How We Mourned the Departed Celebrities of 2016 2


2016 was a year that took many of our favourite celebrities and widely respected figures. From global musical sensations to iconic comedians, from stellar actors to sportspeople who dominated their fields, we must all have felt a pang of sadness at the loss of one or more of 2016’s dearly departed.

Prince death

Living as we do in the age of social media, we can examine exactly how collective grief is expressed in a public arena as a response to the loss of such cherished figures.

To this end, we scraped 20 million mentions from Twitter, news sites, blogs and forums. These were any mentions of 26 celebrities over the two weeks following their deaths.

From this data, we discovered consistent patterns in how we grieve online. Interestingly, these are not so different to how we would express grief offline.

What’s clear is that as life increasingly takes place in the digital space, the very human ritual of grief remains an inexorable part of our human psyche.

We welcome any questions regarding our data and our methodology. Raw data and detailed analyses are available on request from [email protected]


The 26 celebrities we analysed

  1. Prince – 4,555,229 mentionsalan rickman death
  2. Muhammad Ali – 2,377,193 mentions
  3. David Bowie – 2,352,750 mentions
  4. Alan Rickman – 2,226,305 mentions
  5. Carrie Fisher – 2,168,968 mentions
  6. Fidel Castro – 1,159,986 mentions
  7. George Michael – 953,878 mentions
  8. Debbie Reynolds – 940,333 mentions
  9. Gene Wilder – 623,750 mentions
  10. Johan Cruyff – 504,968 mentions
  11. Arnold Palmer – 443,371 mentions
  12. Leonard Cohen – 355,794 mentions
  13. Terry Wogan – 279,869 mentions
  14. Garry Shandling – 124,809 mentions
  15. Ronnie Corbett – 109,713 mentions
  16. Zsa Zsa Gabor – 103,600 mentions
  17. Victoria Wood – 98,314 mentions
  18. Caroline Aherne – 82,507 mentions
  19. Pete Burns – 76,766 mentions
  20. David Gest – 71,207 mentions
  21. Rick Parfitt – 60,104 mentions
  22. Andrew Sachs – 50,904 mentions
  23. Paul Daniels – 40,351 mentions
  24. Liz Smith – 30,098 mentions
  25. AA Gill – 19,566 mentions
  26. Howard Marks – 17,114 mentions

Key findings

  1. The top 10 most-mourned celebrities that we analysed accounted for over 90% of all mentions.David Bowie death
  2. 96% of all content that we analysed appeared on Twitter. This is as expected given the viral nature of the platform. Twitter is built around short updates which are retweeted, thus generating a greater quantity of mentions. Twitter also has more active users when compared with people who write news and blog articles, repost them and comment in forums.
  3. In most cases the peak day for mournful content was on the day of death. This was more apparent on Twitter than on blogs, which take more time to compose than a 140 character tweet. This is especially evident in the case of George Michael, who passed away on Christmas Day. The peak for Twitter content was December 25th, whereas for blog content the peak day the following day, December 26th.
  4. Where a figure was divisive the peak day for mournful content can shift by a day as Twitter becomes more of a conversational platform, with people debating the extent to which they should be mourned. This was especially evident in the case of Fidel Castro; whose death became politicised and subsumed into conversations around the US Presidential election.
  5. The country that mourns digitally the most is the USA, accounting for over 50% of all mentions. This is perhaps unsurprising, given it has the most active Twitter users of any country in the world.
  6. Men produced more mournful content than women, with 2 million more blogs and tweets. This was especially so for sportsmen and politicians, with Muhammad Ali, Fidel Castro, Johan Cruyff and Arnold Palmer having a male skew in the hundreds of thousands.

Compare local, independent funeral director costs in your area with Beyond.

Next Article


  1. I’m now not certain where you’re getting your information, however great topic. I must spend some time studying more or understanding more. Thanks for great information I was on the lookout for this info for my mission.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

An Interview with Sarah Jones, author of ‘Funerals, Your Way’ 0

A wicker coffin decorated with flowers by the team at Full Circle Funerals

We’re all going to die. Not right away (let’s get that clear – we’ve not spotted a large comet hurtling towards Earth) but, like it or not, death comes to us all.

