The grief of a young child losing a parent is unimaginable. That anyone would film the moment in which a young child learns of a parent's death is inconceivable. And yet Brenden Bickerstaff-Clark had someone film him telling his child that his mother died—and then he posted the video online.
Bickerstaff-Clark sat his 8-year-old son down at a picnic table and said, "I have something to tell you, OK? Mommy died last night."
“What?" his son asked. " What do you mean, my mom? How?”
“From drugs,” Bickerstaff-Clark told him.
His son is seen crying in the arms of a woman sitting next to him, and then after a few moments Bickerstaff-Clark jumps over the table to engulf his son in his arms as he tells the boy he loves him. That's when he asks for the filming to cease.
Bickerstaff-Clark posted the video on Facebook, where it has now been viewed more than 27 million times. It doesn't appear as if Bickerstaff-Clark is looking for internet fame as much as hoping other 8-year-olds might be able to avoid the same fate.
"This is for any and every addict with children," the dad wrote. "This is the realization and reality of our disease. ... This was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. My son has no mother because of heroin. ... I am a recovering addict myself with 94 days clean today." Bickerstaff-Clark then asked for viewers to share the video in hopes that it might help save a parent's life.
The video comes just a month after a set of photos went viral; the photos showed two guardians overdosing from heroin with their 4-year-old in the car. They were disseminated by the city in which the incident happened, with the police there saying, "We feel it necessary to show the other side of this horrible drug. We feel we need to be a voice for the children caught up in this horrible mess. This child can’t speak for himself but we are hopeful his story can convince another user to think twice about injecting this poison while having a child in their custody. ... We are well aware that some may be offended by these images and for that we are truly sorry, but it is time that the non drug using public sees what we are now dealing with on a daily basis."
There are understandably many who feel as if Bickerstaff-Clark's son's pain has been exploited. One person made a comment on his Facebook page that was echoed by many others, saying, "How the hell can (you) post something like this for the world to see? That poor little boy."
At the same time, though, some of the 86,000+ commenters understood what he's trying to accomplish. "If this video saves even one life," one person remarked. "To prevent one other child from going through the same grief it is worth it."
Surely there's no one way to grieve, or to break devastating news to a child. And it may be that Bickerstaff-Clark's son will, in fact, be further damaged by the scope of the video, and that it even exists. However, given how much the video is being shared, there's also hope that maybe someone else struggling with addiction will be inspired to seek help for the sake of their child. Bickerstaff-Clark's son shouldn't have to suffer any more than he is and will, although hopefully he'll also understand his dad did it out of love and sadness for him, and perhaps another child won't have to endure the same anguish because his own was shared.
If you or someone you know is battling addiction, the National Institute of Drug Abuse offers guidance on where help can be sought.