When I heard about Chadwick Boseman’s death last weekend, it took a good cry and hours spent rewatching his old interviews until I stopped and asked myself: Why am I grieving someone I don’t really know?
Grieving in itself is already complicated. So, when the person you’re grieving is someone you haven’t met, it becomes all the more confusing.
However, the more I saw the effect his death had on people around the world, the more I knew it wasn’t actually that weird. As with many other late celebrities that the world has grieved, Chadwick Boseman and his work created a legacy that made his presence felt in our lives, whether or not you’ve met him.
Feeling sad over death is a completely normal human reaction regardless of who it is, and that’s definitely a part of grieving celebrity deaths. But, in addition to that, losing icons is also devastating because of what they represent.
Sometimes it’s the deep relationship you’ve formed with their art. Sometimes it’s the community, such as fandoms, you’ve found in the process of admiring their work. Sometimes it’s the social causes and ideals that they championed that meant a lot to you.
Yes, celebrities are people too, not just ideas. But it’s wrong for us to not acknowledge that the legacies they’ve created and the work they’ve done, which are things that fans connect to on a deep level, are a big part of who they are as well.
Ways to Cope
Grieve With Others
This means anything from sharing what your idol meant to you online to talking to fellow fans. You can even just look up and find comfort in tributes and anecdotes that other people share. Finding a sense of community in grief reminds you that you are not alone in feeling what you feel.
Unplug When Needed
Celebrity deaths mean that you’ll find another post or tweet about it each time you refresh the page on the day it happens. If that’s too overwhelming, putting down your phone for as long as you need to is crucial to your mental health.
Acknowledging What That Person Meant for the World
Doing this can help you identify why exactly you and so many people are grieving, thus making it easier to validate and face your feelings. It makes you realize why this loss isn’t trivial just because you never met the person. For example, recognizing that Chadwick Boseman’s phenomenal performance as T’Challa paved way for the representation and empowerment of the Black community (and even other people of color) is a big part of understanding that loss.
Revisit Their Work
Just knowing that the art they’ve created and the things they’ve done that connected you to them are still around can be really helpful. A big part of their lives is their work, so letting yourself enjoy the good that they’ve left on earth is a great way to both cope with grief and honor them.