Lisa Marie Presley was no stranger to grief. Nearly five months before her own death — while marking the passing of her son, Benjamin Keough, who died in 2020 — she wrote an essay on the topic and how it "detonated and destroyed" her family life.
Presley, the only child of rock legend Elvis Presley and Priscilla Presley, died Thursday after suffering a cardiac arrest at home earlier that day. The 54-year-old "Shine" singer had most recently been seen Tuesday at the 80th Golden Globe Awards, where she was on hand to celebrate Austin Butler's best actor win for his titular role in Baz Luhrmann's movie "Elvis."
But Presley made no secret of the losses she experienced in her lifetime, starting with Elvis Presley's 1977 death and devastatingly including that of her son, who died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. She was married four times, with each partnership ending in divorce.
In the August 2022 essay, Presley noted that she had to deal with death, grief and loss since she was 9 years old, when her father died.
(She was staying at Graceland in 1977 — her parents had divorced four years earlier — and would recall Elvis kissing her goodnight hours before he died, the Associated Press reported. The next day, the next time she saw him, he was lying face down in the bathroom. In 2003, she told Rolling Stone that she "had a feeling" before her father's death and was "obsessed with death at a very early age.”)
In her essay, she opened up about her life after the tragic loss of her son, whom she said "was so much like his grandfather on so many levels that it actually scared me." She also detailed how she kept going for the sake of her three daughters — actor Riley Keough and young teen twins Finley and Harper Lockwood — in an effort to console those who have experienced similar life-altering events.
"It's a real choice to keep going, one that I have to make every single day and one that is constantly challenging to say the least. ... But I keep going for my girls. I keep going because my son made it very clear in his final moments that taking care of his little sisters and looking out for them were on the forefront of his concerns and his mind. He absolutely adored them and they him," Presley wrote. "My and my three daughters' lives as we knew it were completely detonated and destroyed by his death. We live in this every. Single. Day."
She wrote that since she has "been living in the horrific reality of [grief's] unrelenting grips" after her son's death, she wanted to share a few things to be aware of in regard to grief, directed at anyone who was interested in helping a grieving person. She noted that grief is not a comfortable or popular subject to discuss.
"Death is part of life whether we like it or not — and so is grieving. There is so much to learn and understand on the subject, but here's what I know so far: One is that grief does not stop or go away in any sense, a year, or years after the loss. Grief is something you will have to carry with you for the rest of your life, in spite of what certain people or our culture wants us to believe. You do not 'get over it,' you do not 'move on,' period," she wrote.
She also mentioned that "grief is incredibly lonely," noting the "cold hard truth" that even those who show up for you right after the loss "soon disappear and go on with their own lives and they kind of expect for you to do the same, especially after some time has passed."
She encouraged those who know someone who is grieving to "call them to see how they are doing. Go visit them. They will really really appreciate it, more than you know."
Her third point focused on "premature, unnatural, or tragic" deaths: "You will become a pariah in a sense," she wrote. "You can feel stigmatized and perhaps judged in some way as to why the tragic loss took place. This becomes magnetized by a million if you are the parent of a child who passed. No matter how old they were. No matter the circumstances."
Presley said she beat herself up "tirelessly and chronically" and blamed herself every day following Benjamin Keough's death. It was hard to live with that, she said.
"[O]thers will judge and blame you too, even secretly or behind your back which is even more cruel and painful on top of everything else," she wrote, highlighting the importance of finding others who have experienced similar loss and seeking out support groups. Presley shared that she went to support groups and hosted them for bereaved parents at her home.
"Nothing, absolutely NOTHING takes away the pain, but finding support can sometimes help you feel a little bit less alone," she added.
The Instagram post preceding the one about her essay showcased the matching Celtic eternity knot tattoos she and her son got one Mother's Day to symbolize that they would "be connected eternally."
Her other recent posts praised the "Elvis" biopic, notably how it appeared to give her a brief reprieve from her grief, and chronicled her involvement in its promotion.
"I have seen Baz Luhrmann's movie 'Elvis' twice now, and let me tell you that it is nothing short of spectacular. Absolutely exquisite. Austin Butler channeled and embodied my father’s heart and soul beautifully. In my humble opinion, his performance is unprecedented and FINALLY done accurately and respectfully," she wrote in May. "You can feel and witness Baz’s pure love, care, and respect for my father throughout this beautiful film, and it is finally something that myself and my children and their children can be proud of forever."
Presley is survived by her mother, Priscilla, and her three daughters. In a statement Thursday, the family said they were "shocked and devastated" by Lisa Marie's death, and "profoundly grateful" for everyone's love, prayers and support.
Presley, who helped oversee her famous father’s estate and pursued a music career of her own, was married to Benjamin and Riley's father, Danny Keough, for about six years before they divorced in 1994. She had been staying at Danny Keough's house after leaving her own in the wake of Benjamin's death, and her ex performed CPR on her Thursday before paramedics arrived.
She was also briefly married to late King of Pop Michael Jackson and also to actor Nicolas Cage. When Jackson died, she wrote on Myspace that he had talked about her father's death and said, "I am afraid that I am going to end up like him, the way he did." She called Jackson's death her "biggest failure to date."
Presley shared her twin daughters with musician Michael Lockwood, whom she was married to from 2006 until 2021, five years after she filed for divorce.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.