"We're supposed to die before our children do," the Bravo star tells PEOPLE

By Robyn Merrett and Aurelie Corinthios
July 22, 2020 03:26 PM
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Credit: Karolina Wojtasik/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty

One year after the death of his son, Captain Lee Rosbach is still trying to process the loss.

The Below Deck star's son Joshua Lee Rosbach died of an accidental drug overdose on July 22, 2019. Speaking to PEOPLE a year later, Rosbach, 70, says grief remains a constant in his life.

"I don't really know how I'm feeling," he admits. "It's difficult to put into words because it's such — we're not wired to do this at all. It's not something that's supposed to happen to you. We're wired in the opposite way. We're supposed to die before our children do."

Josh was 42 when he died after battling addiction for 20 years. He is survived by his parents, sister, brother, nieces and nephews and numerous aunts and uncles.

Credit: Captain Lee Rosbach/Instagram

"There's a hole there that will never be filled," Rosbach says. "The person that said time heals all wounds is full of s---. It really doesn't."

"You might get better coping with it, but it never goes away," he adds. "It's never out of your mind. It's always there. There are some 200 kids a day that die from this, and we just don't do a damn thing about it."

Rosbach and his family have continued to honor Josh in special ways. At the Awaken Recovery Center in Greenacres, Florida, a scholarship was created in Josh's name providing free in-house treatment to someone of Rosbach and his wife's choosing, so that they could have a chance to keep another family from suffering the same tragic loss.

The individual chosen by the couple can remain at the center as long as needed in order to complete their recovery.

"Somebody [at the rehab center] got in touch with me because they wanted to donate a scholarship in Josh's name for a person that was deserving and in need of that," Rosbach says. "It was a full scholarship; everything was paid for and there was no timeline."

Rosbach and his wife Mary Anne personally dropped off the individual at the center and got them settled in.

"It was a nice way to honor Josh's memory," Rosbach says. "Something good that happened for someone in Josh's position."

"It felt good and still does," he adds.

Rosbach also posted an Instagram on Wednesday revealing he had helped re-design his wife's wedding ring to feature a heart bearing Josh's name, with some of his ashes inside.

"This way Mary Anne can keep a part of him with her always," he wrote.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, please contact the SAMHSA substance abuse helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.