It's difficult to imagine a loss more painful than that of a child. Kathleen Errico learned that the worst possible way when her 23-year-old daughter, Kelsey Grace, died on April 2.
As plenty of people do, Kathleen took to Facebook to share her grief after losing Kelsey. While there's no blueprint for having a child die before you, her post started as you may expect:
"My beautiful Kelsey Grace ... I hope as you are looking down from Heaven that you are FINALLY able to see how much you were adored, admired and so so loved. The amount of people that have been affected by your death is a true testament to the impact you had on everyone you met in your 23 short years of life."
However, instead of continuing on with flowery prose and adding a photo collage or perhaps a prayer, Kathleen got real. Apparently Kelsey died from an accidental drug overdose, and, according to Fox News, after she spoke at her daughter's funeral, Kathleen decided this was an opportunity to educate others on a broader platform on the danger of heroin so that if nothing else, her loss might help prevent another.
What (heroin) didn't tell her was how it would ... take and take and take until it took her life.
"Her reality was that with those sparkling eyes, she never saw what the rest of us saw. She looked in her own distorted mirror and this is what her reflection displayed; and these are her own words: 'I am someone who is determined, insecure, emotional, neurotic, shameful, cunning, angry and honest. I am everything but simple. I hate being alone yet am addicted to the feeling of sorrow and depression. I am a person who is too insecure to be loved and terrified to be broken. I am hard on the outside but an emotional train wreck deep within the heart.' Her addiction told her she wasn't worthy or deserving. She turned to drugs to make her feel normal like everyone else. Heroin told her I can make you feel accepted, I can make you feel alright, I can make you feel worthy, I can make you feel normal, I can make you feel loved, I can make you feel nothing and make you feel like everything will be OK. What it didn't tell her was how it would devastate her family and tear it apart, how it would take her job and leave her penniless, how it would steal her son from her arms, how it would take her home, how it would take her sparkle, how it would take her smile, how it would take her humor and how it would take and take and take until it took her life."
It's a heartbreaking read, but one packed with tremendous power and bravery.
Like the woman who recently posted selfies of herself before and after a panic attack, the honest eulogy of Kelsey is another peek into a life we think we know because we see status updates and cheerful photos—when the truth is, we never really know.
Whether you're a mom suffering from postpartum depression, dealing with a difficult child or a fraught marriage, or struggling with body image issues, anxiety, financial problems or relationship concerns, it can be frighteningly easy to assume that no one can understand the extent of your problems, and that no one can suffer as you do. It can be even easier to look at others and assume their lives seem relatively easy.
"I hate being alone yet am addicted to the feeling of sorrow and depression," Kelsey was quoted as saying by her mom. "I am a person who is too insecure to be loved and terrified to be broken. I am hard on the outside but an emotional train wreck deep within the heart."
Parents may feel as if their first and primary responsibility is to protect their own children and family, although what Kathleen has done in revealing her daughter's private struggles is shine a light on how no one is alone in feeling helpless or hopeless, and while a photo can paint a rosy picture, what's behind the lens can be much darker. For families dealing with drug addiction, the struggle can run deep—and thinking the person who's addicted has merely made a choice or a bad decision rather than seeing them as dealing with a serious disease might very well put them in the same unthinkable position as Kathleen is in today.
Her obituary on Legacy.com has been shared more than 50,000 times, and since it was posted on Facebook April 9, Kelsey's eulogy has been shared at least 5,000 times. Kathleen hopes "it will work ... miracles. We need to talk and educate the world about this epidemic."