Riley Keough became a ‘death doula’ to help process her brother Benjamin’s untimely death by suicide at just 27-years-old.
The actress daughter of Lisa Marie Presley opened up about her grief in an interview with the New York Times, calling the time after her brother’s 2020 death ‘a year of feeling like I was thrown into the ocean and couldn’t swim.’
After finding herself stuck in a daze for ‘months’ after Benjamin’s death, Riley decided to put herself in a ‘position of service’ as a ‘death doula,’ or someone who guides people through the end-of-life process.
Remembered: Riley Keough became a ‘death doula’ – someone who guides people through the end of life – as a way to cope with the trauma of brother Benjamin taking his own life last year. They’re seen above at Riley’s wedding
The 32-year-old said she endured ‘a year of feeling like I was thrown into the ocean and couldn’t swim’ after Benjamin died by suicide in July 2020.
‘The first four or five months, I couldn’t get out of bed,’ she told NYT’s Kyle Buchanan. ‘I was totally debilitated. I couldn’t talk for two weeks.’
Part of her struggle was wrapping her head around the tragedy.
‘It’s very complicated for our minds to put that somewhere because it’s so outrageous,’ she said.
‘If I’m going through a breakup, I know what to do with that and where to file it in my mind, but suicide of your brother? Where do you put that? How does that integrate? It just doesn’t.’
During the darker times, Riley relied on her husband Ben Smith-Petersen and friends, who helped her avoid burying her pain.
‘I wanted to make sure that I was feeling everything and I wasn’t running from anything,’ she said.
Torment: The 32-year-old said she endured ‘a year of feeling like I was thrown into the ocean and couldn’t swim’ after Benjamin died by suicide in July 2020. She’s seen in May 2021 above
Missed: Their mother is Elvis Presley’s daughter Lisa Marie. Ben is seen in 2015 with his mom above
Confronting her trauma head-on, the Zola star decided to become a death doula and help guide others through the end-of-life, similar to how a traditional doula facilitates birth.
‘That’s really what’s helped me, being able to put myself in a position of service,’ she said. ‘If I can help other people, maybe I can find some way to help myself.’
Earlier this month Riley remembered Benjamin in a heartfelt tribute marking one-year since he took his own life.
‘Today has been a year without you baby brother. I miss you endlessly every day,’ she shared along with a slew of throwback photos of the pair.
In October it was revealed that Riley’s brother Benjamin had cocaine and alcohol in his system when he shot himself dead after arguing with his girlfriend at age 27.
At the time, sources revealed he’d been ‘struggling’ and that his death, while devastating, was not a ‘huge surprise’ to his mother or other relatives.
Surveillance footage showed him having an argument with his girlfriend, Diana Pinto, in the backyard of their home.
Grappling with the reality: ‘If I’m going through a breakup, I know what to do with that and where to file it in my mind, but suicide of your brother? Where do you put that? How does that integrate? It just doesn’t’ she told NYT
‘I miss you endlessly every day’: Riley marked one year since losing Ben in an Instagram tribute, writing ‘Today has been a year without you baby brother. I miss you endlessly every day’
He then went inside, locked himself in a bathroom, placed a gun in his mouth and shot himself.
Pinto heard the gunshot, went inside and had to use a bobby pin to gain access to the bathroom. She found him dead and called police.
It’s unclear how much alcohol or cocaine he had in his system but there were traces of both, according to the report which was released by the Los Angeles County Coroner’s office.
The report also described Keough’s history with mental illness.
He had tried to take his life six months earlier, then spent three weeks in rehab four months before he died.
Keough was the son of Lisa Marie and musician Danny Keough, her first of four husbands. The pair were together from 1988 until 1994.
Benjamin’s grandmother Priscilla, 75, married Elvis Presley in 1967 but they divorced six years later. They had only daughter Lisa Marie in 1968. Elvis died just nine years later.
Mom and dad: Keough was the son of Lisa Marie and musician Danny Keough, her first of four husbands. The pair were together from 1988 until 1994, seen in 1991 above