Friday, 2 May 2014

Peaches Geldof's death; tragic, not selfish

Yesterday we learned that "Recent use of heroin and the levels identified were likely to have played a role" in Peaches Geldof's tragic death. As well as the many thoughtful comments I read yesterday I saw several which were quick to condemn her actions as those of a junkie mother who deserves no sympathy. Rather than being so quick to start pointing the finger we need to think about what demons drove her to drugs. She was clearly a mother who adored her children, so to be at a point where she would need to take heroin in their presence (if reports are true she had one of her children in the house with her when she died) then that doesn't say selfishness to me, it suggests an overpowering desperation. Addiction is not enjoyable, it's an illness that controls and destroys lives. There is so much stigma around mental health and addiction possibly gets the worst of it. Heroin use can be a destructive vicious circle; the short term high may relieve physical and emotional pain but the long term effects of taking it are dependency and depression relieved only briefly by another hit. We can't know why Peaches turned to the drug that killed her own mother, what dark place she may have been in. Instead of being so quick to judge why people become addicted to something maybe we should accept we don't know their lives and what led them to their drug of choice? Even if elements of our lives are similar we are not them, we've not lived the same lives, not felt the same emotions,  not experienced the same pain and the desperate need to end that pain.
My brother was a heroin addict. He killed himself in 2012. Not with heroin, he gassed himself in his car but his postmortem showed he had drugs in his body at the time of his death. The last thing we as his family needed to hear after he died was that he had been selfish (and we did hear it a few times). When your world has been tilted from its axis, when your head is so full of every emotion imaginable you fear it might explode, when it feels as though part of you has been violently ripped out you do not need to hear that the person you loved chose to leave you through selfishness. The note he left showed we were in his thoughts, he had been thinking of us but he believed the pain he was feeling had become such that dying was his only option, he couldn't bear it any more.
Peaches deserves compassion; none of us know what she was feeling in her last few moments, but so too do her family, they need the time and space to grieve the woman they loved. What they don't need is strangers making cruel judgements on a situation they know next to nothing about. They will be experiencing  overwhelming emotions right now and anger will probably be one of them. That is normal and is their right, it is not our right to feel sanctimonious anger on their behalf. Their anger is not likely to last, it's just one feeling amongst the horrible confusion of feelings that come with a sudden and unexpected death. They don't need an uninformed public being angry and critical on their behalf. Her children in particular don't need to grow up in the glare of publicity as "the poor children left by the selfish and tragic Peaches Geldof." They need to know their mother loved them totally, that she didn't choose to leave them but she needed the unbearable pain that engulfed her to end and that is what led to her tragic loss of life (the same holds true for whether she hoped for a temporary respite from hurting or wanted it to end permanently). It wasn't selfishness nor recklessness, she was driven by the sort of anguish that most of us should count our lucky stars we can't even really imagine.
If you can't accept that then perhaps just consider this is one of those times where "if you can't say something nice..." should come into play.

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