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Why do celebrity deaths impact us so much?

Chadwick Boseman posing for the camera

© Provided by Evening Standard

Scrolling through Twitter on a Saturday morning in August last year and seeing Chadwick Boseman had passed away, I caught myself almost by surprise by the overwhelming and instantaneous pang of loss I felt. I was never a Chadwick superfan (I’ve watched Black Panther like everyone else), but on that day I found myself sobbing uncontrollably, watching interview after interview and insatiably trying to consume all I could about his life. 

I was struck by this same sensation when we lost Caroline Flack, Kobe Bryant and Naya Rivera last year too, and I know I’m not alone.

Yesterday, a Twitter user posed the question: “What death of a famous person hit you the hardest?”, and was inundated with emotional responses and tributes to everyone from Robin Williams to David Bowie to Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Every time a major icon passes away, particularly when their death is untimely, social media is flooded with sentimental tributes and expressions of personal grief and shock. 

It can feel slightly embarrassing and almost childlike to mourn a celebrity. After all, logically it doesn’t make much sense to feel so attached to someone you’ve never met and so profoundly impacted when they depart.

There are always those quick to trivialise your grief by reminding you that “people die every day” and the lives of celebrities are no more important than anyone else’s. While this is true of course, these feelings of loss are still valid. 

It’s certainly a strange iteration of grief. There is nothing specific or tangible to grasp onto – no memories of spending time together, no old photos to look through or funny texts you’ve saved. It’s instead a nostalgic sense of sadness marked perhaps by first crushes, childhood memories or a feeling of loyalty and idolisation unique to the cult of celebrity. Maybe they were an integral part of your childhood in some way or shaped a particularly important moment in your life. In those cases, their death can feel like the closure of a chapter of your past. 

In any case, in a year where we have all become far too well acquainted with grief, I think it can only be a positive thing to learn not to be ashamed of these feelings, no matter what form they take. 

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Written by deadceleb

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