Celebrity Deaths ;(

Olivia S (Year 11)

It can be strange to grieve celebrity deaths, feeling as if you knew the person who died. When a beloved celebrity dies, even if this person was a complete stranger, it can feel as if you have lost an acquaintance or even a friend. Of course, it is not exactly the same. You have nothing to hold onto — no memories of times you spent together, no old articles of their clothing, no cards they sent you or texts you saved.  

Instead, it’s a different kind of grief, one marked by unrequited crushes, big screens, packed theatres, and a distinct sense of loyalty and adoration you’ve probably never felt for someone you actually know.  

We have so much contact with actors, pop stars, royalty, and politicians thanks to social media, movies, magazines, and television that we genuinely believe we know them. They become a component of our day-to-day lives, being exposed to them constantly. When a celebrity dies, there can be an outpouring of grief that is overwhelming, as seen in the deaths of Princess Diana, President John F. Kennedy, Elvis Presley or Kobe Bryant. 

We didn’t know them personally, but we were all devastated. Celebrities are relatively significant parts of our lives, and the relationships you form with them (though they are one-sided), become comfortable and significant.  

According to clinical counsellor Rachel O’Neill, Ph.D., feeling grief after a celebrity’s death is common because of the connections and attachments we form towards them. “Celebrities connect with us, and even though we didn’t personally know them, their presence is still felt in our lives,” she says. “For example, maybe the individual was an integral part of your childhood in some way. Maybe they were your first crush or maybe they represented an ideal, something you hoped that you could be. Or perhaps the celebrity held a particular important memory in your life — for example, they starred in a TV show that you watched growing up. In those cases, the death can feel like a loss of that particular part of your past.” 

A recent celebrity death that shook the world was the beloved actress and singer, Olivia Newton-John. She died at age 73 after numerous years battling breast cancer. The attachments formed by so many people to Olivia caused her death to be felt deeply by everyone, particularly because of her role as Sandy in Grease.  

Olivia Newton-John was a woman for all seasons: she was a singer and songwriter, an actress, an activist, a mother, and a health advocate. We easily turn to Sandy Olsson, the Australian schoolgirl who romantically upended the all-American Rydell High School in the film Grease, when we are looking for a single snapshot to frame from her life. It was the pinnacle of her career for generations of fans, and everyone who saw her became hopelessly devoted…  

Celebrities are a bigger part of our lives than most people care to admit. We love them, we form relationships with them, and we mourn for them. Although celebrity infatuation may be an outgrowth of this tendency, which is fuelled by media and technology, they are a part of us, nonetheless.