A Facebook video of a father telling his son that his mother is dead has gone viral and it’s just wrong.

“I have something to tell you, ok,” says Brendan Bickerstaff-Clark as he holds the hand of his eight-year-old son across a picnic table, “Mummy died last night”.

It’s the words that no child his age should have to hear but now, thanks to the tragic moment being filmed and uploaded to Facebook, it’s there to be relived over and over again and for millions of strangers to witness the moment a young child’s life was torn apart.

Brendan, a former addict himself who has been clean for 94 days, says that he chose to film the moment he had to tell his son that his mum had died from a heroin overdose “for any and every addict with children”.

“Today I had to tell my eight-year-old son that his mommy died from a drug overdose,” he wrote alongside the video post.

“This is the realisation 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. Please get help so our children don’t have to suffer.”

Brendan says that he has used the experience to warn others of the dangers of heroin, but what he has actually done, in my opinion, is fail magnificently in his duty as a father.

If I try hard I can almost understand what Brendan may have been trying to achieve but the role of any parent is first and foremost to protect their child, especially in moments like this.

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Your job, above all else, is to look out for your child’s interest and protect them to the best of your ability from any more pain and humiliation than they already have to handle.

Rather than to deliver the news in a private location and allow his son some privacy to process what has happened, Brendan instead chose to turn it into an education for other addicts, filming the event in a public space with people standing all around.

 

Image: Facebook

In the video, the boys sits at the table, shock and disbelief running through his body, Brendan can only manage the words "I'm sorry" and "I love you". As the news is delivered, the boy responds "My mum? No, no," before hanging his head and sobbing heavy tears.

The camera keeps rolling, moving around the group to capture his heaving sobs, making sure to see him swamped in adults, their loving arms trying to make this situation somehow ok for a young child.

Two minutes into the clip, Brendan looks towards the camera and says "that's enough".

Wrong. It was enough before you started filming.

So far, the video has been viewed over 28 million times. Imagine 28 million people watching the worst event to ever happen in your life. Imagine a moment of soul-destroying grief, captured on film and uploaded to social media for other people's benefit. Because that's what it is.

Filming this moment has no benefit to his son. None.

He wasn't asked if he wanted to be filmed before this happened, he was given no choice but to become the internet's latest viral video at a time where he probably wishes he could just hide. As he logs on to his own social media he will see over and over again, the pain he had to go through being told that his mother was dead.

Cynics may say Brendan has benefitted from the upload, he's a social media star but I wouldn't go that far because, no doubt, he is experiencing his own indescribable pain.

I write this coming from a place of some understanding. While my experience was vastly different, I too lost my mother prematurely. To think back on moments burnt into my soul because of their immense pain, I can't imagine what it would be like to have been filmed, like a creature in a zoo, at that time. Even worse, to think of other people viewing my pain, over and over again, strangers leaving comments on a video online, sharing it around their social channels.

I also understand the life of an addict, having witnessed my sibling's life destroyed by drugs. After 20 years, I wait for the day when someone comes to tell me that he too is gone. In that moment, I can think of nothing worse than being filmed as a cautionary tale to someone else.

Brendan perhaps thought that he was doing the right thing. Without doubt, the video has made a big impact and hopefully has given some drug addicts the wake-up call they need to get clean for the sake of their children.

But, as a mother of three myself, there is no way that I would ever allow my child's pain to be someone else's lesson out there in the social media world.

Some moments in life command respect, privacy, and understanding and we need to remember this in a world where almost everything is shared online.

 

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