“Death is not the opposite of life but a part of it,” Haruki Murakami
Amy Winehouse, Prince, Tupac, Kurt Cobain, Selena and Cameron Boyce. Whether these names are familiar to you or not, these artists left a deep, gaping hole in many people’s hearts when they died.
As adults, we’ve become more accustomed to the loss of celebrities, but children today are experiencing loss on a deeper, more personal level. They follow celebrities on social media and are immersed in these artists’ daily lives and not just what is portrayed in TV, movies, or the stage. These celebrities influence our children’s daily lives, their development and way of thinking. So, when one of these celebrities dies—particularly one close to their own age—it can trigger grief and deep sadness.“Feeling grief around celebrity death is a common experience, felt at every age,” said Jerimya Fox, a licensed professional counselor and a doctor of behavioral health at Banner Behavioral Health Hospital. “Like so many things in life, there are no clear cut rules to grief. But the greater we feel connected to someone, the greater the grief can feel.”
You may be asking yourself what you can do to help your child cope with the loss of their favorite celebrity. We spoke with Dr. Fox, who provided four ways to be there for them.
The key to any parent-child relationship is engagement. Being present and knowing what is going on in your child’s life is important. This doesn’t mean you have to follow your child’s favorite artists on social media, but it does mean having a daily dialogue with your child on what is going on in their lives.
“When a celebrity dies, this provides an opportunity for parents to talk about stuff that often isn’t discussed—to be available to listen and determine what type of support they need,” Dr. Fox said. “You’ll be more in tune if they are handling the death well or if they are struggling.”
Depending on how old they are and what they have experienced in regards to death, your child may take the news differently based on their emotional ability. Whether you knew the artist or not, let your child know you are sorry for their loss.
“The worst thing you could do is discredit their loss,” Dr. Fox said. “Even if you hadn’t been fond of the artist, for whatever reason, a loss is a loss."
When an idol dies, whether by suicide, drug overdose or natural causes, be prepared for a conversation about these type of sensitive topics and your viewpoint of support.
“Parents who are educated on things like suicide and drug usage and learn the facts can properly inform their kids and clear up misconceptions or questions,” Dr. Fox explained. “You are a role model for your child, and your viewpoints, whether you think they are listening or not, can play a strong role in how they think about these types of things. If they don’t learn from you, they’ll learn from somewhere else that may not be reliable.”
If you notice your child is having a difficult time processing the death, counseling and therapy may be a good option. It may help to encourage them to also take a break from social media for a little bit as they process the loss.
“It’s normal to feel sad, but if it begins to affect school, sleep or manifests into physical symptoms, such as stomach aches, there could be an underlying problem,” Dr. Fox said. “Remember grief and loss is a process that happens over time and not necessarily overnight. The best thing you can do as a parent is to be available if they need you.”
If your child is struggling or is exhibiting signs of suicide or self-harm contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. To find a licensed behavioral health professional in your area, visit bannerhealth.com.