How Children of Celebrities Struggle with Grief

Piper Weiss, Shine Staff
Bobbi Kristina Brown's grief over her mother's death has become public fodder.(Getty Images)
Bobbi Kristina Brown's grief over her mother's death has become public fodder.(Getty Images)

Mourning the loss of a parent in the public eye is a struggle all its own. Sadly, Whitney Houston's daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown, is facing it head on.

Just as fans learned Houston's tragic death, the singer's 19-year-old daughter was rushed to the hospital after an emotional breakdown.

Read more: Whitney's last days

The sudden loss of a parent is unimaginably traumatic for any child, but for those foisted into the spotlight, the burden is particularly stressful.

"They face additional burdens because all of the speculations and emerging details of the death and of the parent's life," grief specialist at Madonna University, Dr. Kirsti Dyer, tells Shine.

In some cases, the grieving kids become the focus of curiosity, as much as the deceased.

In 2009, when Michael Jackson died of an overdose, the three young children he kept shrouded behind masks, quickly became familiar faces without their father's protection. Present at his televised memorial, Paris, just 11, at the time, alarmed both fans and dissenters by calling Jackson "the best father you can ever imagine" before bursting into tears. She reminded onlookers his death was as personal as it was public. She was also defending her father's honor, a task many children of public figures are forced to do in the face of controversy.

"Children see both the good and the bad being written about, broadcast, tweeted and posted on Facebook for everyone to see," says Dr. Dyer. "Limiting their exposure to the media can be beneficial to their grieving process, so that every time they see a news report, read a magazine or go on line they will not be reminded of the death again, and again."

Some children have managed to escape the exposure. After Phil Hartman's tragic death at the hands of his wife, his young son and daughter were placed in custody with their mother's family in a small Midwestern town and allowed opportunity to grieve and grow up privately.

Francis Bean Cobain wasn't as lucky. Very public custody battles, leading to a restraining order against her mother, forced the music legend's daughter to grow up in the shadow of her father's death. Meanwhile, the Jackson
kids have barely escaped a day without paparazzi stalking since their dad's death.

Sometimes, that attention may be comforting. Jackson's three children recently left their mark in their father's honor at the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Now at just 13, Paris seems to want to make a mark of her own in the industry. She's got a Twitter account, a publicist and a starring role in an upcoming movie.

Watch: Michael Jackson's kids honor their father in Los Angeles

When a parent's memory is shared with millions, bonding with their fans may be a way to connect with the deceased. Last year, the daughter of Blind Melon singer Shannon Hoon, who died of an overdose in 1995, stepped on stage with the reunited band to sing a song. Cobain has embraced the rock legacy, if in a roundabout way, interning at Rolling Stone and becoming engaged to a musician with uncannily similar appearance to her late dad. After a rocky relationship with the music industry, Lisa Marie Presley recorded a posthumous duet of In the Ghetto with her dad. "I got more emotional during that recording than I've ever gotten," she said.

But for Elvis's only daughter, coming to terms with her father's death took decades. "I did a lot of strange things that day," recalls Lisa Marie Presley, who was just 9 when her father died. "It didn't really settle in. I ran around and smoked cigarettes at 9, in the guard shack somewhere. I was crazy. I don't know, I did, like, wacky things."

In the years that followed, Presley battled substance abuse as a teenager and troubled relationships as a young adult.

For Bobbi Kristina, the coping process may take as much time. After rumors of drug problems, which she's denied, many fear the singer's daughter will face the same battle with addiction as her mom. "When people are stressed, when they turn to substances, is when they can turn the switch on for addiction," Dr. Drew Pinsky told ABC News. "That is my greatest fear for Bobbi Kristina."

Meanwhile, music critics and fans are already wondering whether the aspiring singer will pick up the career her mother left behind. A video of Bobbi covering an Adele song has gotten renewed attention over the past few days. Like Jackson and Presley, she may try to capture the fans her mother left behind. For now, however, the support of her close friends and family are far more important for her well-being.

Copyright © 2012 Yahoo Inc.

Related:
Details of Whitney's death emerge
Paris Jackson talks to Ellen about her dad
Bobbi Kristina hospitalized