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How to Grieve Someone You’ve Never Met

By: Georgia Free

There was a form of collective heartbreak last week when news broke that chef and Masterchef Australia judge Jock Zonfrillo had died, aged 46.

Despite most of us never having met him, Jock was a beloved part of TV viewing households across the country. But how do you mourn someone you’ve never even met?

“Vicarious grieving” is the term for grieving someone you don’t know – a concept which can be difficult to navigate and understand, especially with children. Christian psychologist Valerie Ling spoke to me about vicarious grieving and ways to navigate it.

“I think we can feel like we don’t have anyone to talk to… people might think it’s silly,” Valerie said. “But we do need to talk about it.

“[Vicarious grieving] represents the best of our humanity in the days of social media, in that we care. We don’t just see them as pixels. They’re people.”

Ways to Deal With Our Grief

Valerie said that we can move through our grief in similar ways to how we would grieve for someone known to us.

“When we lose someone who was part of our world we might take the time to remember them and think about the ways in which they provided meaning to us, what they meant to us,” she said.

“[For someone like Jock], we might want to go back through some loved episodes and interviews, and then join the mourning, things like watching the tribute, and catching up with how other people are expressing their grief.”

She added a word of warning, though: “It’s important to be realistic about how much of that you can take in,  as you can really go down a rabbit hole.”

“Have your own recipe for what you need to fee like you’ve remembered this person, expressed what you’re feeling, and then letting them go as a memory.”

Valerie suggested viewing footage at a time while you’re around other people, rather than late at night when you’re alone, so as to avoid getting lost in it.

“If it’s impacting your functioning you may need to step back a bit,” she said.

If you have children who are upset, Valerie suggests you normalise their sadness, and talk to them about what it is they’re going to miss about the person who has passed away. To remember Jock Zonfrillo, perhaps watch an episode of Masterchef together with your child—but keep an eye on how much it affects them.


Article supplied with thanks to Hope Media.

Feature image: Jock Zonfrillo Facebook

About the Author: Georgia Free is a broadcaster and writer from Sydney, Australia.

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