On July 28, 2018, our lives changed forever. In the early morning hours of that day, our daughter, Jessica Elizabeth, died of an accidental xylazine/fentanyl overdose. They tried to reverse her overdose with endless Narcan doses but xylazine is a cattle tranquilizer that has no antidote. She never had a chance.
Jessica was fun and funny. She had an infectious laugh and smile. She was kind and generous, artistic and quirky. She was sweet and kind with a tremendous love of three things: her son Joseph, her family and animals, especially dogs.
Her battle with opiates started at the age of 18 and lasted most of her adult life. She had long periods of sobriety but also many periods of struggling to stay clean in those years. At the time of her death we thought she was happy, healthy and starting a brand new life. Everything she’d worked toward was coming to fruition. But in the days prior to her death she voiced anxiety about not believing she deserved the life she was about to have and of waiting for ” the other shoe to drop”. She was still so filled with shame and self-hate that she really didn’t believe she deserved happiness.
I thought the years living through her addiction were unbearable. I now know that a life without her here for us and her son is so much more painful. Her addiction and death have changed so many lives. My other two children, her brother Cory and her sister Sarah, miss their sister with a depth only a sibling can feel. To watch my grandson navigate a life without his mother is heartbreaking. She tried with all she had to be what he needed and he was probably her sole reason for trying to change her life. No child should lose their mom. As for my husband and I, we have navigated these feelings before, after the loss of our infant son Erick. The grief is the same in many ways but also different in so many more. After 2 years we are finally able to comfort each other again. In the beginning we were just trying to survive each day. All of our family and friends has experienced this loss with us and through us. She touched so many lives.
On most days we rely on our faith to give us strength and try to focus on the blessings that still surround us. But there are still days filled with anger, guilt, regret and sadness. I talk to my daughter daily telling her how much I miss her, how sorry I am for not making it easier, how much we all still love her, and to please watch over Joseph.
We try to help anyone struggling with addiction whenever we can, especially the homeless and just try to make sure no one forgets how wonderful she was and that addiction didn’t change that. Our main focus is to be there for her son and to be a beacon of hope to many hopeless parents that have experienced this too. We try to find joy and peace because that is what she would want for all of us.As her mother I don’t think there will ever be a day that I don’t get that sinking feeling in my stomach and that pain in my heart when I think about her. Tears come so easily now. There are days her life seems like it was a dream and then I remind myself, she was here and she mattered and she was loved. Oh how she was loved.
Story by Kelly Almasy