On February 26, 2010, show business legend Marie Osmond was at the Flamingo Las Vegas, dancing, singing and performing with her older brother Donny as a part of their popular Vegas variety act. After a quick microphone check, Marie was about to run back onto the stage when she got a call from her 18-year-old son, Michael.
"I was just running out as my phone rang, and I couldn't get to it," she says.
Marie finished her performance at the Flamingo, said goodnight to the sold-out crowd and stepped off the stage. Shortly after, she tried to call her son back—but he didn't pick up.
That night, Marie says intuition told her something was wrong.
Asleep in her hotel room after an exhausting day, Marie awoke in the middle of the night to a phone call from the security guard stationed at the gated community where she and her family have a home. He told her people were there to see her. They were from the coroner's office.
"I knew," Marie says. "It was Mike."
Michael was the fourth-oldest child in Marie's brood of eight. To his mother and siblings, he was known as the fun one with a great sense of humor. Marie calls him chivalrous, loving and respectful.
"[He] was probably the easiest child of all my kids," Marie says. "He was so fun. And cute. And darling. It wasn't until my son started using drugs that I saw him change."
Marie says Michael first started to abuse drugs when he was just 12 years old. He was in and out of rehab before he got clean—and he wasn't the only one who benefited from the help he received in treatment. Marie says she learned so much about being a mother while Michael was in these programs.
"We can have all the knowledge in the world," she says. "But it's the wisdom that we need to find."
According to the toxicology report, Michael was not under the influence of any drugs when he jumped to his death from his eighth-floor apartment. "There were no drugs in his system," Marie says. "But I believe the ramifications of them were there, and that was the hard part."
After getting clean, Marie says Michael started to become himself again. The last time Marie saw him, she remembers him saying that he had "never been happier" in his life. That was one month before he committed suicide.
The day before his death, Michael spoke with his mom about how he was feeling lonely and isolated. "It was the first time I heard him start to cry and say he was alone," Marie says. "That he had no friends. That he felt despair."
Concerned, Marie tried to help Michael from afar. "I told him: "Mike, I'm going to be there Monday, and it's going to be okay,'" she says. "But depression doesn't wait till Monday."
In his suicide note, Marie says Michael wrote that he knew that morning would be the last time he would get up, brush his teeth, eat breakfast, make his bed and get dressed. "He had made that decision, I guess," Marie says. "He loved his family, but ... the pain was too intense."
As someone who struggled with depression herself, Marie says she can imagine what her son must have been feeling.
"When I had postpartum [depression], I remember vividly driving that car and thinking ... how people would be better off without me," Marie says. "I really believed that."
But something stopped Marie from acting on any suicidal impulses. "It was my age that told me: 'Marie, that's crazy,'" she says. "Children don't have that kind of age behind them. ... When they're 18, everything [seems] hopeless."
Marie says Michael was worried about so many things in his life—things that she says wouldn't seem so big to other people. But one thing Marie can certainly relate to is something her son told her the very last time they spoke. "When I heard him say to me, 'I have no friends,' it brought me back when I went through depression," she says."If I went through that whole experience just to understand my son, that was worth it to me."
Michael's depression seemed to take him to a dark place even before his death. In fact, Marie says Michael attempted suicide once before February 26, during the time his mother was a contestant on Dancing With The Stars.
"During that time, I was going through a very public divorce. Going through a custody battle. My dad died, and my son went into rehab," Marie says. In rehab, Michael tried to take his own life.
"But at that time," Oprah says, "didn't he promise that he would never [attempt suicide] again?"
"He did," Marie says. "And I believed him."
Ever since the tragic day Michael died, Marie says she has tried not to think about the "what ifs." What if she had picked up the phone when he called? What if she had put her son on a plane instead of promising to visit on Monday?
"There's always 'what ifs,'" Marie says. "I think if you live in 'what ifs,' you stop living."
