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Dieter Brummer, and the psychological explanation for mourning a celebrity you never met

By abc.net.au , in News Australia , at July 27, 2021 Tags: , , ,


Australia news

Fans of Home and Away star Dieter Brummer have been shocked to learn of the actor’s death at the age of 45, but they can help each other deal with the collective grief, an expert says.

Brummer – who starred as Home and Away heart-throb Shane Parrish in the 1990s, and also briefly appeared on Neighbours as Troy Miller – died on Saturday.

Tributes continue to flow from those who worked with Brummer, but also from fans who grew up watching him on television.

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Writer and disability rights advocate Carly Findlay described herself as having been, at one stage, “a super fan” of Brummer’s.

In a statement, she told her followers: “I want to remind you that the feelings you have through fandom are real, valid feelings. You are allowed to love a celebrity, and you’re allowed to be sad when they’re gone.”

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“Dieter Brummer’s death has shocked me,” she said.

“Fandom can be an incredible experience — and is nothing to be ashamed about.”

Grieving as a fan

A kind of collective grief plays out every time a celebrity or well-known person dies, and that grief can be enormous.

Many people still remember where they were when they heard about the death of Michael Jackson, or David Bowie, or Princess Diana.

Lauren Breen, an Associate Professor of psychology at Curtin University, says it’s normal to feel some sadness over a prominent person’s death, even if you never met them.

“A lot of people might be wondering why they’re feeling a certain way,” she says.

“We can still have a very strong relationship with someone even when we don’t actually know them, or that person certainly doesn’t know us.

“When they die, it does affect us, because of our attachment to them.”

Dr Breen says psychologists have a term for this phenomenon – it’s called parasocial grief, and it describes a one-sided relationship we might have with someone.

“It’s not the same as a real relationship with the person, but we can still have a relationship with people even when we don’t actually know them in real life.”

Dr Breen says fan groups can grieve in multiple ways: fans may do things by themselves, they might share memories or thoughts on social media, or travel to a place which was significant to the person who died.

She says this collective grief can be helpful.

“The more that we talk about these things, the more grief and loss can be normalised, and we can develop that language for the kinds of thoughts we’re experiencing, and the feelings that we’re feeling,” she says.

“Then we’ll get more support from each other, and more people will feel comfortable to reach out for support.”

Police said Brummer’s death was not believed to be suspicious.

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