Recently we were all shocked by the news that Robin Williams died – and even more shocked when we learned he took his own life. I remember hearing people everywhere talking about how he did it or why:
“Was it drugs? I heard he had struggled with drugs his whole life.”
“Was it because of his family life? I heard he has had serious relationship problems.”
“Being famous goes to your head. He just got to be too famous and couldn’t handle it.”
Regardless of the real reasons why or how, people need to try and make sense of something they don’t understand. Especially when it is a celebrity. Talking about it helps us make sense of it, and also helps us with our grieving.
“But when we didn’t know the person – when it’s Robin Williams, for example – we’re left grasping for a palatable explanation for the sickness we feel: It’s because we loved his movies. It’s because they touched us deeply. It’s because he meant so much to us. He changed our lives.” Source)
Even though we did not actually know the person, most of us had some kind of relationship with this person through the characters they portrayed. I remember watching ‘Mork and Mindy’ as a kid, as well as all of Robin’s comedy routines and amazing movies. Some really sit hard in my memory because in some way I could really relate to the story and, therefore, relate to the character who was Robin Williams. So we feel a sense of loss of this person who we did not know but felt a relationship with based on how he made us feel.
Think back to some other celebrity deaths and remember how people reacted to those… While preparing this article I read several other articles about celebrity deaths and the reactions to the death as social media explodes with expressions of bereavement as well as many other positive and negative articulations. Some theories say that it is a totally selfish assertion: “Look at me, I’m sad.” Another explanation was that we actually feel like this celebrity is a part of our lives, as family or friends. And even still, another theory is based on our fear of death and dying.
“We’re all terrified of death, but no one wants or knows how to talk about it. That terror bubbles to the surface at moments like these, after a national tragedy, or the death of a celebrity; but it’s almost always sublimated into a form – what some might call “homogenized grief” – that’s more manageable, less queasy-making, easier than the truth to articulate and explain away. We try to rationalize our feelings through the safety of boilerplate lamentations, because the alternative – to accept that we’re scared… by the fact of our contingent nature, that we too will someday expire – is too hard to internalize, much less accept.”
Finally, I just want to say that it is absolutely normal to feel sad or a sense of loss after a celebrity dies. You have your own reasons for feeling the way you do and it is perfectly okay. It is also okay to talk about how you feel. Talking about it helps us work through our feelings and helps us grieve the loss – even if we did not actually know the person who died.
To learn more about grief and healing, visit our website www.schoedinger.com and click on the Grief Support tab or click on the following link http://www.schoedinger.com/grief-and-healing/
Julie is the Director of Community Relations at Schoedinger Funeral Service.