Updated: Apr 24
By Emily's mom, Angela
Sioux Falls, SD
Emily was the most amazing kid in the world and I was so proud of her. She was intellectually, artistically and athletically gifted. I always told her that with so many talents, comes great responsibility to bring those gifts to the world.
Perhaps it's no surprise that since her birth was made public because of my job in the spotlight, now her death is public. I have to embrace that. And I believe it is best if I tell our story to let people know what happened to my daughter. It can happen in anyone's family and it all starts with addiction.
In Emily’s later teen years, it was evident that the drug culture was attractive to her and I was very concerned. It is very difficult to figure out how to get a rebellious teenager on the right track. I feel for anyone who has a child struggling with addiction; because you often don't know where to turn. There is also so much stigma surrounding problem, which makes it hard to even talk with other people about it.
Everything in my instincts told me something was seriously wrong with Emily. We would see her quite a lot, even though she wasn't living with us because she was 21 and on her own. However, the more time I spent around her before her death, the more alarm bells went off in my head. I convinced the rest of our family to take part in an intervention to get her into treatment.
We met on a Saturday with the interventionist. We planned to confront her and get her to a treatment center the following Saturday. Emily died that Wednesday. We didn't get the chance to get her into real treatment, to get her help. The cause of her death was unbelievable to me. The fact that my daughter would be using heroin and needles was shocking. My beautiful daughter, who was privileged and had every opportunity in life, had gone down this road. The police narcotics detective investigating her death told me, “parents never know.”
I consider myself a wordsmith because I write for a living every day. But there are no words to describe the devastation I now feel at the loss of my daughter. There is nothing that can even come close to describe the grief, the sorrow and the pain. There is also the loss of what could have been had she been able to fulfill her full potential in life. Now I have a hole in my heart that will never heal. I have other children and a husband whom I love but nothing and nobody can replace the loss of my oldest child. Emily was just 21.
According to the autopsy report, Emily had six times what would be considered a therapeutic dose of fentanyl for the largest man. She was just a small young woman and didn't stand a chance. The fentanyl killed her almost instantly after she injected it. Her chair sits empty at the kitchen table and when I look across the table I think about how I was robbed of my daughter. No matter what happens to the dealers charged in connection with her death, nothing will ever bring her back.
She was a beautiful girl who deserved to live. She also deserved a chance to get help. While she engaged in risky behavior, that doesn’t mean she deserved to die. By telling Emily's story and my own pain and suffering, I’m opening myself up and being vulnerable to our television audience in a way I have never been before. I feel it’s important I do that, because if just one person hears me; if just one person does one thing to save a life, it will have been worth it. While some may not understand and judge me and my daughter, I will still speak out. I want to stop other mothers from experiencing this kind of pain.
I've set up a fund called "Emily's Hope" because I never gave up hope on my daughter. I want that hope to live on in others. The Emily’s Hope fund will help offset the cost of addiction treatment. All monies raised will help those suffering from addiction with insurance co-pays plus essentials like rent and utilities while going through treatment. We’ve also set up an art scholarship in her name because Emily was a gifted painter.
Emily’s death has given me a new mission in life. I will dedicate my talents and my platform for raising awareness on the disease of addiction and helping others who struggle, as well as their families.
You can follow our efforts and my blog on our website: https://www.paintingapathtorecovery.org/