Why Do We Cry When Celebrities Die?

After the death of Diana, Princess of Wales in the summer of 1997, there was a public out-pour, of grief, for her tragic passing. At the time, I heard a few shallow voices, say “How can you mourn somebody you never met.” How can you cry over somebody you never knew.” Back then, as an eighteen year old, I didn’t have all the answers to why the tragedy has upset me. I just thought that it was because I had an empathy for Diana’s friends and family, and in particular, her two young sons, Princes William and Harry.

Recently, I have been reflecting on death and how its occurrence can affect people in different ways. Mourning, is a weird one. I have known people not to grieve their parent’s passing but then grieve for a celebrity’s.

In my experience the proximity of the deceased to the mourner on the family tree, is largely irrelevant. The deceased may have come from the same branch as the mourner, or the branch above or the branch below, it. doesn’t really matter. The deceased may not even have been from the same tree or forest. Again, it doesn’t matter. What does matter, however, is how far the celebrity’s roots, for example, reach into your heart and into your soul. You don’t mourn the loss of what you know about a person, but how they made you feel. I mean, somebody can bring joy into your life and you may never have met them. You are then, in fact, mourning the feeling, the emotion they gave you. That’s why my friend did not mourn the death of her father, but did, the celebrity. It’s because her father had been extremely abusive, attaching horrible emotions to their relationship. On the other hand the celebrity gave her joy and happiness through the power of song. So there you have it, we mourn what’s inside the shell of the relationship – the feeling of happiness and joy – not the shell itself.

We, as humans, create bonds. It what makes us, well, human. Bonds, since the dawning of time, have become a method of survival – strength in numbers. In groups we were able to hunt larger animals, and protect ourselves against larger animals and hostile tribes. This animalistic instinct has never left us, and is why we connect so much with celebrities. The ones we fall in love with give use good feelings. They milk, within us, all those feel good hormones. It’s the excretion of these hormones that protect against depression and as a result can boost our immune systems. Therefore, when they die, their passing can leave us feeling vulnerable. And, as such, we may mourn them as a friend or even family member

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