Instead, Marie finds strength in her faith and her children, with whom she has always been close. She also believes that her close relationship with Michael and the fact that he saw her struggle as a single mother may have been part of the reason he didn't tell her what he was struggling with himself.
"I think he didn't want to burden me with one more thing," Marie says to Oprah before turning to the audience. "Tell your children it's never a burden."
Publicly, Marie has put on a brave face, but privately, it's been a much tougher struggle than she's let on—something her brother Donny has witnessed firsthand.
Marie says that in an effort to comfort her and help her get past the grief, some people have said unintentionally hurtful things. "I've had people say things like, 'Well, at least you have seven more children,'" she says. "I'm sure they're trying, but no, I have eight children."
Other people's words have given Marie great comfort—particularly when other grieving parents tell her that, "No, it does not get easier." "That makes sense to me because it doesn't [get easier]," she says. "[Instead], God gives you little respites."
Two weeks after Michael died, Marie went back to work—something she calls "a calculated decision."
"The stage is my safe place," she says. "I knew that if I didn't get back onstage that I might never get back onstage."
Though Donny says he can sometimes hear Marie crying in her dressing room, she also fills the hallways with laughter. "I believe in laugher," she says. "I believe it's the greatest gift we have. ... It's a great thing we have to relive that terrible place, that pit inside of your heart."
The day of Michael's funeral was a heartbreaking day that brought the whole family together. Several of his siblings stood up to share their favorite memories, Marie's brothers Donny and Jimmy and some of her children served as pallbearers, and Marie herself prepared Michael's body, along with her daughters.
"I wanted Mike to look like my Mike...and he did. He looked very handsome," Marie says.
Marie told her daughters, who helped her prepare Michael's body, that the body is "just a glove over the hand—our spirit, our soul is the hand." While the experience was very hard for all of them, Marie says it was also healing.
"It's a beautiful thing," she says. "If you've never experienced it or you think you can't, it's a wonderful act of service."
One person who was absent from Michael's funeral was his father. Marie says she made plans for everyone to attend, but her children came to her and said they wouldn't go if her ex-husband was going to be there.
"This was not to be a political thing; this was to make my children comfortable," Marie says. "They said they knew that Michael wouldn't want him there, and they didn't want him there."
Marie and her ex-husband announced they were divorcing in 2007 after more than 20 years of marriage. It was Marie's second marriage, and she acknowledges now that she should have been more careful when she made the decision to get married again.
"I had a very bad marriage. A lot of pain, a lot of sorrow, a lot of trying, a lot of effort," Marie says. "But you can't sit in something; you have to move forward."
One thing Marie wants to clear up is the rumors about her son's sexuality. With the recent string of gay teen suicides in the news, some bloggers have speculated that Michael committed suicide because he was gay—a suggestion Marie says is simply not true.
"My son was not gay," Marie says. "He wanted to be married and have a family and travel all over the world. And it wouldn't matter if he was—I have a daughter who is gay, and it was my daughter who was offended by it."
Marie says her daughter Jessica wanted to clarify Michael's sexuality because she didn't like the implication that all gay people commit suicide. And while Marie's heart goes out to any gay teen who is struggling with bullying or thoughts of suicide, she says that wasn't the case with her son.
As the holidays approach, Marie and her family are bracing themselves to spend it without Michael. Last year, they were all together in Las Vegas, but Marie says carrying on this tradition would be too painful for everyone. So she is consciously changing the family's pattern—moving the holiday festivities to New York City.
"You're changing the pattern on purpose," Oprah says.
Marie says her faith helps her to know that she'll see her son again someday. She also knows Michael would want her to find happiness.
"He knew that walking through life alone is hard, and he wanted me to be happy. He was proud of me," Marie says. "Stepping away from sadness into light again and walking forward with my life—I think we teach our children to do those things. But really, we don't teach them anything. They teach us to have strength for them."
Printed from Oprah.com on Saturday, December 7, 2013