The singer/songwriter, 54, penned an essay about her son's July 2020 suicide for National Grief Awareness Day. She said what keeps her going is her three daughters: actress Riley Keough, 33, and 13-year-old twins Finley and Harper Lockwood.
"Today is National Grief Awareness Day, and since I have been living in the horrific reality of its unrelenting grips since my son's death two years ago, I thought I would share a few things to be aware of in regard to grief for anyone who is interested. If not to help yourself but maybe to help another who is grieving..." she began the essay published by People.
Presley said "that grief does not stop or go away in any sense, a year, or years after the loss. Grief is something you will have to carry with you for the rest of your life, in spite of what certain people or our culture wants us to believe. You do not 'get over it,' you do not 'move on,' period."
She went on to describe it as "incredibly lonely." While people surrounded her in the immediate aftermath of Keough's death at age 27, "they soon disappear and go on with their own lives and they kind of expect for you to do the same, especially after some time has passed. This includes 'family' as well," without naming names.
Presley, whose divorce to her fourth husband was finalized last year, said that in the case of suicide — or other "premature, unnatural, or tragic" causes of death — "you will become a pariah in a sense. You can feel stigmatized and perhaps judged in some way as to why the tragic loss took place. This becomes magnetized by a million if you are the parent of a child who passed. No matter how old they were. No matter the circumstances."
Elvis's daughter said others "judge and blame" her for the death of the son she shared with first husband, Danny Keough.
"I already battle with and beat myself up tirelessly and chronically, blaming myself every single day and that's hard enough to now live with, but others will judge and blame you too, even secretly or behind your back which is even more cruel and painful on top of everything else," she wrote.
She wrote in the heartbreaking piece that "old 'friends' and even your family can and will run for the hills," so turning to support groups with other bereaved parents can make someone grieving "feel a little bit less alone." Presley hosts meetings at her home, she noted. While she cherishes the friends who "have stayed in there with us throughout this entire nightmare process from the onset," she's "come to love and cherish my newfound friends who are in this same 'club.'"
Presley said her son's death was truly her "worst nightmare." While she experienced loss in her life — including the loss of her famous father when she was 9, losing her "beautiful, beautiful son" — the "sweetest and most incredible being that I have ever had the privilege of knowing" — is a loss like no other.
She called it "a real choice to keep going, one that I have to make every single day." However, she said, "I keep going for my girls. I keep going because my son made it very clear in his final moments that taking care of his little sisters and looking out for them were on the forefront of his concerns and his mind. He absolutely adored them and they him."
Nonetheless, she and her daughters' "lives as we knew it were completely detonated and destroyed by his death. We live in this every. Single. Day."
Keough died at his home in Calabasas, Calif. on July 12, 2020. The Los Angeles County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled his death a suicide. He was laid to rest at Graceland beside his grandfather in the Meditation Garden.
In July, Presley and daughter Riley Keough posted tributes to Ben on the second anniversary of his death.
Riley said in a 2021 interview that she was "totally debilitated" after her sibling's death. She was unable to get out of bed nor could she speak for two weeks.
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call 911, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 or 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.