I Know What It's Like To Have A Parent's Death All Over The News

·4 min read
I Know What It's Like To Have A Parent's Death All Over The News

This story discusses suicide. If you or someone you know is in crisis, call 988 to reach the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. You can also call the network, previously known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, at 800-273-8255, text HOME to 741741 or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.

Losing a parent is never easy. But when the world is watching — as it is as Anne Heche’s children grieve their beloved, complicated mother — it is all the more painful, especially when the world wants to offer its opinions and rip apart that parent's character.

I know because I’ve been there.

In 2018, my father, Alan Abrahamson, staged his suicide to look like a murder. He tied a gun to a string, attached it to a helium-filled weather balloon, and once the shot was fired, the balloon carried the weapon away from the scene.

My father was found dead outside the gates of his residential country club on January 25. There was no weapon, no shell casing, no signs of a struggle.

The author as a child, pictured with her father. (Courtesy Rachel Abrahamson)
The author as a child, pictured with her father. (Courtesy Rachel Abrahamson)

The police were baffled, and the community was on edge. Was there a killer on the loose in peaceful Palm Beach Gardens, Florida?

After a few days passed with no suspect, I began emailing authorities with theories. My father liked playing blackjack — maybe he owed a debt? He was cocky — could it be he was trying to fight back in a mugging? That’s totally something he would do.

Suicide was the furthest thing from my mind. My dad was happily remarried and living out his retirement dream on a golf course. The last time I saw him, he boasted that his life was “adult spring break.”

Then, in March, roughly six weeks after my father died, I received a phone call from a detective.

“Are you sitting down?” he asked.

“Did you find the killer?” I replied.

“The bullet wound was self-inflicted,” he said, as I sank to my knees.

The case didn’t make national headlines until several months later. I had time to grieve in private before I was inundated with angry emails about how an innocent person could have gone to jail for my father's "murder."

Anne Heche with her sons, Atlas and Homer. (anneheche / Instagram)
Anne Heche with her sons, Atlas and Homer. (anneheche / Instagram)

Anne Heche’s sons, 20-year-old Homer Laffoon and 13-year-old Atlas Heche Tupper, weren’t afforded the same opportunity.

Anne died at 53 on Sunday. The Emmy-nominated actor had been on life support after being critically injured in a car accident. Los Angeles police said that a blood draw showed Heche had drugs in her system at the time of the crash.

My heart goes out to Homer and Atlas. They watched their mom’s nine-day death unfold in the public eye. I imagine that every time they turned on the news, they saw footage of their mother flying down a street in her blue Mini Cooper and then being carted away by ambulance.

They are also likely reading terrible things about their mom on social media. Did you see how reckless she was driving? She was literally speeding and intoxicated! She's lucky she didn't kill anyone else.

After police pieced together my father’s elaborate suicide plot, messages began creeping in from people with anonymous email addresses that were clearly created for the sole purpose of contacting me.

“Your father wasted police resources. You should pay back the state,” one person wrote. “Disgusting.”

I found myself rage-tweeting at one Florida reporter who seemed overly upbeat as she shared details of my father’s tragic death. I hated the excitement in her voice as she rolled footage of his final moments, which were captured on surveillance camera.

I hate that I still watch her segments because she has audio of my father’s voice. I hate it even more that the audio is of my father asking Siri to search Google for ways to end his life.

My father suffered from mental illness. So did Anne Heche.

“After six days of almost unbelievable emotional swings, I am left with a deep, wordless sadness," her son Homer wrote in a statement. "Hopefully, my mom is free from pain and beginning to explore what I like to imagine as her eternal freedom."

It’s more than four years and I still get calls from producers and podcast hosts. I understand — I am a journalist, too. It’s an interesting case, a juicy story. I'm sure there is already an Anne Heche biopic in the works. She was a fascinating human and a gifted performer.

She was also clearly a beloved mother.

Homer and Atlas, if you are reading this, I hope you know that we are so much more than how we die. We're more than our mistakes. In a statement, your family wrote that your mom had "a huge heart and touched everyone she met with her generous spirit." You said that "she saw spreading kindness and joy as her life’s work — especially moving the needle for acceptance of who you love."

That's her legacy. Her legacy isn't how she died, just like my father's legacy isn't how he died.

In a perfect world, you should be able to grieve a parent privately, without worrying about the "public" — their demands, their reactions, their opinions. I am sorry that you do not get to do that. My advice for you is to do what you can to tune out the voices that don't matter. Stay off message boards — easier said than done, I know. And write down your memories of your mom — yours are the ones that matter.