We don’t know how Peaches Geldof lived or died

We think we know celebrities, and when they die we’re quick to speculate about the reasons. But we have little insight into their true personalities or circumstances

Sat, Apr 12, 2014, 01:00

‘Becoming a mother was like becoming me, finally,” Peaches Geldof recently told Mother & Baby magazine, for which she had just become a parenting columnist. “After years of struggling to know myself, feeling lost at sea, rudderless and troubled, having babies through which to correct the multiple mistakes of my own traumatic childhood was beyond healing.”

Hearing that Paula Yates and Bob Geldof’s daughter had died suddenly at home at the age of 25, leaving two baby sons and their 23-year-old father, Thomas Cohen, her second husband, was a heart-sinking moment. Many of us were filled with a horrible sense that the dark she had battled had somehow won.

“I’ve felt like 30 since I was 13,” she once said. Fighting against a troubled family and personal history, Peaches Geldof was an articulate, ebullient and beautiful 25-year-old journalist and model who had seemed to triumph.

But her heart stopped beating on Monday, only 19 minutes after her last Twitter post and a day after she posted a photograph of her toddler self with her mother.

Those of us who remember it thought back to the overdose and death of Yates when Peaches was only 11, and wondered how much more Bob Geldof could take. His own mother died when he was seven, and he was raised by his father in Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin. In his words this week, his family has been “fractured so often, but never broken”.

And we worried for her surviving sisters: 31-year-old Fifi Trixibelle, 23-year-old Pixie and her 17-year-old half-sister, Tiger Lily, who had had already lost both parents: Yates when she was four and, before that, when she was 16 months old, her father, the Australian rock star Michael Hutchence.

Such concern is human. “The unexplained death of any apparently healthy 25-year-old causes us all emotional distress and worry,” says Paul Gilligan, a psychologist who is also chief executive of St Patrick’s University Hospital, in Dublin. “When this person is a well-known public figure this distress and worry can be greater, because, in an age of heightened media awareness, it brings home for us our own and our loved ones’ vulnerability to the sometimes randomness of death.”

Prurient gossip

But there’s a fine line between the need to understand and prurient gossip or speculation. Peaches was born into a life

by which the media was fascinated and in which it often intruded. She knew its dangers, writing that “our need to knock celebrities is twisted: it’s deep in the mid-brain, below the survival instinct”. But she chose to embrace it.

It’s tough being the child of a famous person. “Most children want to outdo their parents: to shine brighter than their parents did,” says Trish Murphy, a Dublin-based psychotherapist. “This is very difficult if your parents are famous or infamous, and the effort to create an identity that is beyond their parents might be too much.”

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