Melissa Etheridge says son Beckett's death 'taught me that I cannot save anyone else'
Melissa Etheridge says the grief over her son Beckett's death has been "endless."
The "Come to My Window" singer opened up to The Daily Beast about Beckett, whom she shared with ex Julie Cypher (with sperm donated by David Crosby), succumbing to his opioid addiction in 2020 at the age of 21. She said her family is still recovering from his loss, and shared what his death has taught her.
The mom of four said of motherhood, "Even when my son left this earth, and the choices he made, I would still not change a thing. To know that kind of love, the things he taught me about life..."
The greatest lesson has been, "He taught me that I cannot save anyone else, and I am not supposed to save anyone else," she said. "The best thing I could ever do for him was stand in my own truth and my love of myself, take care of myself, and try to show him that. He never caught on to that part, but then of course the drugs had him by then."
Etheridge said Beckett was in a "downward spiral" into addiction beginning at age 17. He was training to be a pro snowboarder, reportedly with hopes to compete in the X Games, when he had an accident. He was prescribed painkillers for an ankle injury, which led to substance abuse. Etheridge said the injury "shattered his life" because "couldn’t do what he loved anymore." It hurt his self-confidence.
As a parent, Etheridge said she tried everything to help him as far as treatment programs and, sometimes, tough love.
"It was four years of a downward spiral, and I kept thinking, 'We'll keep putting him into programs,' 'You've got to learn this, get this,'" she recalled. However, "Life was too hard for him, and when you have an easy out with drugs — I can understand it. I always had a joy of life, but he never really did... Then it was four years of watching him slowly go down. I put him in programs. I cut him off. You do everything you can think of. You think, 'There's something I can do, I can save him. I can show him. I can punish him into this. I can do something.' Then, finally, towards the end, I realized, 'I can't do anything else, I know I may get the call any day that he's dead. It's up to him. It's his life. He has to figure something out. He made these choices.'"
Heartbreakingly, "By the time he died, I wasn’t surprised," she admitted. "I was incredibly sad. I hadn't heard from him in four days. They sent police officers to check on him, and then I was told, 'He's gone.'"
She has second-guessed how she handled it all, admitting, "The guilt and shame will eat you up. It was very, very stressful. It took a little while for our whole family to recover. We still are. We bring his memory in, we celebrate him. We celebrate how funny and joyful he was. He's still with us, and we help each other not bring any kind of guilt and shame into our home."
But the grief is "endless," she admitted. "I don't imagine I will ever stop thinking about him. I find myself constantly thinking about him. He helps me now by knowing that I have to turn those thoughts into joy, that I can’t let those thoughts bring me down. That doesn't help. He doesn't want that, now he's in a pain-free place. I truly have a deep belief we are in a physical reality and the non-physical reality is right there with us and we are doing this together. I really feel him when thinking about him with love. That’s when he is closest with me, and he teaches me to be more loving in my thoughts also.”
The year Beckett died, the Grammy winner started the Etheridge Foundation to support research into new treatments for opioid use disorder.
Etheridge, who has been married to actress/writer/producer Linda Wallem since 2014, also shares daughter Bailey, 25, with Cypher. She's also mom to 15-year-old twins, Johnnie and Miller, with ex-wife Tammy Lynn Michaels.