The funeral of Peaches Geldof will be held today at a private ceremony, near her childhood home. Photo: Reuters
I remember how stunned and deeply saddened I felt when I learned Peaches Geldof had died, only a few short weeks ago. Daisy Buchanan summed it up beautifully here in an apt piece for Telegraph Wonder Women:
“The death of Peaches Geldof is a tragedy. Objectively speaking, it’s heartbreaking because she leaves two young sons and a family who adored her. At 25, we wanted to believe her future was full of happiness and hope. But in a personal, unprofessional and ridiculous sense, I feel like I’ve lost a mate. And I suspect many other women in their twenties feel the same.”
I was still in the office when I heard the news last month and the sharp in-takes of breath were audible across the vast Telegraph news floor. And then there was silence for a brief moment. Some younger members of staff, to whom she meant more to than her famous parents, were moved to tears.
Peaches Geldof and Thomas Cohen in January 2014. Photo: Anthony Harvey
Friends of mine, who too felt like they had grown up with her writing, DJ-ing or TV presenting, were shell-shocked and just very, very sad. The mood of the public was similar.
Fast forward to today’s inquest, at which toxicology reports have confirmed heroin was likely to have contributed to her death – the tide, at least on Twitter and Facebook – has changed.
Tweets like this one from Matt X Morton:
Or this one from Eve Huckfield:
are commonplace across social media today.
And yet, nothing has really changed. A vibrant 25-year-old woman is still dead, far too young. Two baby boys are still without a mother; a husband without his wife; a father without his daughter and sisters are still without their beloved sibling.
Peaches still had a terribly sad life story, regardless of how her own life ended. Her own mother, Paula Yates, died of an accidental heroin overdose in 2000 when Peaches was she was just a little girl – something she has had to cope day-in, day-out, ever since.
We also know Peaches had a long history of drug use, including reports that she had to be revived after an overdose in 2008.
However, what we don’t know, and will never know, is what was going through her mind in those days leading up to her death, when she was caring for her 11 month-old son – just like her own mother was looking after Peaches’s young sister on the day she died, in an horribly eerie echo.
Of course it is anything but ideal that a mother is using heroin – especially if this was happening while looking after children (another fact we don’t know).
But the point I want to stress is this: Peaches’s premature death remains tragic, regardless of how she died.
A lot of people will be wondering why on earth a woman with seemingly everything to live for – the fame, fortune and family – would use drugs in the first place.
The girl 'who had it all?'
As my colleague Andrew Brown points out, both drug addiction and suicide have a strong familial element and drug usage by such a close member of her family, as her mother was, could have played a part.
It could also have been because of the soothing effects heroin is supposed to have. According to Claire Clarke, psychotherapist and addiction expert, heroin provides a feeling of “perfect care” for some of its users.
“Peaches Geldof may have seemed like she ‘had it all’ – i.e. the fame and fortune – those are just external things. People use drugs to meet their internal needs. They take drugs to fix loneliness and anxiety. People say heroin takes away their anxiety and wraps them in cotton wool. It makes them feel like everything is OK in the world.
“For that reason somebody who needed to escape bad feelings would use it again and again to remove those feelings.”
But working as Clarke does as the referrals consultant at Clouds House, a residential addiction treatment home, (which is part of one of the UK’s largest addiction charities, Action on Addiction), she says there are only two outcomes out of using heroin: “You recover or you die. It’s that dangerous.”
Simon Antrobus, the chief executive of Addaction, another of the UK’s major addiction charities, says Peaches’s death “demonstrates again the tragic and devastating consequences of using drugs”.
He also said it reminded people of the “indiscriminate” nature of drug addiction and underlined the need for decent education in schools about all addictions – including alcoholism.
Why do we know so little about drugs?
Indeed, the sheer ignorance about addiction and drug use in this country is pretty breathtaking.
Clarke agrees, saying she finds the comments across Twitter and Facebook by people withdrawing their sympathy for Peaches now they have learned of her heroin usage “horrendous”.
“There is a huge lack of understanding in the world and here in the UK about drug use and addiction. People take drugs to feel better but no one then chooses to be addicted to a substance. And this is the difficulty for people trying to get well, which so few people comprehend – when addiction takes over, the user no longer has any control.”
What we do know
We still know very little about Peaches’s death and perhaps we will never know anymore than we know now. But what we do know is that another young woman – a mother, wife, daughter, sister and friend – has lost her life and that is never something to jeer or sneer at, regardless of the circumstances.
The Telegraph, London