We don’t talk about it, though. And since we don’t talk about death, the majority of people who are arranging a funeral for the first time are blindsided by the sheer number of decisions they have to make, often about things they’ve never considered.

Sarah Jones from Full Circle Funerals holds her book, Funerals, Your WayPerhaps you know whether the person who died wanted to be cremated or buried – but did you ever ask them about what they’d want to be wearing when it happened? Are they a wicker coffin sort of person, or is veneer wood better? Funeral planning involves a host of bewildering questions that most of us are unprepared for.

Funeral director Sarah Jones of Full Circle Funerals wants to change that. Her new e-book, Funerals, Your Way, offers families a gentle yet thorough introduction to the many options available to them, and a framework for approaching difficult decisions with their loved one’s wishes and personality in mind.

Ahead of the launch of the book, we caught up with Sarah to talk about how it came about and why the “person-centred approach to planning a funeral” is the future…

Hi Sarah! How did you become a funeral director?

We opened Full Circle Funerals in September of 2016, but I’d decided about a year before that that was what I wanted to do. I started my working life as a doctor in the NHS, doing vascular surgery. I left that role to work with adults with learning difficulties.

The simple reason for opening Full Circle is that, throughout my work in health and social care, I’ve always felt that end of life care and funerals are really important. And that if they’re done well, that it could probably make a really big difference to bereaved families.

I felt that it was something it was important to do well and do right, and I was quite clear in my mind about what I thought that would involve. So, I decided to do it.

What inspired you to write Funerals, Your Way?

The team at Full Circle Funerals decorate a wicker casket.I think the more people know before they walk into a funeral director, the better.

Every day, in our work, we support families, and it’s so obvious and so clear that giving them a little bit of information and time, and expanding on the ideas they’ve already got, is incredibly helpful to people. Opening up a space where they can confidently feel that they can explore what they want and what they need can make a real difference.

A lot of people walk into the room and they have never thought about it before. It’s something they haven’t even wanted to engage in: they’re bewildered, they’re confused, and they’re vulnerable. I think it’s so easy to address that knowledge imbalance and power imbalance, so that families can go into the arrangements knowing what questions they need to ask, having gathered their thoughts.

How you would like families to use your book? 

A traditional church funeral arranged by Full Circle FuneralsIdeally, I think everybody should just read it, randomly, as a book, rather than being in a situation where they’re having to apply it to a person in their lives, or themselves. That way they’re not stressed, and they can take their time to consider it.

Another way it could help is if families read it when they know that they are going to need to arrange a funeral in the coming weeks and months, so they’re preparing themselves.

We are also approached by quite a lot of people who want to plan their own, particularly younger people. So, I think it could be something they read relatively privately, and then when they’ve gathered their thoughts, then they can engage in that difficult conversation with the people in their family.

In the book, you talk about taking a “person-centred approach to funerals”. What does that mean to you?

A burial arranged by Full Circle FuneralsI come from a background in health and social care, where everything should be person-centred.  You effectively have a group of professionals and a process that is centred around the individual. And you’re collaborating with that individual, giving them what they need to optimise their health and care.

That principle, to me, feels very, very important for funerals. The person who has died – do you want the funeral to reflect that person?  And then you also have the people close to them, who maybe need to get something helpful from the process of arranging the funeral and the funeral itself – how do you support them?

So, I suppose my logic was just to highlight the people at the centre of all of this. I think funerals should be person-centred, and that person should not be the funeral director or a representative from the industry.

Do you see that perhaps as something that some in the industry need to work on?

The team from Full Circle Funerals.Everyone I have met seems to be trying to do their best, and we’re all trying to achieve the same thing. Which, broadly speaking, is better, more consistent, personalised care for people at the end of their lives and at funerals.

I believe that the way to achieve that is to increase knowledge amongst the general public and to therefore increase people’s expectations. I think that that’s actually the only way that you can fundamentally change funeral care.

