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Opinion: The sudden death of a young woman is not any less tragic for her being an addict

Compassion for a fellow human being should not change just because a poor soul happened to be an addict.

Claire Micks

LAST APRIL, shortly after Peaches Geldof had been found dead, but before drugs had ever been mentioned, I wrote a column about how I, a non celebrity, common or garden mother-of-two could relate to the loneliness she clearly felt about the loss of her own mother. About how hard it is being a mum without a mum. And about how having kids brings an unavoidable spotlight on the painful absence of your parent(s).

It got one of the highest readerships of any column this year. Not because it was particularly well written. But because the unspeakable sadness around Peaches Geldof’s death, and the utter tragedy of her following in her own mother’s footsteps, would stop even the most cynical and hard-hearted of us in our tracks.

Confirmed as a heroin addict 

And now an inquest has found that her 11-month-old was left alone for up to 15 hours after she died in a house that contained importation quality heroin. And I find myself wondering… do I still feel a kinship with her?

Yesterday she was ‘outed’ as a heroin addict who had been in treatment for 2 ½ years before her death. Which means that, given her eldest son is barely two, she effectively had never been a parent without battling a drug addiction. Now that I know that uncomfortable fact, do I still sympathise with her pain?

Yes.

Yes, I do.

Why?

Because she was woman – no, a girl – who had had a hard time. The hardest of times. The kind of childhood few, if any of us, can even begin to imagine. Losing your mother to a drug overdose at age 11. How can any of us even begin to imagine how that scars a young mind? How such trauma could leave a lifelong legacy, from which there is no escape?

Because having your youngest son arrive on what would otherwise have been your mother’s 54th birthday must evoke feelings of loss and pain which could overwhelm even the best of us.

Because my reaction, my compassion, my empathy with a fellow human being should not change just because this poor soul happened to involve illegal drugs in her own untimely demise; that she happened to use heroin as her vehicle of escaping whatever it was within her own life which was so relentlessly torturing her. And because the victim of a traumatic childhood would suddenly somehow become the perpetrator of her own demise. And that, regardless of whether or not she happened to also be a mother herself, is just not right.

Walk a mile in her shoes 

Regardless of what her chosen method of escape was, and how permanent she intended that escape to be, she was a fellow human being who was clearly in the horrors and who deserves our sympathies. And instead she’s being vilified.

To quote the chief protagonist herself in this sad tale: “I think you have to experience hardships and pain yourself to fully understand people who have been through it”. She was speaking at the time about the death of her own mother. Perhaps we could all learn a thing or two from this laudable sentiment.

Let those very few who have walked mile in her shoes sit in judgement. And let the rest of us, whose only concern aged 11 was when we were getting a raise in our pocket money or when the next slumber party would be, let us more fortunate ones just hope that Peaches has now finally found peace.

In the last interview she ever did, she was quoted as saying that “All heroin users have the same core internal pain”. And I for one hope that now, for the first time since the year 2000, she is no longer in pain.

Claire Micks is an occasional writer who has also has two young babies and who also lost her own mother. And yet she still found herself sitting in on the Peaches Jury. Until she actively chose to step outside it.

Column: Peaches and Paula – a mum without a mum and a photograph that spoke a thousand words

Column: Peaches Geldof’s last interview: ‘Heroin is such a bleak drug’

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Claire Micks

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