Parasocial relationship is the term used to describe a one-sided relationship in which people relate to a celebrity as if we know them. Some grieve the loss of someone they have never had a relationship with harder than others, and this is not uncommon.


By Debbi Serafinchon

There has been a lot of hype lately about the deaths of so many celebrities in 2016.

This caused many people to wonder if 2016 is cursed.

While the number of movie stars and musicians that have passed on has been higher than other years, it makes one wonder why it seems to have effected some more than others.

Comments all over social media and in circles of friends have ranged from “it is tragic” to “just get over it. You didn’t even know the person.” This shows the spectrum of how differently we deal with death and how much these celebrities have impacted our lives. Comments such as  “wrapping Betty White in bubble wrap,” or putting others into a bunker to keep them safe until 2016 hands off the torch to 2017 have been seen on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites. Tears have been shed for these big screen icons or musicians and rightfully so, as they are a part of our childhood and the wonderful memories we have of good times.

Parasocial relationship is the term used to describe a one-sided relationship in which people relate to a celebrity as if we know them. Some grieve the loss of someone they have never had a relationship with harder than others, and this is not uncommon.

The same thing was experienced when Elvis and John Lennon passed away, but people didn’t have access to sharing their grief on social media. Many of John Lennon’s fans wept in public and poured out their grief by delivering flowers or wreaths to his New York apartment building. We saw the same outpour of emotion when Princess Diana died.

With Facebook and other forms of media available, people can express their sadness in ways that they could not in the past. It also makes the death of the celebrity that much more impactful and public. Considering these people led a public life, it should be no surprise that their deaths would elicit a public unfolding of raw emotions.

For some, it is a natural part of the grieving process that they need to move on. Keep in mind that celebrities have helped shape the values and attitudes of some fans. Who doesn’t remember being awestruck with a person on screen because we later learn that that person was even more of an amazing person in life by sharing or giving back to their communities? I could name a few off the top of my head that I feel deserve that recognition because of the way I related to the roles they played.

I do draw the line where some people are offering others up in place of the celebrities that have passed or asking that certain icons they don’t like be taken next.

Regardless of how they make us feel, good or bad, it seems a tad much to wish someone else dead. At the end of the day, these are human beings with feelings and families. Trying to understand that these statements are said as a way to deal with the pain of losing a someone that gave us childhood memories, doesn’t make it right—but each grieves in their own personal way.

We shouldn’t feel silly about the grief we are experiencing over a death of someone we don’t personally know or have never met. These people have become a part of our lives with no knowledge of our existence. Whether we connected with them as a character in a movie or their voice resonated an emotion in us through song, it is still a loss to us.

Each of us mourns in our own unique way and must be allowed space for that process to happen. Whether we are mourning the death of an idol, our family pet or a loved one, there is still a process we need to go through in dealing with that loss. How I mourn compared to how you mourn is irrelevant and should not be judged.

Offering compassion is one way we can be there for the person suffering or in the case of social media, scrolling past a post without leaving a snide comment on a grief post can be of benefit.

A public display of emotions should not be seen as unrealistic for these people that chose to live their lives in the public eye, and such attention does not end just because that icon has died. That is evident with many people who make the yearly trip to Memphis, Tennessee on the anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death or the floral tributes that arrive every year at Kensington Palace in memory of Princess Diana.

They brought us joy while they were preforming, in some cases, they even helped shape us a people. So let’s not be too hasty in our judgement of how others are grieving for their loss.


Debbi Serafinchon is a passionate lover of life, and she uses writing to try and fit the pieces of what is happening in her world together. This divorced mom to four older children finds she now has the time to travel, learn, explore her creative side and people watch. Her favorite quote by Douglas Adams summarizes her journey quite nicely: “I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.” You can find more of her writing on her website and follow her on Facebook.


Photo: (source)

Editor: Dana Gornall


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