Following the death of 26-year-old rapper Mac Miller, who died due to drug overdose on Sept. 7, a wave of harassment and blame has been directed upon Miller’s ex-girlfriend, Ariana Grande. The 25-year-old singer broke up with Mac Miller earlier this year, stating that the relationship had become “toxic.”
Grande’s decision to end the relationship received backlash then, but the hate directed toward her has skyrocketed since Miller’s passing. Grieving fans are turning to Grande with their anger — forgetting that tragedy is as multidimensional as it is devastating.
Whether or not Miller’s death was an accidental overdose or suicide is still being debated, as Miller said he’d experienced suicidal thoughts in the past. But the intention behind the loss matters less than the fact that a person who was loved by many, family and fans alike, has died prematurely, leaving behind hurting people looking for a way to explain such a loss.
As someone who has experienced both personal mental health struggles and the intentional ending of a toxic relationship, I understand the complexity of both those grieving for Miller and the immense pain I imagine Grande is currently experiencing.
One of suicide’s deadliest myths is that the death is the loved one’s faults — that “if only” X had been done, the person would still be here today.
While it’s true small factors can increase a loved one’s safety — such as knowing the signs, using the five action steps, or providing access to resources such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline — ultimately death by suicide is no one’s fault. The blame sometimes rests on systemic barriers and stigma within mental health and addiction care and services.
Mental illness and addiction are complicated webs that affect people of all genders, races, and economic classes. According to data collected by the World Health Organization, almost 800,000 people worldwide die by suicide every year. Globally, the United Nations estimate 190,900 premature deaths are caused by drugs.
Death by suicide or overdose is never the individual’s fault, nor is it selfish. Rather, it’s a deeply heartbreaking outcome of a social issue that deserves our time, attention, and compassion.
In an article discussing suicide survivor guilt, Gregory Dillon, MD, assistant professor of medicine and psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College, tells The New York Times, “Rather than thinking, ‘I wish I could’ve fixed this,’ if we can use these moments as a wake-up call to think, ‘I want to be more present and aware and connected and empathetic in general,’ — that would be so much more productive.”
It’s understandable that in a time of great loss it’s easier to look for something or someone to concretely blame for someone’s death. But circulating blame does little besides spread hurt and take the focus off raising awareness around addiction and suicide.
In situations like Miller’s death, it’s crucial to provide support for those who’ve lost a loved one. Grande’s past relationship connects her to Miller not through blame, but through a network of grief. She, too, I imagine, is deeply mourning Miller’s premature passing.
The best we can do for Grande, as well as anyone related to Miller’s death or any other premature loss, is to offer our compassion, presence, and any helpful resources for loss survivors.
Try to accept loved ones’ feelings, no matter what they are, and believe that however they’re coping, they’re doing their best. Use the lost loved one’s name often, showing you remember and value the person.
No one has to be alone in this. And no one, no matter what, is at fault for a death at the hands of addiction or mental illness.
Sept. 9-15 is National Suicide Prevention Week. If you or someone you know is struggling, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, call 800-273-8255, or join one of the many movements working to reduce stigma and prevent loss.
Caroline Catlin is an artist, activist, and mental health worker. She enjoys cats, sour candy, and empathy. You can find her on her website.