Joseph Llanes Lisa Marie Presley and Benjamin Keough
Lisa Marie Presley opens up about life after the loss of her late son Benjamin Keough.
In honor of “National Grief Awareness Day” on Tuesday, the singer, 54, penned an emotional essay about the low points she’s faced in the time since Keough’s 2020 death by suicide at age 27. three daughters (Presley shares Benjamin and daughter Riley with ex-husband Danny Cue and has 13-year-old twin daughters Finley Aaron Love and Harper Vivienne Anne with Michael Lockwood, with whom her divorce was finalized last May).
Read on for Presley’s essay, shared exclusively with PEOPLE and lightly edited for clarity.
Today is National Grief Awareness Day, and since I’ve been living in the horrible reality of its relentless grip since my son’s death two years ago, I thought I’d share a few things to know about grief for anyone who cares. If not to help yourself, but perhaps to help another who is grieving…
This is not a comfortable subject for anyone, and it is not popular to talk about it. This is quite large, potentially triggering, and very difficult to deal with. But if we are going to make any progress on the issue, grief must be discussed. I am sharing my thoughts in the hope that somehow, we can change this.
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Death is a part of life whether we like it or not — and so is grieving. There is so much to learn and understand about the subject, but this is what I know so far: One is that grief does not stop or go away in any sense, a year or years after the loss. Grief is something you will have to carry with you for the rest of your life, despite what some people or our culture would have us believe. You don’t “get over it”, you don’t “move on” period.
Second, grief is incredibly lonely. Despite the fact that people come to the moment to be there for you immediately after a loss, they soon disappear and move on with their lives and expect you to do the same, especially after some time has passed. This includes “family”. If you’re incredibly lucky, less than a handful will stay in touch with you after the first month or so. Unfortunately, this is a cold hard truth for most. So if you know someone who has lost a loved one, no matter how long it’s been, please give them a call to see how they are doing. Go visit them, they will really appreciate it, more than you know…
Three, and especially if the loss was premature, unnatural, or tragic, you will become an outcast in a sense. You may feel stigmatized and may be judged in some way as to why the tragic loss occurred. This is magnified by a million if you are a parent of a child who has passed. No matter how old he was. Regardless of the circumstances.
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I already fight and beat myself tirelessly and years, I blame myself every day and that is hard enough to live now, but others will judge and blame you too, even secretly or behind your back, which is still harder and more painful than anything else.
This is where finding others who have experienced a similar loss may be the only way. Support groups that have this type of loss in common. I go to them and hold them for other bereaved parents in my home.
Nothing, absolutely NOTHING takes the pain away, but finding support can sometimes help you feel a little less alone.
Your old “friends” and even your family can and will run for the hills.
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The harsh reality is that you are forced into this horrible “club” if you will, that you never wanted to be in or a part of, and you are forced then, for lack of a better term, to go and find your new people now.
Now I really love the few who have stuck with us through this whole nightmare process from the beginning. And now I have come to love and adore my new friends who are in this same “club”.
If I’m being honest, I can understand why people might want to avoid you when a terrible tragedy has occurred. Especially a parent losing their child because they really are your worst nightmare. I can remember a few times in my life where I knew parents who lost their child and while I could be there for them when it happened, I avoided them afterward and never bothered to follow them because they literally became representatives of my greatest fear. I also judged them to be low key and swore I would never do what I felt they either did or neglected in their parenting actions and choices with their child.
Yet here I am, now living what it’s like to be a representative yourself to other parents… Obviously, no parent chooses this path, and thankfully not all parents should be victimized — and I mean VICTIM here. I used to hate that word. Now I know why. I have dealt with death, grief and loss since the age of nine. I’ve had more than anyone’s share in my life and somehow, I’ve made it this far. But this, the death of my beautiful, beautiful son? The sweetest and most incredible being I’ve ever had the privilege of meeting, who made me feel so honored every day to be his mother? Who looked so much like his grandfather on so many levels that he actually scared me? Something that made me worry about him even more than I naturally would have? No. Just no… no no no…
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It’s a real choice to keep going, one that I have to make every day and one that is constantly challenging, to say the least… But I keep going for my girls. I carry on because my son made it clear in his final moments that taking care of his little siblings and taking care of them was at the forefront of his concerns and mind. He absolutely adored them too.
My life and that of my three daughters, as we knew it, was completely detonated and destroyed by his death. We live in it every. Single. Day.
I say all this, on this particular day, “National Grief Awareness Day,” in the hope that I can help raise a little awareness of grief and loss. Just know after this day passes, for all your friends who have lost a loved one, every day is grief awareness day. I am saying this in the hopes that it will help someone who is suffering like my children and I are suffering. In the hope that maybe today or as soon as possible, you can reach out to someone who is grieving someone they loved and lost. Whether they lost a child, a parent, a spouse, a sibling, a fiance, whoever.
Ask them how they’re doing, ask them to talk about their man, yes! We want to talk about them. That’s how we keep them alive in our hearts, that’s how they’re not forgotten, that’s what keeps us alive. And do me a favor, don’t tell them you “can’t imagine” their pain. The truth is, oh yes, you can, you just don’t want to.
Thanks for reading all of this. I know how difficult and stimulating it is. But maybe let it trigger you to reach out to someone who needs it right now and not just cause something bad.
For help and information on what to say, visit Grief.com and come forward.
Written with all my love and pain, sincerely ~LMP