There’s a reason romance radio host Delilah is able to offer advice to thousands of callers and pick perfect song dedications throughout her long career: she’s faced relationship woes, divorce, rejection from her own family and the loss of one son due to illness. Now she’s struggling with the tragic suicide of another.
The “most listened-to woman in America” announced on Saturday that her teenage son Zachariah had taken his life.
“My dear friends, I need to share some devastating news with you. In the early morning hours, Tuesday, October 3, my son Zachariah, took his life,” she wrote to her 1.4 million fans. “He was being treated, counseled, and embraced fiercely by family and friends while battling depression for some time now. My heart is broken beyond repair and I can not fathom how to go on…but I have to believe he is at peace with the Lord and that God will get us through.”
The radio host, 57, said she would be taking a break from her show and on social media.
A tireless worker, Delilah has long balanced being a devoted mother of 13 with the demands of hosting on-air for her legion of fans. She was reportedly back at the mic a mere 18 hours after giving birth to Zachariah, according to a 2012 CNN profile. In the same article, a then 12-year-old Zachariah shared that he favored Eminem, Lil Wayne and 50 Cent over his mom’s “lite rock” musical selections.
Delilah’s personal life has been filled with challenges. She married her first husband when she was only 22, just a year after meeting.
“My first husband was charming, funny, handsome, hard-working and a complete alcoholic and womanizer,” she told PEOPLE in February. “We met when I was 21, married at 22, pregnant at 23, a mom at 24, separated at 25 and divorced before I turned 26. That’s when he left me with our son and his two children from a previous marriage.”
Following the separation, Delilah didn’t have her parents to turn to, as she claims they disowned her for marrying an African-American man.
A couple years later, she entered another marriage that would ultimately fall apart.
“I jumped out of the frying pan into the fire and at 28 I was married for less than two months to a man who turned out to be a cocaine and heroin user,” she said.
She would ultimately endure divorce three times. Despite these romantic travails, Delilah became a mother to 13 children—three biological and 10 she welcomed through adoption.
She previously lost her son Sammy, who died in March of 2012 from complications of sickle-cell anemia.
“My son Sammy passed from this world today into heaven, but he left behind a piece of his amazing soul in all that met him. As painful as this moment is, I am so so so so so thankful that God allowed me, my family and friends to experience the essence of his soul for the past two years,” she wrote in her announcement of her son’s death. “Everyone who met him was blessed by his big heart, his silly character voices, his wonderful sense of humor and his kindness towards all. He was a precious, precious young man and I praise the Lord that I was allowed to be bathed in Sammy’s love as his ‘MommaBear’…we have been forever changed by having him in our lives.”
That same year, Delilah wed Paul Warner, a man she says “rarely drinks, doesn’t use drugs and adores me with all of his being.”
However, the couple live six and a half hours apart due to their careers.
“Some folks wonder how we manage to keep our relationship strong living so far apart, but I suspect it may be the secret to our success!” she said. “I’m not the easiest woman to live with and I’ve still got five minor children at home. My youngest daughter is in second grade, so my home is always chaotic with kids, crafts, pets and horses. Not many men would sign up to marry a woman who has 13 children!”
The “Queen of Sappy Love Songs” credits her life’s low points with how she’s able to connect with her listeners.
She said, “Between failed marriages, racism, adopted kids, blended families and all the other challenges I’ve faced, I think it gives me more wisdom and compassion when it comes to the calls I take from my listeners.”