I found those words in my daughter’s journals after she died. Now her autopsy results have come in. Emily had a lethal dose of fentanyl in her system; an accidental overdose. She thought she was taking heroin. She was, but those levels were low. The heroin was cut with deadly fentanyl, which was more than six times higher than what’s considered safe.
I am making this information public because we have a problem in this country, in this state and in this town. There have been at least 18 overdose deaths this year in the Sioux Falls area and most of those were heroin laced with a deadly dose of fentanyl.
One of the reasons we can’t get a handle on addiction is because of all the shame that surrounds it for both the addict and their families. I will not be silenced by shame. How many people must die at the hands of evil dealers who hook them and then kill them?
What is your opinion of a heroin addict? A weak and dirty person who comes from the “wrong side of the tracks?” Emily could not have been more loved, more cherished and had more talent, opportunities and privileges in life.
I realized she had some kind of serious problem in the weeks before her death and planned an intervention because she denied whatever it was she was doing. But I never got that chance to try to save her.
She died three days before she was scheduled to go into treatment. I had no idea she was using heroin. A narcotics detective told me, “parents never know.”
The loss of a child is overwhelming no matter what. The loss of a child to addiction, and what appears to be intentional murder, is filled with so much remorse, guilt and a sense of helplessness. My unconditional love for her couldn’t slay the addiction; it just wasn’t more powerful than the monster. I now has to live with that truth now every day for the rest of her life. Emily was only 21. There will be no career, no wedding and no grandchildren. When Emily died she took a piece of my heart with her.
The only thing left for me to do now is tell her story to advocate for solutions to this overwhelming problem. We can do better as a society—we have to do better! If it was my child—it could be yours. We must replace shame with love. Won’t you please help a grieving mother do that?
Faith, Hope & Courage,