have personally known them, but we did know their influence on our lives. When someone like that dies, it hits close to home.