Wednesday 16 Jan 2019
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News for bereavement on Wednesday 16 Jan 2019

Bereavement and Transference (Lifestyle Therapy)

Susan Leigh is a long established Counsellor and Hypnotherapist. She works with clients to help them understand and come to terms with their grief and move into a more positive state of mind. For more information visit

What is it about a stranger dying ? Why do we feel such strong emotions when someone we have never met dies ? Especially when that person is a celebrity, whose life has been followed regularly in the media ?

The truth is, death is a fact of life. It's not something that we tend to think about. We get on with living our lives, until something happens that reminds us of our own mortality.

Death holds a combination of fascination and fear for many people. Should it be celebrated or run away from, or just accepted as something that will happen eventually, hopefully many years from now ?

When someone we know dies, a family member, friend, colleague, there can be issues around that event. Things that we said or didn't say, things unresolved, undone. Sometimes we work these issues out together within our personal groups, maybe with memorials or rituals that give us peace and some sense of closure. Sometimes we may need a bit more support and seek professional help like counselling or therapy. This can help to identify and heal specific issues and bring a sense of rationale and acceptance of what has happened, to enable us to move on with a healthier attitude and perspective.

What about when a celebrity dies ? What happens then ?

Many celebrities have become so much a part of our lives that we often think that we know more about their day-to-day lives than we do about a distant member of our own family. Their thoughts, relationships, sayings, fill up vast column inches in the press and on television , and now, with social media like Twitter, many celebrities allow themselves to be 'followed' , often several times throughout the day, giving out much detail about their actions and activities.

They become virtually a part of our family, only more so, with idealised, imagined, fantastical lives, free from the messy detail of daily routines. As such, each event that we read about, is taken in isolation and judged out of any context in which it has happened. As such, when Princess Diana died, the nation became submerged in mourning. People were shocked by her death, but also held strong opinions about her life and the things that had happened to her. And yet many, in fact the vast majority of people who held such strong views and opinions, had never met her, had had no personal contact with her, and yet felt qualified to hold forth with their views, expecting them to be taken into account.

We feel a resonance with the situations and life experiences that these celebrities have been through. We relate them to our own experiences and 'pattern match' to find how we would feel in a similar situation, often failing to appreciate that we are only in possession of 'edited' or screened highlights. This can give us permission to grieve for our own situation through a third party. It's a kind of proxy releasing of emotions that we were perhaps too busy, distressed or numb to deal with at the time it happened to us.

When Farrah Fawcett died of cancer she was for many people an iconic 'angel' with long blonde hair and beautiful body who had been married to the action hero, Lee Majors. Then followed her tempestuous relationship with Ryan O'Neal and her health issues. There was glamour, sex appeal, success, and fabulous lifestyle, mixed in with emotional hurt, illness and distress. She represented many different aspirations and struggles that many people recognise and relate to.

Similarly, with Michael Jackson's death. His music, dancing, fashions, family issues, fascinated millions of people around the world. Again, people hold strong opinions about him. His music triggers memories of key times and events in many peoples' lives.

Celebrity deaths often allow us to resolve our own outstanding issues within our own lives; unfinished matters or relationships. They are a way of releasing some of the steam out of the pressure cooker, and doing it at a safe distance.

For further information: Bereavement and Transference

Lifestyle Therapy
3 Alstone Drive
Oldfield Brow
WA14 4LD
United Kingdom
Telephone 0161 928 7880
News Ref:1535

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