When people die, we say stupid things. We are so ill-equipped here in the good ole US-of-A to deal with death that we either say nothing or say something stupid. And I think that’s okay. Death is the ultimate awkward situation, grief is the tornado that flattens every house on the block and we the people just don’t know what to say when someone dies. Particularly when that person is an addict.
“Well, what did you expect given who her parents are?” “So tragic but not exactly a surprise.” “You’d think she would have stayed away from drugs after what they did to her mother.” These are just a few of the gems I saw on Twitter after Bobbi Kristina Brown passed away late last month. Brown, the daughter of Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown was, like myself, born into the disease. Kids like us have an uphill battle and increased odds of being addicts ourselves. But I don’t believe we children of addicts and alcoholics are “doomed to be killed by the disease” as many people said on Twitter. Look, the heartbreak that poor kid must have felt after her mother died in 2012 must have been unbearable. If we’re to believe the reports, her drug use spiralled almost immediately. This makes sense to me. With no example of sobriety in her life, she turned to the tool she’d seen her parents use–and get destroyed by. This is how we cope with everything. And as kids who’ve seen the wreckage it can cause it DOES sound crazy that we’d gladly turn to the substances that we know might kill us. I was told from age 11 that if I drank or did drugs, the chances were good that I’d get addicted. My attitude was always, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. We’ll see about that.”Low and behold, the disease kicked my ass and I barely got out alive. It’s a testament to the power of the disease that I knew what the outcome would probably be and thought I could outrun it anyway. Like I said—crazy. The real tragedy with Bobbi Kristina was that despite having millions and famous parents she died without giving herself a chance to change the story.
Earlier this summer, the husband and I were in some trendy home furnishings store. The above song was blaring and two adorable salespeople, who I guess should have been working, were dancing and lip-synching. Their joy was palatable. The pair burst into laughter when they noticed we had seen them. “By all means, continue,” I said. “You HAVE to dance when this comes on.” The lanky hipster guy of the duo said, “You can’t resist it.” And they continued having their at work dance party. This is what Whitney Houston has left behind for us: the joy of infectious pop song delivered by that powerhouse voice. And for an addict who suffered for so long, this is an incredible gift to leave behind. So to answer that question in the headline- maybe broken hearts, like Bobbi’s, never go away. Maybe the hurt of a loss just lessens over time. Or maybe if we’re lucky and work really hard, we can exist on this planet with a broken heart and still have a happy life. And maybe even dance.