By Gaetane Borders
June 25, 2009 is the date that one of the most iconic people in the world passed away. His name was Michael Jackson. He was a former child star whose celebrity grew to such proportions that other stars felt sorry for him about the amount of scrutiny he received from the media. As the 1st anniversary of his death approaches, more drama ensues….mirroring the life that he once led.
As if on cue, just a few days ago Michael’s father, Joe Jackson, accused his estranged wife of not doing enough to prevent their son’s death.
He described the scene shortly after the news was confirmed that Michael was dead in a recent interview with News of The World:
“Katherine was weeping uncontrollably and highly upset. But I didn’t give her a hug because I was mad at her crying.
“I said, ‘If you had listened to me Michael would be living now!’ I kept thinking about the times I had stood in front of her saying something was wrong.”
“I couldn’t bottle up my feelings. Katherine didn’t say a word – I had to get away from her. If she’d done what I asked, Michael would be here today. I am incensed with her. She could have made a difference.”
Katherine Jackson’s attorney swiftly issued a statement saying, “Joe Jackson's statements and conduct toward Mrs. Jackson are outrageous. The world knows Mrs. Jackson has always been a loving and caring mother and grandmother, and she had a very special relationship with Michael. The world also knows who Joe Jackson is and he seems bent on never letting us forget.”
My goodness! What a circus, and what a travesty. During all the he said/she said drama that is playing out in the media, I do think that it is important to note that behaviors and personalities do not develop in a vacuum. Rather, most experts agree, that they are the result of a combination between experiences and genetics (ie. Nature vs. nurture). In Michael’s own words, his father’s severe parenting style caused him such anxiety that as an adult he was nauseous whenever his father was near. Michael also described how his father teased him about his looks, and how this affected his self-esteem. Now, I fall short of saying that these experiences single handedly caused the eccentric personality that Michael seemingly turned out to be, or his alleged drug addictions. However, there is no doubt that they affected the person that Michael became.
What this Jackson family drama has helped to showcase is that despite having millions of dollars in an account, they still experience the ills that affect any average family. In fact, despite the demonstrative manner in which it was done by Michael’s father, playing the blame game is a common occurrence that happens between parents after the death of a child.
According to the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy, parents often experience more anger, depression, guilt, and physical symptoms than those grieving other losses. The “conflict can occur between the parents due to lack of understanding about each person's way of expressing grief. Marital problems, which were present before the child's death, can re-emerge, often with increased strength. Blaming can occur and the words that are said to each other in anger and grief can have a lifelong impact.”
The AAMFT recommends the following:
- Keep a journal; sometimes it is helpful to put down in words what you are feeling and thinking.
- Talk about your child, if you want to. Although it may be painful, it can help you heal.
- Take time to do a familiar activity with your family. This helps to provide stability when your world is feeling chaotic.
- Join a support group; parents often respond that becoming involved in bereavement groups helped them through their loss and with their relationship.
- Seek therapy when you, or others close to you, feel that your grief is becoming too difficult to bear, or is too prolonged.