Grieving for a stranger

When someone in the public eye dies, the media can go a bit crazy over it. How you react is very unique to you, and you shouldn't be worried if it makes you really upset, or doesn't impact you at all. If sadness is all around, there are things you can do to help yourself feel better.

This could be helpful if:

  • You're sad about a death reported in the media 
  • You don’t know what to do after a death in the media 
  • You don’t like how a death is being reported in the media
newspaper stack

Reacting to a death in the media 

It sounds clichéd but there really isn't a right or a wrong way to react to the death of a stranger. Many people experience grief when they hear about a strangers’ passing, whether a celebrity or ordinary person. 

If you are experiencing grief or a sense of loss at the news of a stranger’s death, it’s probably because you feel some kind of connection to the person who has died. Whether they were your sporting hero, they played the sitcom dad you always wished you had, a heartthrob you wanted to get freaky with, sung some song that hit all of the right notes, or just reminded you of someone you know, you feel a sense of loss because that person made you feel something, and now they are gone. 

On the other hand, if you don’t feel a connection to a celebrity who has passed away, it might be difficult to relate to the public outpouring of grief that is likely piling up in your social media newsfeed. Without having established some kind of emotional connection to someone, it can be hard to feel a loss when they are gone. That’s perfectly normal and understandable - after all, your life probably won’t change in the slightest.

Everyone will feel different things, and that’s just fine. 

Why am I so sad 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 I do about it?

  • Accept that it’s real grief you are feeling. You’re not being silly. Take a minute for yourself if you need to.
  • Check in with mates. If you’re upset, chances are your friends are too. Ask how they are doing, and talk it over with them. 
  • Turn off the news/log off social media. Sometimes seeing the never ending stream of tributes can be overwhelming. 
  • Write it down. Putting your thoughts onto paper can help clarify 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. Check out mindframe for more info, and contact ACMA if you want to make a complaint. 

It's been a while and I'm still sad

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. A GP is a good place to start. If you need to talk to someone right now give Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800) or Lifeline (13 11 14) a call - they're available 24hrs, 7-days a week

What can I do now?

Last reviewed: 12 August, 2015
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