Whitney Houston’s Death: Seeking Answers & Searching for Meaning
Along with all of you, I am still in shock over the loss of one of my most beloved musical icons, Whitney Houston. I still remember singing along to the soundtrack of "The Bodyguard" while driving alone on the highway envisioning myself as one of her backup singers.
Now with the knowledge that one of America’s greatest singers has left our world to sing for the angels, I feel as a therapist and health professional that we cannot overlook what took our beloved Whitney away from us much too soon. We all remember Whitney for her amazing talent. But we cannot be in denial of the pain she must have been feeling at one specific low point in her life when she became as equally known for addled comments like "Crack is whack."
Following the death of Michael Jackson, who perished under what looks like very similar circumstances, it cannot be ignored that the principal ingredient in both deaths was drugs --recreational or prescription. And does it really matter whether drugs were prescribed by a doctor or taken for "fun" when they result in death? I think back to a dear friend who was blessed with a career as a police officer rising through the ranks, with an amazing physique and a beautiful smile.
I’m still grappling with his self-destructive choices. Similar to these beloved stars, my friend also had an addiction to prescription medication. In his case, the choice was to mix them with steroids. At his funeral, his police officer cousin hit the coffin in anger at the death of this man with such potential.
That same wasted potential is apparent in the deaths of Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston. The question that remains is why? Why would people with such enormous talent and drive feel so emotionally empty that they played havoc with their lives by indulging in drug and alcohol abuse along with reckless behavior?
"Whitney was the first icon that actually affected my life and it is really sad," a young fan told me at a mixer this past Sunday, "I am only twenty-five-years old and this is the first death of a celebrity that has really impacted me on many levels."
Whitney, along with Michael, now joins the pantheon of the greats whose lives ended much too soon due to drugs, alcohol and self-abuse, including Heath Ledger, Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, John Belushi, Chris Farley, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, River Phoenix, Kurt Cobain, and Judy Garland. Just looking at this list brings back memories of where I was when I heard the news of each of these celebrity deaths. Such sadness only reinforces my intention to want to shake anyone who overindulges with any mood- altering substance to excess, especially when they have so much to lose by their irresponsible actions.
In a televised interview, a close friend and colleague of Whitney Houston said that, despite all the fan adoration, the singer who gave so much of herself onstage and to her fans often ended up emotionally bereft when she would return home to an empty house. Even the presence of her adored and adoring daughter couldn’t fill the void.
If you’re living in that same "empty house," it’s crucial that you find something -- many things -- to fill up that emptiness, be it love or friendship, family support, religion, an activity such as working out or yoga, a hobby, or adopting a pet. Whatever you do, do not fill up that emptiness with excess drinking, drugging, sex or food. Unfortunately for her, Whitney’s "empty house" was too vast for even her loving family and daughter to fill. Now they -- and we -- are left with an open wound in our hearts.
If we can take away anything from Whitney’s seemingly senseless death it’s a message that she sang clearly: "Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all." But also, if you find your life spiraling out of control, find help, either through a professional or those whom you know honestly love and support you. Fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld once advised, "Don’t sacrifice yourself too much, because if you sacrifice yourself too much there’s nothing else you can give and then nobody will care for you."
Sadly, Whitney sacrificed more of herself than she knew she was capable of giving and we will miss her.