Helping you get through tough times

Grief when a stranger dies

When someone famous or a public figure dies, it can be hard to avoid the media coverage.

Image of a purple flowerHow you feel about it is up to you. You shouldn’t be worried if it really upsets you, or even if it has no impact you at all.

Equally when someone in your school or community dies and you never actually knew them, it can bring up some emotions that are difficult to understand.

If people are experiencing a sense of grief all around you, there are things you can do to help yourself feel better.

Reacting to a death in the media

It sounds like a cliché but there’s no right or wrong way to react to the death of a someone you didn’t know.

Many people experience grief when they hear about a strangers’ passing, whether a celebrity or ordinary person.

When you do experience grief or a sense of loss at the news of a stranger’s death, it’s more than likely because you felt some kind of connection with them.

Who were they in your life

Whether they were in your favourite show, a guitarist you had a huge crush on, a sporting hero, or just reminded you of someone you know, you can feel a sense of loss because that person made you feel something and now they’re gone.

Alternately, if you don’t feel a connection to a celebrity that died, it might be difficult to relate to the public outpouring of grief.

Also, if it was someone in your school or community, you can feel guilty if you don’t feel upset.

It’s not uncommon nowadays for your newsfeed to be filled with outpourings from your friends, as well as media for days after the death of a celebrity. Just think of the impact worldwide at the news of Robin Williams’ death.

If you felt no established emotional connection with someone, it can be hard to feel a loss when they are gone.

That’s OK too, as after all, your life probably won’t change at all. Everyone will feel different things.

Why am I feeling so down about this?

Regardless of how well we know the person who is gone, we know there are loved ones out there whose lives have just been flipped upside down.

There are friends who will never get to say that one last thing and families who have an empty seat at their table.

Also, you just lost any chance at letting this person know what they meant to you.

What can you do about feelings of loss

  • Accept the feelings

If you are feeling upset about a celebrity’s death, accept that it is grief that you are experiencing. It’s not silly. These events have an impact. Take a minute for yourself if you need to.

  • Check in with your friends

If you’re upset, chances are your friends are too. They could have felt a similar connection. Ask how they are doing, and talk it over with them.

  • Stop watching the news

Take a break from social media, newspapers, TV and radio. Try to tune out of it. Sometimes the never ending stream of tributes can be overwhelming.

  • Write it down

Putting your thoughts onto paper can help you understand how you’re feeling and make it easier to process.

  • Report it

There are pretty strict rules about reporting death in the media, especially around suicide or mental health issues.

If you’re still feeling sad after time

If the feelings of sadness don’t go away quickly, or you feel like they are starting to interrupt your life, consider chatting to a professional about it.

Moving through those feelings will be much easier and faster with a professionals help. Check face-to-face help for where you can go.

Read suggestions for managing grief for more.

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This article was last reviewed on 30 March 2017

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