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Why we mourn celebrity deaths

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Posted at 6:17 PM, Jan 19, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-19 20:17:53-05

SALT LAKE CITY – When someone you know dies, it’s common for those who knew them to stop and reflect. But what does it say about you when you mourn someone you’ve never met?

Since the start of 2016 we’ve said goodbye to rock legend, David Bowie, who died of cancer at age 69. Cancer also claimed the life of beloved actor, Alan Rickman. This week, 67-year-old Eagles guitarist Glenn Frey succumbed to complications from rheumatoid arthritis.

“You watch them and think they’re never going to die. And they die and it kind of brings reality back to you,” said Breann Harami, Utah resident.

When a beloved celebrity dies, it’s a kick to the gut for devoted fans, but some don’t get caught up in the “celebrity hype.”

“It’s unfortunate, but they’re just people who pass away. I think there’s a lot of people who pass away who don’t have any recognition for their accomplishments,” said John Israelsen, Utah resident.

But there’s a reason why some of us mourn for people they don’t know.

“Part of the reason people mourn is because they felt connected to these characters,” said Theresa Martinez, University of Utah sociology professor.

“When I was growing up the Beatles were huge, they were immense. We followed that band in everything they did. When John Lennon was killed in 1980 it really felt like a family member,” Martinez said.

Martinez said people spend more time with celebrities, whether it’s watching their movies or listening to their music.

“They’re who we remember, they’re the soundtrack right? They’re the soundtrack to our existence,” she said.

Martinez said it’s OK to grieve and fans are doing just that via social media.

“Now you can actually share your grief more quickly and so much more publicly and maybe that’s a good thing,” Martinez said.

Fans can take some comfort knowing their celebrity who has passed on, has left behind a body of work for fans to enjoy for generations.