So, my emphasis is on just trying to just slowly work away, in my own very tiny way, at changing people’s expectations of how good a funeral can actually be, and how helpful it can be. And giving them the information that they need to make that happen.

Funerals, Your Way is available to buy from Full Circle Funerals here. All proceeds go to support the Leeds Bereavement Forum and local hospices.

The Anatomical Art of Salvador Dali 1

Dali Anatomical Art

There are few, if any, people interested in modern art that will not recognise the name Salvador Dali. Now, nearly thirty years after his death, he is considered one of the most important and influential artists of the 20th Century and is lauded for revolutionising the way we think about painting and art. In his paintings, the human body figures extensively and was used over and over again in a variety of innovative ways. Here we take a look at some of his most important anatomical art, and consider how and why Dali used the human form so much in his work.

As we shall see below, the anatomy as represented visually by Dali was heavily influenced by the medical and scientific thinking of the day, and the morbid fascination brought on by the horrors of World War II, and later the atomic age.

 All images courtesy of


The Anthropomorphic Cabinet – 1936

Dali was fascinated with psychoanalysis and the ideas of Sigmund Freud, arguing that it was he who discovered that the human body ‘is nowadays full of secret drawers that only psychoanalysis is capable to open.’ This idea is realised in Dali’s painting The Anthropomorphic Cabinet, where the famous ancient sculpture Venus de Milo was adapted to become a human chest of drawers, or perhaps more accurately in terms of Dali’s art, a cabinet was adapted to take on a human form. This painting was preceded by Dali’s similarly themed Atmospheric Chair, in which abstract, but possibly human, shapes emerge from a cabinet.


Soft Construction with Boiled Beans (Premonition of Civil War) – 1936

Dali Soft Construction

Salvador Dali often seemed to use the human form and its distortions to reflect on the important contemporary issues of his time. Soft Construction with Boiled Beans seems to be one such painting. A commentary on the horrors and difficulties of the Spanish Civil War, in which Dali and many of his friends found themselves caught up, the painting attempts to visualise the destruction of the conflict by creating an equally monstrous human form. Dali himself declared that the diabolical head displayed in the painting was inspired by Francisco Goya’s painting Saturn Devouring His Son.


Metamorphosis of Narcissus – 1937

Dali Narcissus

One of Dali’s more famous paintings, Metamorphosis of Narcissus plays with the idea of ego, self-love and the Ancient Greek myth from which narcissism derives its name. The story revolves around Narcissus falling in love with his own reflection in a lake and eventually being immortalised by the Gods in the form of a flower. In Dali’s painting, the human form is contrasted with a similarly shaped rock formation that can also be easily interpreted as a stony hand from which a flower grows. The painting had a great impact, with it being shown to Freud himself, and with Dali’s own secretary, the photographer and author Robert Descharnes, arguing that it meant a great deal to the artist as well.


The Face of War – 1940

Dali The Face of War

Another Dali painting inspired by the brutalities of war, The Face of War was finished between the end of the Spanish Civil War and the start of the Second World War. It portrays a decaying face, perhaps that of a corpse, that contains identical faces in its eye sockets and mouth. These smaller faces also contain the same face in their eyes and mouth, suggesting that this process goes on forever in an infinite regress. On the topic of the painting, Dali wrote in his Diary: ‘Not a single minute of my life passes without the sublime Catholic, apostolic, and Roman spectre of death accompanying me even in the least important of my most subtle and capricious fantasies.’


Galatea of the Spheres – 1952

Dali Spheres

As one of Dali’s later paintings, Galatea of the Spheres reconciles Dali’s unique surrealist style with the new science and ideas emerging in the middle of the 20th Century. Fascinated by the atom and nuclear physics in the wake of the first dropping of the atomic bomb in 1945, Dali sought to create a piece of art that reflected the idea that the entire universe was made up of atoms, between which there was a great deal of space or emptiness, and created this portrait of his wife in response. Also influenced by classical mythology, the painting appears to be one of Dali’s more straightforward to interpret, but is no less impressive for the fact.