Every time I looked at the news or opened an app last year it seemed like another celebrity death had occurred. Throughout 2016, large numbers of celebrity deaths, recognized names or persons in the news, were listed through a variety of news outlets.
Of course, some of these people I’ve never even heard of, but they were notable to somebody around the world, notable enough for a news outlet to include their names in the list of celebrity deaths in 2016.
There were between 90 to 180 celebrity deaths published (depending on the source reporting). For example, CNN reports 119 deaths while the Los Angeles Times says that 91 famous people died last year.
So Why Did 2016 Feel Like a Year of Celebrities Dying?
- DEATH AWARENESS/ACCEPTANCE
The biggest reason is our collective awareness of death and interest in things related to death (our own and others!) has increased dramatically. With this awareness comes more attention paid to deaths — especially deaths of well-known people.
40 years ago, deaths, even of famous people, wouldn’t have been endlessly discussed and written about. Most people didn’t want to spotlight death at all….even death of celebrities. Fear of death far outweighed any interest in reading about the deaths of famous people in detail. I’ve listened to friends tell me that their favorite Aunt or their Dad ‘passed’. Not died…..passed. As if refusing to say the word ‘death’ means they can distance themselves from the fact that death exists.
Within the past 5 years this attitude and fear are starting to change. There are now more people talking about death and how to live a good life. More websites are devoted to end of life issues. More podcasts reminding us that because we are going to die, a focus on living gratefully and purposefully is key.
2. LOOSEY-GOOSEY DEFINITION OF CELEBRITY
Countess Luann anyone? Or do you even know who this Real Housewife star is? The definition of a famous person has expanded dramatically in the past 8 years at the same time that media has become such a powerful and pervasive influence in our lives.
In the 1960’s, Paris Hilton wouldn’t even rate a newspaper mention, in the 90s she had a huge cult-like following yet now has a much smaller one… eclipsed by her frenemy Kim Kardashian.
Our definition of celebrity has expanded (and continues to expand). Another reason that we are seeing more ‘celebrity’ deaths each year. With more and more people being pushed into the well-known category, increasingly, deaths in that group will be reported as famous deaths.
3. BABY BOOMERS
76 million Baby Boomers were born in the US between 1946 and 1964. Add to that the number of Boomer-aged immigrants entering the US to the native born BBs and you’ve got a huge number of aging men & women who are going to be dying in greater numbers.
Lots of celebrities or well-know people are in that category and those deaths will simply accelerate in the next 10 years as they mature. By 2030, baby boomers will be between 66 and 84 years old, the exact range of ages when the greatest number of deaths will occur. This will boost the number of notable deaths reported.
Use Death in the Media to Remind You of Memento Mori
Remembering that you are going to die and remembering that your life has a diminishing quantity, will result in several things:
You’ll be more grateful for the life you have.
Scientists who study gratitude report that the daily practice of being grateful leads to increased immunity, lower blood pressure, feelings of joy and actions of generosity and compassion. Successful entrepreneurs make a habit out of beginning their day meditating on 3 things that they are grateful for.
You’ll make better choices with the life you have.
Exercising, not smoking, getting more sleep, treating others with compassion, avoiding risky behavior and eating healthy foods are just some of the things that research shows results from thinking about one’s death.
You’ll be less anxious about dying when you think about your own death.
Remember when you got anxious before a big exam was scheduled, one that would make the difference in graduating or being promoted in a job? That fear was minimized and replaced with confidence after you thought about the material, organized it, made notes, studied, committed some things to memory etc.
Same thing happens with death. The more we think about something, the more familiar and less frightening it becomes. Especially if you do a little ‘death planning’ in advance. Preparing to die is a great way to live.
You’ll be more intentional and motivated with the life you have.
Your life is too valuable and is worth too much to waste it on meaningless tasks or diversions. The best way to prepare yourself for death is to live a full life.
To paraphrase a New York Times article, if you want a better life in 2017, spend more time thinking about your own death. Being aware of death and accepting the fact that you are going to die, paradoxically, results in a happier, more satisfying life according to both newer research and ancient religious traditions.
Meet Mori. Mori is a little skull with a big heart. His full name is Memento Mori, which is Latin for “Remember you must die”. Mori reminds us of our mortality and encourages us to live fearlessly because of it.
Remember you must die, then live fearlessly because of it.