New York State Funeral Directors Association

Why we Grieve When a Celebrity Dies

Many of us feel a unique kind of grief when a celebrity dies. Although this grief is not as overwhelming as when we lose a friend or loved one, we still feel sad when a famous person dies. Celebrities are truly larger than life.

Their activities are widely reported in the media; they visit our living rooms through television and DVDs; and they provide hours of entertainment at the local cinema.

Over the past several years, we have seen an unusual number of celebrity deaths, from a princess to a famous singer.

Certain celebrities such as Bob Hope, Gregory Peck or Katherine Hepburn can remind older folks of favorite movies or television shows that they enjoyed in their youth.

Veterans can recall with fondness when Bob Hope visited them overseas to give them laughter and hope during the darkness of war.

It is hard to believe that their images and voices are stilled forever because we can still see them in their prime when we watch old movies or television shows.

In the sports world, Althea Gibson was a role model for black women who helped them to aspire to greatness in athletics. Perhaps the Williams sisters would not have become such a phenomenon if Althea had not shown the way.

Mr. Rogers welcomed children to his neighborhood and taught them many important life lessons that these youngsters, now grown, remember with fondness.

For more than 30 years, Mr. Rogers taught young viewers how to feel more secure about the world. His passing helped children to understand the concepts of death and dying.

Many celebrities in the television world come into our homes on such a regular basis that they become almost a member of the family.

The death of actor John Ritter was especially upsetting to many because he was young and his death was totally unexpected. He made us laugh and had a lovable personality that endeared him to many.

Not many people know the name "Gordon Jump." But they know the befuddled "Maytag Man" who appeared in dozens of television commercials and became an effective corporate spokesperson in a very successful advertising campaign.

Millions of people around the world watched Princess Diana's funeral and grieved for the beautiful and stylish young woman who died so tragically.

Her funeral route was 77 miles long, yet it attracted hundreds, if not thousands, of people who hoped to catch a glimpse of the departing casket and perhaps photograph it so they could tell their grandchildren, "We were there."

The passing of a celebrity reminds us that death must come to all human beings - no matter how rich or famous they may be. In some cases, it is almost a rehearsal to prepare us for the death of someone who is truly close to us.