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Mental Health

Navigating the Mourning Maze: Coping with the Loss of a Cherished Public Icon

3 Mins read

You know, there’s something uniquely shattering about losing a cherished public figure—it hits in a way that feels both deeply personal and collectively mournful. These are individuals we’ve connected with through screens, lyrics, and stories—often without ever meeting them. Yet, they shape our lives, embed themselves into our memories, and often serve as landmarks throughout our personal history.

So when the news breaks and the tweets start flooding in—when you see "RIP" beside a name that feels like it's always been part of the cultural lexicon—it sends a shockwave that's hard to absorb. They're not supposed to be mortal, right? These larger-than-life personalities that survive on video loops and Spotify playlists; they’re eternal in our minds.

When we lose such a beloved figure, grief doesn't ask for an invitation; it just moves in. It can feel awkward—mourning someone you didn't actually "know"—but that connection was real. It mattered.

Feeling the Loss: Grief is a Strange Beast

Grief can feel like a strange mix of emotions—sometimes all at once. You might find yourself tearfully watching old interviews one minute and laughing over iconic moments the next. It's unpredictably predictable that way.

Building a Connection Through Their Craft

You grew up watching them light up the screen or listening to their voice narrate your commutes. Maybe their writing spoke to your soul in ways that real-life conversations just couldn’t touch. So when they're gone, part of your world shifts on its axis.

Dealing With Grief: There's No Rule Book Here

When you embark on this uncharted journey through grief over a public figure, there are no tidy stages or step-by-step guides to follow. Your feelings aren't staged; they're fluid—ebbing and flowing like tides coaxed by an unseen moon.

What Do You Even Do With All These Feels?

1. Acknowledge That Your Grief is Valid
Look, no one gets to tell you how to feel. Not society with its sideways glances nor your own inner critic questioning if you’re overreacting.

2. Immerse in Their Art
Sometimes the best solace is found in reliving the magic they left behind. Binge-watch their most iconic roles or hit play on their greatest hits album.

3. Find Your Tribe
There are communities everywhere filled with people feeling that same gut punch you're dealing with right now—find them. Social media can be surprisingly good for this (barring toxic corners). Hashtags might lead you to your people.

4. Create or Participate in Tributes
Maybe it's an art piece inspired by them or attending a vigil—channeling grief into action can be incredibly cathartic.

5. Give Space for Others' Grief
If your buddy needs to wax poetic about album deep cuts or a certain film scene for the hundredth time—let 'em.

6. Take Care of You
This one’s big: stay hydrated, get some sleep, move your body—a little self-care goes a long way when your heart is heavy.

Letting Time Do Its Thing

“They say time heals all wounds, but that presumes the source of the grief is finite” – Cassandra Clare

Your heart doesn’t get fixed—it reshapes around the loss, and slowly…you adjust.

But Also Keep an Eye Out for When It's More Than Grief

If days turn into weeks and months, and that weight on your chest isn’t lifting—if anything joy-related feels like it’s happening under water—it might be worthwhile to chat with someone professional about it.

The DSM-5 (that's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders for those not in the know) doesn't discriminate between personal loss and public when defining symptoms of depression—a loss is a loss.

Let Their Legacy Live On

So here’s where it comes full circle—you get to play a part in keeping their legacy alive. How? By getting inspired by their life: start that project they always championed; become an advocate for causes they supported; spread their work far and wide…keep their spirit dancing in this plane just a little bit longer.

Yeah, it’s cheesy—but so often true: as long as we remember them, speak about them, cherish what they’ve crafted…they’re never truly gone.

Now it's your turn… Got any tips on dealing with this kind of grief? How did you honor their memory? Are there certain songs or movies that brought you comfort?

Share your story below—we're all navigating this weird terrain together after all.

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