When celebrities die – Why are we still so ‘shocked’ by death?

Yesterday, the news reported that Cilla Black – one of the UK’s ‘national treasures’ of entertainment, had died. The Media was ‘shocked and saddened’ by the news. bafta_arrivals_4_wenn2748821 Then social media saw a flurry of posts as people shared their own ‘shock’ at her death.

Cilla? Dead? That cannot be? Even Bruce Forsyth said he was shocked… perhaps because being 87 himself, he considers her to be far too young. Yes, the news of any death is sad – deeply, deeply sad, often devastating and my thoughts were with Cilla’s family and friends who will mourn her. But shock? No.

‘Shock’ is a damaging word to use and I feel the Media plays a big role in how we interpret death. It seems we believe we will all live forever, or that for anyone to die before they reach 100 is a travesty. I find it interesting that people act so surprised about death, especially in someone who is considered old (i.e. a pensioner).

I liked Cilla and have fond memories of watching her on TV as a child.

She was ‘just’ 72. Many people feel that is still so young; some of us have parents or relatives who are that age or older so news like this always brings it home how close death can be. But anyone who has lost someone younger than this will wish their loved one had a chance to live that long, not ‘just’ 72 years.

I was surprised by the news, not shocked.

My first thought was what a great life that woman had, and now she can rest in peace with her beloved Bobby and her lost baby daughter, Ellen.

My daughter died when she was 12. Cilla had 60 more years of life than her. 60!

Also in the news last week was the more shocking news that Stuart Baggs, a former contestant on the Apprentice, had been found dead at his home. He was 27. That, to me, is pretty shocking but even still, I now know to my cost that these things happen.

Perhaps it’s only those who have known child loss or experienced the death of someone young can truly appreciate my perspective, which I expect seems cold-hearted (though that’s not my intention). As soon as Abi died, I was immediately thankful for every year I’ve had no matter how ‘shitty’ I thought some of it was.

I looked at much older people and realised they were lucky to live as long as they have. And I find it very hard to tolerate anyone who moans or create dramas out of trivial things. Life looks very different to a bereaved parent.

That’s not to say that if someone I knew or who was close to me died I wouldn’t be shocked, of course I would. But my perspective of that death would be different to how it used to be. Because, now, I know that death will happen to everyone – not that it can happen to anyone – at any age, suddenly or slowly. And, when elderly relatives pass on, I would like to think that I would mourn them and pay my respects to the life that they lived and enjoyed rather than dwell on my shock.

Live is a privilege!

Death comes to us all, even celebrities – it could be tonight or in 50 years’ time.  It’s what we do with those years that counts. and-in-the-end-its-not-the-years-in-your-life-that-count-its-the-life-in-your-years-72

16 thoughts on “When celebrities die – Why are we still so ‘shocked’ by death?

  1. The only celebrity death that has truly shocked me was Robin Williams last year, and I think that was more to do with the circumstances. There have been many celebrities who were younger who have died but their deaths haven’t had the same effect. Amy Winehouse dying of a drug overdose is no shocker but one of the funniest men in the world being so depressed as to take his own life did initially come as a shock, a few days later it didn’t seem as shocking.

    My mum has just been round and she shed a tear or two for Cilla as she was “of her generation”. She said its shocked her as despite being in her 70’s, there’d been no recent news of ill health so a death announcement was inexpected x

    • Thank you! I agree about Robin Williams. I watched Night at the Museum 3 on holiday only last week and it reminded me how sad that was. But then I think, yes it’s a shock but mental health seems to have the same taboo element as death. He had to hide his true self so much. I think the death of older people does come as a surprise when it’s sudden, but then sudden death does whatever age! Perhaps the media should replace the dramatic word ‘shock’ for ‘sudden’ instead? Thank you so much for commenting x

    • Without sounding like a bit of a busybody knowitall – Amy Winehouse didn’t die of a drugs overdose x

  2. So true, more sadness was expressed at Cilla Black’s death than at the tragic death of the pilot who was displaying at Carfest North on Saturday, a 39 year old man at the pinnacle of his career who leaves behind a wife and young daughter xx

  3. I agree that the word “Shocking” is misplaced here, although I’ve not seen it used in the context of Cilla myself. I will be conducting a funeral for a lady who died aged 52 having had a fall from her horse. She wasn’t expected to die as a result of her injuries, even though they were serious. A blood clot found its way from her leg to her heart, however, and killed her. This, then is “shocking” to the family as they though they’d “got away with it”. I wonder whether Robin Williams’death was shocking to those who really knew him.

    • Thank you Helen, I agree that the case of the lady you are looking after is rightly shocking, on many levels. There will always be a shock where something is unexpected, that is natural. The media likes to ‘shock’ us with news all the time and my point is more that we shouldn’t act so surprised that our elderly loved ones die – although I suppose these days, 72 isn’t considered to be elderly anymore! Knowing my daughter died aged 12, I now find it hard to believe that I will live to old age whereas before I pretty much expected to!

  4. I absolutely love that quote. I too am a bit confused by the word shock as you don’t kno anything about the state of her health but it is sad nonetheless
    But how the media sensationalises it and publishes very personal detail such as the position she was found, is rather crude in my opinion x

  5. Spot on post. The media attention around such events is really frustrating. Cilla’s death is sad, just like the death of anyone is sad. It’s certainly not ‘shocking’ – as ever the media prefers hyperbole to sensible reporting xxx

  6. I think that anybody who has experienced the pain of losing their child will feel the same way as you. Losing a child must change your perspective and it’s totally understandable how flipping annoying it must be to read stuff like this in the media. Mum died at 72 (like Cilla) but I have to say that I was shocked when she died simply because she hadn’t been ill. In hindsight, she was a 72 year old smoker who kicked cancer’s bum five years previously. I think she did pretty well, considering. The media loves to sensationalise everything. Blimey, they even manage to make stories out of footballer’s wives pushing a supermarket trolley so a death is going to get some major hamming up. For me, I see a nice lady who treated people with respect and never forgot where she came from. I’d like to think that she popped up in heaven shouting ‘SURPRISE SURPRISE, I’m ‘ere chucks’.
    A very thought provoking post, lovely. X

    • Thank you for your insightful comment! I’m sorry that you lost your mother when you did and can understand your view. The shock is always there with any sudden death. I think the media just uses it as a tactic and then celebs jump on the bandwagon saying how ‘young she was’ when really she wasn’t, and yes really people do stop living, every day! It made me chuckle at the thought of Cilla shouting ‘Surprise, Surprise’ up in heaven! 🙂

  7. The loss of a child is unfathomable. Thank you for your blog that captures that painful experience in a way we can all understand and please accept my sympathy for your loss. My loss was of a husband/lover/friend. My beloved died at age 62 which was ‘shocking’ only because nobody else in his family has ever had cancer plus both his parents are 90 years old and in robust health. Scott embodied Being Here Now. We both firmly believe(d) that none of us knows how much time we have on this planet and we need to make the most of what time we have. Why do we put such stock on celebrity deaths? Because they are iconic figures and we need archetypes to explain a universal concept. However I think there is more to it…we so-called “baby boomer” generation are fast approaching our own demise. I predict we will be hearing more about death and dying as an experience that we self-centered boomers are going through. Perhaps in the coming years as more discuss death and dying it will be considered not such a taboo topic anymore.

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