Here's How Celebrity Deaths Affect Our Mental Health

We love our celebrities. Whether it's a singer whose song reminds us of our first kiss at senior prom or an actor who helped empower us after a bitter breakup, we experience a certain connection to celebrities. Social media allows us to get even closer to celebrities as they share intimate details of their lives. Even being a fan connects us to other fans, which gives us a sense of belonging.

When a celebrity dies, we often feel just the same grief as if it was a friend or family member, according to Choosing Therapy. This grief can significantly impact our mental health. A celebrity death makes us sad — but we could also experience anger, helplessness, and anxiety. If the celebrity died suddenly in a boating or car accident, we might also experience shock. Celebrity deaths could have us caught up in ruminating about the circumstances behind their death. We might also feel disenfranchised if our friends and family don't feel the same way we do. Because we feel we can't share our grief, we may end up feeling lonely.

Why we grieve over celebrities

If you think about it, it seems crazy that we would grieve over the death of someone we don't know. Yet it's common for us to form parasocial relationships with celebrities, especially in the age of social media (via Psychology Today). Parasocial relationships are one-sided relationships where the other person (i.e. the celebrity) might not know you exist. We develop these relationships to help us through some mental health issues, provide an escape from stress, or add entertainment to our lives.

We may also feel connected to certain celebrities because we're projecting our emotional needs onto that person. The celebrity could also have certain characteristics we can relate to or possess traits we desire to have. A celebrity's work might bookmark a specific chapter in our lives, making their passing feel particularly meaningful.

Because a celebrity's life is idealized in the media, deep down we tend to believe that this person is immortal. This belief can make a celebrity's death come as a surprise. Their death can remind us of our own mortality. It may bring up memories, or fear of losing a close friend or family member.

How to grieve over a celebrity death

It's perfectly normal to feel grief when your favorite celebrity dies. Give yourself some time to mourn, and allow yourself to lean into the loss. Use this time to reflect on how the celebrity had a positive impact on your life. You could revisit your favorite song by the artist or movie by the actor to honor their memory. If the celebrity's death is significantly impacting your life, consult a therapist or other mental health professional to help you.

A favorite celebrity might have given us a sense of identity and belonging, and their death might threaten this identity, according to Choosing Therapy. If the celebrity had a particular illness, raising awareness for this illness can help you find meaning and community. If you feel lonely after the death of a celebrity, attending a public memorial will help connect you with other people who are grieving. You can honor your favorite celebrity by creating fan fiction or fan art. Most importantly, it's important to take care of yourself while you are grieving by eating a healthy diet, connecting with others, and engaging in activities that bring you joy.