I heard Bob Geldof on the news today, talking about how he blames himself for the death of his daughter Peaches.
It’s well documented that Peaches, who was mum to two little boys Phaedra and Astala, died from a heroin overdose. Her body was discovered by husband Tom Cohen at their home in Kent. She was alone with her 11-month-old son when she died.
According to the inquest which took place after her death, Peaches was taking heroin for a couple of months before her death. She had been on the heroin substitute methadone for two and a half years.
In an interview with ITV News, Sir Bob today described himself as “the father who is responsible and clearly failed”. He added that he knew Peaches was taking heroin prior to her death.
I know there’ll be those who say Peaches deserves no sympathy, or that Sir Bob may be right to blame himself, but I vehemently disagree. Unless you’ve encountered addiction first-hand or seen someone you love battle to overcome an addiction, you don’t really have the right to judge, in my view.
And as a parent, there but for the grace of God go all of us. We each of us hope for the best for our children. We do everything we can to give them the best opportunities in life, and to pave the way for them to grow into healthy, whole human beings - but none of us can guarantee that circumstances beyond our control won’t one day drive our kids to drink or drugs. That’s the nature of parenting. In the words of Anne Frank, parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.
When you hold your tiny newborn baby in your arms or watch your rambunctious toddler sleeping, it seems impossible to imagine that dear soul ever coming to any kind of harm. The very thought is the stuff of any parent’s nightmares.
So I can’t comprehend what it must be like to be Sir Bob and to feel the acute pain that comes from carrying such a heavy burden of guilt when a child dies in such tragic circumstances.
I don’t think anyone in their right mind would consider Sir Bob culpable for the death of his daughter Peaches, but I understand that blaming yourself is second nature when you’re a parent. It takes more than most of us have got to weather loss like Sir Bob’s and come out the other side without believing that our choices as a parent might have in some way contributed to the tragedy.
But that’s the true nature of addiction - it ravages the hearts and mind of an addict’s extended family, as well as the health and wellbeing of the person in its clutches.
At the time of Peaches’ death her former nanny, Anita Debney, spoke poignantly about the joy she shared with Peaches “in her beautiful babies”. She said Peaches “blossomed in motherhood and excelled at raising the sweetest, happiest babies in the world” and spoke up for the needs of babies everywhere, adding that “lives had been changed” as a result. She added that Peaches had left “a wonderful legacy to the world”.
I sincerely hope that Sir Bob will one day move past the pain of parental guilt in the wake of Peaches’ death to recognise that rather than being to blame, he is partly to thank for that legacy. And if nothing else, he certainly played a part in shaping her into a devoted mother to two sons whom she clearly adored. No amount of blame can take that away, and no addiction can ever change it.