“The truth is, everyone is going to hurt you. You just got to find the ones worth suffering for.” — Bob Marley
As a child who grew up in one of the many flavors of household, “dysfunction,” I can report emphatically that children always believe their parents are worth suffering for, over, about and instead of. And, sadly, Amy Jade Winehouse was, probably unbeknownst to her, a victim of this particular scourge of western civilization, the cliché of the “dysfunctional family.”
We can see plainly that the tabloid monsters have wasted no time with their, “no-shit” anthems regarding the life of someone who publically displayed a death wish, rubbing our faces (and her parents’) in the fact that no amount of talent can overcome low self esteem. No shit.
Addicts who refuse recovery will die from their disease. Again, no shit.
Troubled people lead troubled lives. Where have I heard that one before?
People who come from troubled homes grow up troubled. Thank you, Time Magazine.
True leadership is a matter of good breeding. Screw you, Nathan Rothschild, JP Morgan and John D. Rockefeller.
My contribution, withheld until the last possible moment and kept relatively unheard from, has more to do with Amy Jade Winehouse atypical child warped by the typical damage caused by parents suffering in silence from their own painful mental illnesses and the toxic byproducts of their choosing to couple in order to heal. Or find respite. Or deal with their shit.
In defense of Mitch and Janis (nee Seaton) Winehouse, and parents everywhere, I can assure everyone that no parent ever passes on the full weight of the dysfunction under which they were born and reared through. Every generation takes a bite out of their personal pain and moves heaven and earth to make certain that things turn out better for their children than they were for themselves. I have no doubt that this is precisely what took place in the Winehouse Family and they can rest in a peace that our media will not be granting them for some time to come.
But mental illness is not about a single person facing a single challenge. People with similar diagnoses are attracted to those who either share the same diagnosis, or who trumpet a solution the sufferer has been conditioned through shame to believe is where they must go. These kinds of personal problems, often hidden in shame from public view, must be vetted and viewed compassionately, if critically, if we are ever to afford meaning to the tragic death of Amy Jade and the hundreds of thousands, globally, who will share her story every year.
Mitch Winehouse believed, probably sincerely, that the solution to his mental and emotional difficulties would be found in the recessed world of polyamory. He is not alone in harboring this delusion. Janis no doubt believed that turning a problem over to “goddess Shiva” could only generate more chaotic consequences. I sympathize with Mitch: sexual and emotional intrigue can lead to a euphoric state where depression is nowhere to be found. I empathize with Janis: making a problem more complex cannot possibly result in an end state where a problem finds resolution. Our various religious and moral traditions do nothing to help us attack our marital issues with open minds. But to seriously entertain the thought that two adult women, willing or unwilling, would or could solve the problems of one charismatic, but gravely warped, male, was, and is, completely insane.
Into the fire and crossfire of sexual tension and emotional pain came the head of Amy Jade. Filled with the shrapnel caused by years of abandonment, betrayal, stubborn foolishness and simple human cruelty, Amy grew up to honor her parents with the solution she believed she had found.
To their f*ing problem, not Amy’s.
This is what I, and many children raised in dysfunctional homes do: we take on the problems of our parents and, since they are not able to solve what to us seems like a simple problem, we will solve the problem for them. The problem with our approach, however, is that we do not possess the full complement of an adult nervous system and a life of adult experiences where our judgment might be tempered with common sense. And, in cases like the Winehouse’s and mine, we are compelled to allow adult reality to overwhelm us and drive us slowly, constantly mad with grief.
So whereas Mitch was driven by his delusional thinking to seek multiple life partners to soothe the ravages of what some might unfairly label, “ennui,” he was also driven by guilt to seek a mother figure who would shame him into conforming to a standard of sexual conduct that had only left him in more pain on numerous occasions. The impacts of chronic depression are quite well known, but my experience has been that it twists judgment and behavior into “pretzels” of logic where we can be compelled to do just about anything, including suicide, in order to soothe the pain that no one but us can see or even feel. But the problem is simple: pain seeks pain relief. Distraction turns out to be a fairly effective reliever of pain, if only temporarily. Janis Winehouse, or any spouse with a whit of personal sanity left, would have none of this. This left Amy, her daughter, wide open to the manipulations, rationalizations and justifications of an adult male driven completely mad by his own delusional thinking.
At the very least, Mitch Winehouse confided far too much in his growing daughter regarding his difficulties with her mother. Such information to the immature brain and nervous system of a child could only trigger a stronger-than-steel resolve and commitment to ensure that her mother paid for her “crimes” against her father and that she, Amy Jade, became many times the woman she was raised to believe her mother was. Where her mother had failed to keep the family together, Amy would demonstrate, once and for all, that her mother was some sort of emotionally crippled maladroit.
Janis Winehouse may have been emotionally crippled, but none of her difficulties were because she was uniquely and supremely guilty of crimes against her family or against anyone, for that matter. And never could it be written that a mother deserves to sit powerlessly by to watch her lovely child suffer and die because of the twisted relationship she shared with her father. Janis, like hundreds of millions of women every year, falsely believe they can provide a home so warm and inviting that no amount of male dysfunction stands a chance of survival.
Mitch Winehouse will spend the rest of his life tortured by his guilt and shame much as he was before he ever met and married Amy’s mother. This guilt and shame will serve no useful purpose to anyone and is not an epitaph worthy of his heartsick daughter’s legacy. I hope he rises to the occasion and walks through the fire of a stern look in the mirror and then returns to us with useful information that prevents this kind of tragedy from ending this way ever again. He, too, is suffering mightily from the death of his beloved daughter, but it is his own mental illness that warped his judgment into believing that turning a child against her own mother was ever a justifiable act when dealing with a contentious adult relationship between two parents.
I hope both Mitch and Janis prove worthy of the self-forgiveness required to “repent” for the crime of bringing such an enormous talent into the world and then smiting it with their conjoined weaknesses. This sin is not their’s individually but is a weakness of relationship chemistry that no one can reliably predict until after a relationship has been engaged. When I saw a similar dynamic emerge in my relationship decades ago, I opted to avoid parenthood at about the same time Amy Jade Winehouse would have been conceived. I did not regret my decision as regrettable as the circumstances under which it was made were. I knew then, and I know now, that a selfish decision on my part could have far more tragic impacts on far more people than just myself and the woman I was involved with at the time.
A world bereft of children is a sad place, indeed, but a world bereft of meaningless tragedy is a more worthwhile goal by any measure.