Why We Mourn The Loss Of People We Don’t Actually Know


The death of a loved one is an inevitable, certain, unavoidable, and inexorable part of life. Surviving family and friends experience an emotional cascade of grief, regardless of how their loved one passed. Bereavement has no formula, no time limit, or right or wrong. Grieving is an important part of the process of healing. Each of us grieves in our own time and way. Neither wisdom nor understanding makes it easier, because those are rational thoughts.

Grief is not rational or linear.

In grief, the rationale is useless. Emotions are dictated by the limbic system in your brain, which is the seat of your emotions.

Many times, the world will grieve and mourn the deaths of celebrities and important figures as if they’d lost a loved one because, in fact, they have.

The intensity and time of grief differ when it’s someone immediately important to you, but those unknown in your personal lives can have the same grief patterns and stages as the loss of your loved ones.

Why is this?

We establish strong emotional ties to celebrities in the public eye.

Many of our dearly departed who aren’t family members or close friends have been in your life as if they were family members or dear friends for most of your life.

You’ve established strong ties and relationships through television, the medium of technology, movies, concerts, and events throughout your lifetime. People tend to deify, idealize, and mythologize these legends and connect deeply.

This is part of the human experience. Your bereavement is part of the collective unconscious.

We share grief and loss collectively, just as we share joy and excitement.

Likewise, when one finds solace, acceptance, and relief, the chances increase that others will also find comfort. This, too, is a function of the collective unconscious.

In Jungian psychology, the collective unconscious is a concept originally defined by psychoanalyst Carl Jung. It refers to the idea that a segment of the deepest unconscious mind is genetically inherited and is not shaped by personal experience. It’s a part of the human condition.

Grieving and “The Hundreth Monkey Effect.”

An example is “The Hundredth Monkey Effect,” which hypothesizes that “…a new behavior or idea is said to spread rapidly by unexplained means from one group to all related groups once a critical number of members of one group exhibit the new behavior or acknowledge the new idea.”

So, how does this theory relate to grief and loss?

If others feel the pain and loss of a hero, heroine, icon, or celebrated personality, it’s a human experience shared by many. Human beings connect with the pain and sorrow of others, as well as the joy.

This is empathy, something common to most of us. I say most, because there are certain personality disorders where empathy does not exist.

There is a symbiotic relationship with all of us worldwide when we feel loss, pride, and joy. We feel as one. When President Reagan told Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin wall, the free world celebrated as if it was on their own turf.

Human beings are wired for connection, especially in grieving.

According to the philosopher Martin Buber, human beings are wired for connection. When we go into a disconnect through unexpected or sudden loss, we go into crisis.

It’s difficult enough even when there’s an expectation of loss, like an elderly person or someone who’s sick, but when it’s sudden, like a car crash or suicide, humans go first into shock and denial.

It forces you to experience the loss of a secure attachment; someone you’d grown attached to and loved deeply, even those not known to you on a personal basis, like a celebrity.

Mourning a celebrity is natural.

Losing an icon, even if you’ve never been in their company, feels the same as losing a best friend or even a hero. So, mourning is a natural event.

People like Princess Diana, President John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., and Elvis Presley were all a manifestation of people’s own wishes, hopes, and dreams.

They inspired us with passion and purpose in our own lives by exemplifying what really matters. To be the best that we can be and become what we are intended to be.

Experiencing the Five Stages of Grief.

The five stages of grief — denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance — are a part of everyone’s mourning. Each person experiences these stages personally in their own way and time.

For instance, there are folks who still deny the death of Elvis Presley, longing to keep him alive in their hearts and minds. Coming to terms with losing a loved one, either in family, friends, or whom you have grown to love and respect is the stage of grief called acceptance.

Everyone shares in the sorrow and loss. The common denominator is our human essence, our authenticity.

When a noted figure in your life dies, it forces you to come to terms with how fragile life is.

To be alive and well in one moment and to be gone in another is fear and reality we all share. To mourn the loss of people you celebrated for different reasons is part of the human condition. And to be loved and to love is what it is to be a human being.

To mourn someone is healing.

The most important part of grieving is feeling your feelings. Grieving is a healing feeling. Talk with others who celebrated the life of the deceased. Share your heartfelt feelings with those you trust and understand your grief.

Know that what you are experiencing when you mourn is common and needs to be felt. Most of all, remember to celebrate their lives, as well as mourn their deaths.

Previously published on YourTango

Featured image via Stacey Gabrielle Koenitz Rozells on Unsplash


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