Luke Perry and The Prodigy’s Keith Flint’s deaths might feel close to home. Here’s why

Article by Kellie Scott /
ABC Life /
July 23, 2019 /
Click here to view original /

I’m kind of bummed today.

Overnight electric music icon Keith Flint and ’90s heartthrob Luke Perry died.

The Prodigy’s Firestarter was the soundtrack of my early teens, and Beverly Hills, 90210’s Perry was my first ever crush.

(At seven years old, sliding into my sleeping bag with Dylan McKay’s face printed on it made me feel that bit closer to him.)

And I’m not alone — ’80s and ’90s babies everywhere are sharing their shock, grief and nostalgia online and around the water cooler.

Pop culture expert Lauren Rosewarne says that’s because celebrity deaths take us back to pivotal moments in our own lives.

“The first time you felt something growing up — it’s the media connected to it that is often more important,” Dr Rosewarne from the University of Melbourne says.

So it’s natural to feel a mixed bag of sadness and warm and fuzzies.

Why we feel sad about celebrity deaths

Some people feel “intensely” connected to celebrities, counselling psychologist Stefan Durlach says.

“They have a relationship with people they don’t know in their heads, and to some that can become quite important,” he says.

“When they’re gone, it’s a significant loss in their internal world.”

Grief specialist and psychologist Annie Cantwell-Bartl says sometimes it’s easier to develop relationships with celebrities than people in our lives.

“It’s uncomplicated, there is no pain, no rejection, no demands,” she says.

But even if you don’t feel bonded to a celebrity, the death of one (or two in this case) can trigger memories of other losses in your life, Mr Durlach says.

And that loss doesn’t just have to be death, Dr Cantwell-Bartl says, noting loss of relationships, friendships and status as other examples.

For anyone feeling heartbroken about Perry, you could also blame hormones.

Actor Luke Perry dies

“Everyone I knew was in love with Dylan … all those hormones raging at the time of your first celebrity crush,” Dr Rosewarne says.

“If you were in your early teens, 90210 was probably one of your first experiences of watching slightly salacious material.”

(Dad would say he was “supervising” my pre-teen TV watching, but we all know he just frothed the show).

For those mourning the loss of Flint, Dr Rosewarne says music is often “the playlist” for our lives.

“It feels like they were there for first moments when we’re growing up.”

You aren’t silly to mourn a celebrity

You might be asking yourself, or wondering about those around you, why grieve for someone you didn’t know?

Mr Durlach says people might be feeling embarrassed, but should remember it’s not necessarily about the person, but what they meant to you.

“Even the people we have in our lives, we have an internal relationship with them. We still have a relationship with them even when they aren’t physically there.

“It’s the same with this, even though [celebrities] aren’t there, they are inside of us.”

The Prodigy’s Keith Flint dies aged 49

He says it’s healthy to examine what is really going on for you at that time.

“Ask yourself, what am I actually grieving here?”

Dr Cantwell-Bartl says we live in a “grief-denying society”, but that grief was a part of life we should tap into.

“A sense of feeling sad, then getting on with life, then maybe feeling sad again — that’s healthy,” she says.

“It’s when it becomes all consuming, that can be problematic.”

Enjoy the shared memories and sense of community

Just like when Princess Diana died, as Mr Durlach remembers well, people will band together at the time of a celebrity death.

“There is something comforting when we can come together as a community. When we share an experience with other people, it somehow changes it,” he says.

The shared experience of a celebrity death can bring people closer together, Dr Rosewarne says.

“Everyone [in your peer group] knows this guy and why it mattered that he died.

Dr Cantwell-Bartl recommends dusting off those Prodigy CDs and downloading 90210 reruns as a way to cope.

“Listen to the songs and watch the shows and feel sad, or feel joy. And just talking about it can help,” she says.

So if you’re also feeling a bit blue, come around to my place tonight and we’ll watch 8 Seconds — Luke Perry’s most underrated acting gig.