Fans gathered at a memorial site to grieve a celebrity's death


Four reasons we grieve the death of a celebrity

I miss Prince already, and I never even met him.

Many patients have told me this week they are surprised to experience such strong emotions after the untimely death of Prince. In fact, media reports depict grief related to Prince as wide-spread across the globe, rather than just here in Minnesota. The reasons for this are many.

1. Denial. Many people don’t want to connect with the reality that we all have a limited time here on this earth, so his death rips the bandage off this illusion. In our ever-hurried lifestyles we often don’t want to take time to think about our mortality. Thus, thoughts of death are repressed until a rude awakening, such as Prince’s sudden death. We are unwillingly jolted out of denial.

2. Too close to home. A celebrity impacts us through complex modes of communication, connecting with us through a variety of mediums, while eliciting emotions (at different venues) with multiple sensory experiences. This composite of impressions makes the celebrity seem larger than life. Without realizing how we have identified with someone like Prince, we are incognizant of how close his death can be to our hearts. We then may feel it is “too close to home.” Further, with Prince’s home here in Minnesota, we identify more deeply; this is too close for many, and we have difficulty tolerating the reality and finality of it all.

3. Nostalgia. Many people “grew up” with Prince as we transitioned in life from one stage to another, to the point that he almost seemed like a member of our extended family even if we didn’t know him personally. His death may feel like a close or distant relative has died, as if we believe we knew the star. As if he belonged to us, and we to him. Then, our memories get triggered when we hear a song by the deceased artist, leading us to thoughts and experiences we may have not had since our adolescence or youth. This nostalgia can be quite sentimental.  

4. Sense of community. The death of a star gives many of us a common connection. We all need a sense of community and connection from cradle to grave, as we don’t thrive without a sense of belongingness. Sharing thoughts and grief about a celebrity’s loss can create a universal human connection that is consoling to the soul.

It’s important to remember who Prince truly was. Recent media reports display an adult who individuated to become philanthropic in a quiet and humble manner. His sense of identity that motivated him to give back to others demonstrates a life ‘well-lived’.

Whether you appreciated Prince or not, I invite you to focus on what is important to you in a life well-lived. This includes taking time to notice – and savor – the “little” things on a daily basis. Of course if they are purple, please let me know!  


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