Kurt Cobain: Divorce From a Happy Childhood

Written by P. Humbargar

Edited by A. Noelle

April 5 marked the eighteenth death anniversary of Kurt Cobain—the young American musician who skyrocketed to fame during the late 1980’s and early 1990’s as the lead singer and guitarist of the rock band Nirvana.  Sadly, his short life was marred by drug addiction and depression, and at the age of twenty-seven, he committed suicide. As people today still wonder why such a talented and successful person would choose to end his life, a Yahoo! Music article, “Kurt Cobain as a Kid: The Beatles-Loving, Divorce Traumatized Towhead Who Changed Rock Forever,” highlights the impact of his parents’ divorce on him as a young child and renders an image of his youth as a before-and-after picture with a clear point of division—a textbook case of what can go wrong in a child’s life when the parents split.

Image: P.B. Rage

By all accounts, Kurt was a happy child. According to his aunt, he was funny, bubbly, and bright, and had charisma even as a baby. From an early age, he displayed extraordinary musical and artistic talent, sometimes seen walking around the neighborhood singing Beatles songs and banging on a toy drum his parents had given him. The bedroom where he created greeting cards for family members was said to look like an art studio. Even though his parents had little money, for several years, they lavished him and his younger sister with love, taking them on summer vacations to the coast and winter trips to the mountains. But then, his parents unexpectedly divorced, and Kurt’s happy, secure childhood ended. He said in an interview a couple of years before his death, “I had a really good childhood, up until I was 9.”

His biographer, Charles R. Cross, states in Heavier Than Heaven that this moment in Kurt’s life was an all-defining “emotional holocaust.” Influenced by his father, Kurt remained in denial about the situation. Before long, his mother became involved with an abusive man who at one point broke her arm, and his father remarried a woman who brought her children from a previous relationship into the home—a move that only caused Kurt to wonder if he came second to those kids and anguish over the feeling of betraying his own mother. The only time Kurt saw his parents together after the split was when they were bitterly fighting over visitation rights. On his bedroom wall, he wrote: “I hate Mom, I hate Dad. Dad hates Mom, Mom hates Dad. It simply makes you want to be so sad.” He became hyperactive and was placed on Ritalin for a short while; then he began to disassociate himself from family members. Over the ensuing years, he bounced back and forth between his parents’ and his aunt’s home and was occasionally homeless. During these years, Kurt was said to have bullied a schoolmate mercilessly, killed a neighbor’s cat by trapping it in a chimney, and produced a film entitled “Kurt Commits Bloody Suicide,” in which he pretends to cut his own wrists.

Although divorce is always traumatic for children, it appears that Kurt’s disturbing behavior went far beyond simply acting out and showed signs of a serious mental problem. Where were the parents and other adults who could have helped him during this time? Sadly, those who could have helped either ignored or were completely oblivious to what was going on in this young man’s life. And tragically, despite the musical superstardom Kurt Cobain eventually attained, his personal life continued on a downward spiral with drug addiction, depression, and finally—suicide.

While Kurt Cobain’s story is a tragic one, it is unfortunately not an isolated event that only affects superstar rock musicians. Today, countless children and young adults see suicide as the only answer to their problems. Fortunately, parents, educators, and others involved in the lives of young people can help—they need only open their eyes—and take action when they recognize something that doesn’t seem quite right. As in the story of Kurt Cobain, the signs of deep-seated problems in a child’s life are often there if one looks closely enough.

If you’d like to read through the entire article on Yahoo.com, click here.

If you are concerned about a child who has been exhibiting signs of suicidal ideation or self-abuse, call this number: CHILD HELP USA (1-800-422-4453).

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One comment

  1. Kurt Cobain’s story is a great example of why so many states have put in place a requirement that divorcing parents go through a class that explains to them the obvious impact that their divorce will have on their children. Sadly, because too few think beyond themselves and their pain, their children too easily become pawns in their battles. Parents can do horrible damage to their children’s emotional development, with consequences that spread across generations; and that is tragic!

    My parents divorced, and too late in life did I notice that in family pictures my brother’s constant smiles turned into constant scowls. Suddenly, it became too obvious as to why his beautiful smile got lost along the way. I suggest that parents take time to review family pictures; children don’t go from constant smiles to faces that express sadness or anger without a reason!

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