Parents of child who died from suicide or a drug overdose — it's not your fault

Bridget Peterson and Ashley Ramsey
One thing I hate more than anything is when people blame the parents after a child dies from suicide or a drug overdose.

 I have written several stories about teenagers and young adults who have died. And it makes me sick reading some of the comments by people who blame the parents.

Most recently, I wrote a story about Ashley Peterson Ramsey, 24, of Waterford Township who died from a heroin overdose. And when interviewing her mom, Bridget Peterson, on the phone, it broke my heart when she told me that she felt like it was her fault. It's not!

I decided to garner support for her on The Oakland Press' Facebook page — hoping that people in the community could help her feel not so alone. And I was thrilled with the result. ‪

Pat Bernieri‬ said, "Please don't feel that this was your responsibility. Addictions can only be stopped or worked on attempting to stop, by the person who is doing the behavior." ‪

Nicole Keeley‬ said, "I lost my brother in 2011 to this horrible drug, and I have truly learned since then how controlling this drug can be. Don't ever feel like you were to blame!! We tried everything we could and in a million ways. No matter what could have been done differently, the result would have been the same."

If a child died from cancer, would you ever, in a million years say, "His/her parents didn't try hard enough." No, you wouldn't, because you know that cancer is a disease that is no one's fault.

But addiction and mental illnesses are DISEASES too! And these diseases don't discriminate. A child could have two amazing and supportive parents, live a comfortable life, be popular, be an athlete and have a bright future — and still suffer from depression, bipolar disorder, etc.

Tessie Castillo of The Huffington Post writes, "Blaming the parents for a child's drug overdose takes attention away from the appalling lack of access to treatment for people who do seek help. Blaming parents for a suicide detracts from recovery efforts for people with depression, mental health issues or unresolved pain."

She writes that, having become a parent herself, she is trying to accept the fact that, no matter how much she loves her child, there are many misfortunes she can't prevent.

Mary Reyes with Jeremiah and Serenna Hargett
"I can just do my best. That's what all parents do," she said.

I think the heroes in our society are the parents of children who died from mental illness who don't blame themselves, but, instead, make the best of the awful hand they were dealt by using the tragedy to help others. That's what Bridget Peterson did. And that's what Mary Reyes, whose 20-year-old son Jeremiah Hargett died from suicide, has done for the past three years — ever since he died in 2011.

Mary could have become a recluse after her son's death — locked herself in her bedroom and cried and slept the days away for years. Instead, she used what happened to her son to raise awareness.

For the last three years, Mary has hosted the Miah Mile to educate the community about the various mental illness disorders, signs, symptoms, treatments, as well as, provide support. The proceeds raised from this fundraiser each year is used to help organizations like Common Ground.

"We want the public to know that these mind altering disabilities are real and death by suicide can be the devastating result. ... Anyone that dies in this way due to these illnesses should be held in dignity just as those that die of cancer, heart disease and any other life threatening sickness," she said.

Mary and Bridget — you guys serve as examples and make a difference in this world. And I know that, through your advocacy, you will help others not have to go through the same fate as you did. You guys are heroes; you save lives.

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