Joseph Llanes Lisa Marie Presley and 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 death by suicide in 2020 at age 27. She also gets real about keeping strong for her three daughters (Presley shares Benjamin and daughter Riley with ex-husband Danny Keough, and she has 13-year-old twin daughters Finley Aaron Love and Harper Vivienne Anne with Michael Lockwoodwith whom her divorce was finalized last May).
Read on for Presley’s essay, which has been shared exclusively with PEOPLE and lightly edited for clarity.
Today is “National Grief Awareness Day,” and since I have been living in the horrific reality of its unrelenting grips since my son’s death two years ago, I thought I would share a few things to be aware of in regard to grief for anyone who is interested. If not to help yourself but maybe to help another who is grieving…
This is not a comfortable subject for anyone, and it is most unpopular to talk about. This is quite long, potentially triggering and very hard to confront. But if we’re going to make any progress on the subject, grief has to be talked about. I’m sharing my thoughts in the hopes that somehow, we can change that.
Death is part of life whether we like it or not — and so is grieving. There is so much to learn and understand on the subject, but here’s 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 certain people or our culture wants us to believe. You don’t “get over it,” you don’t “move on,” period.
Two, grief is incredibly lonely. Despite people coming in the heat of the moment to be there for you right after the loss takes place, they soon disappear and go on with their own lives and they kind of expect you to do the same, especially after some time has passed. This includes “family” as well. If you’re incredibly lucky, less than a handful will remain in contact with you after the first month or so. Unfortunately, that is a cold hard truth for most. So, if you know someone who lost a loved one, regardless of how long it’s been, please call them to see how they are doing. Go visit them, they will really really appreciate it, more than you know…
Three, and particularly if the loss was premature, unnatural, or tragic, you will become a pariah in a sense. You can feel stigmatized and perhaps judged in some way as to why the tragic loss took place. This becomes magnetized by a million if you are the parent of a child who passed. No matter how old they were. No matter the circumstances.
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I already battle with and beat myself up tirelessly and chronically, blaming myself every single day and that’s hard enough to now live with, but others will judge and blame you too, even secretly or behind your back which is even more cruel and painful on top of everything else.
This is where finding others who have experienced a similar loss can be the only way to go. Support groups that have your specific kind of loss in common. I go to them, and I hold them for other bereaved parents at my home.
Nothing, absolutely NOTHING takes away the pain, but finding support can sometimes help you feel a little bit less alone.
Your old “friends” and even your family can and will run for the hills.
The unrelenting reality is that you are FORCED into this horrendous “club,” if you will, that you never wanted to be in or a part of, and you are FORCED to then, for lack of a better term, have to go and find your new people now.
I now truly cherish the few who have stayed in there with us throughout this entire nightmare process from the onset. And I have also now come to love and cherish my newfound friends who are in this same “club.”
If I’m being honest, I can understand why people may want to avoid you once a terrible tragedy has struck. Especially a parent losing their child because it is truly your worst nightmare. I can recall a couple of 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 after and never bothered to follow up with them because they quite literally became a representative of my biggest fear. I also low-key judged them, and I swore I’d never do whatever it was that I felt they either did or neglected in their parental actions and choices with their child.
Yet here I am, I am now living what it’s like to be that same representative to other parents … Obviously, no parent chooses this road, and thankfully not all parents will have to become a victim to it — and I do mean VICTIM here. I used to hate that word. Now I know why. I’ve dealt with death, grief and loss since the age of nine years old. I’ve had more than anyone’s fair share of it in my lifetime and somehow, I’ve made it this far. But this one, the death of my beautiful, beautiful son? The sweetest and most incredible being that I have ever had the privilege of knowing, who made me feel so honored every single day to be his mother? Who was so much like his grandfather on so many levels that he actually scared me? Which made me worry about him even more than I naturally would have? But. Just no … no no no no …
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It’s a real choice to keep going, one that I have to make every single day and one that is constantly challenging to say the least… But I keep going for my girls. I keep going because my son made it very clear in his final moments that taking care of his little sisters and looking out for them were at the forefront of his concerns and his mind. He absolutely adored them and they him.
My and my three daughters’ lives as we knew it were completely detonated and destroyed by his death. We live in this every. Single. Day.
I’m saying all this, on this particular day, “National Grief Awareness Day,” in the hopes that I can help raise some awareness on grief and loss. Just know after this day passes, for all your friends who have had a loved one die, every day is grief awareness day. I’m saying this, in the hopes that it helps someone who is suffering as I and my children suffer. In the hopes 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 fiancé, anyone.
Ask them how they’re doing, ask them to talk about their person, yes! We DO want to talk about them. That’s how we keep them alive in our hearts, that’s how they don’t get forgotten, that’s what keeps us alive as well. And do me a favor, don’t tell them that “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 hard and triggering it is. But maybe let it trigger you to reach out to someone who needs it right now rather than it just triggering something bad.
For help and information on what to say, visit Grief.com and show up.
Written with all of my love and my pain, most sincerely ~LMP