By Coralease Ruff —

We react so strongly to the death of public figures like Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, and Princess Diana, whom we do not know personally, primarily because we feel as if we know them. On some level, perhaps we do know them because we may see them often, read about them, listen to their music, view their films as well as follow their life events.

In the case of Michael Jackson, I began listening to his music in the early days when he and his brothers first appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show and have followed him ever since. I even took my late daughter (also a MJ fan) to one of his concerts. During his personal struggles, I ached with him. I will truly miss him.

Another reason we react so strongly to the death is because they seem larger than life and we do not entertain the thought that they could die.  I never thought Princess Diana would die in my lifetime.

We grieve for a public figure in many of the same ways that we do for our own personal loved ones.  For example, we may cry, pray for them, attend their services.  Other ways we demonstrate our grief and love for them is through placing flowers or other remembrances at some strategic location, and sending condolences to the family if possible.

We may gather in places associated with them in an effort to be near them.  In my own life, my beloved daughter, Kandy, died about a year before Princess Diana’s death occurred, so my personal grief played into my reaction.  I recall feeling that with Diana’s death, the whole world was falling apart.

We also react so strongly to the death of a public figure because the media continuously present their life and legacy and conditions surrounding their death as constant reminders.

In summary, we grieve for a public figure based on how familiar they are to us, how close we feel to them, and where we are in our own personal grief journey at the time.

Coralease C. Ruff is an Open To Hope Contributor and author of Her Light Still Shines.

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Coralease Ruff

Dr. Coralease Ruff is a Bereavement Facilitator, A Registered Nurse, a University Professor and an International Nursing Consultant. She and her husband became bereaved parents in 1997, following the death of their 21-year old daughter in an automobile accident in the Dominican Republic. Since then, she has been involved in the Compassionate Friends Inc. in many roles. Coralease is a frequent presenter on grief topics locally and nationally including The Compassionate Friends (TCF) National Conferences, the National Funeral Directors and Morticians Association and The Society of Childhood Emergencies as well as local universities, churches and community centers. She has held faculty positions at Catholic University, University of Washington, The Catholic University and is currently Professor Emeritus at Howard University. She is an end of life nursing educator and developed and currently teaches a university course on Grief and Loss to graduate and undergraduate nursing students. She has published widely in professional nursing literature and the lay press. Her grief articles include Grieving through the Years; When the Nurse is Grieving and Finding Help and Hope in the Aftermath of the Virginia Tech Tragedy. She combined a biography of her daughter with a grief handbook entitled; Her Light Still Shines which is published by iUniverse and will be available in bookstores soon. Dr. Coralease Ruff appeared on the radio show “Healing the Grieving Heart” with Dr. Gloria & Dr. Heidi Horsley to discuss, Grief and Your Health: Taking Care of Yourself. To hear this interview, click on the following link: Dr. Coralease Ruff appeared on the radio show “Healing the Grieving Heart” with Dr. Gloria & Dr. Heidi Horsley to discuss, Coping with the Sudden Death of a Child in a Foreign Country. To hear this interview, go to the following link:

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