That’s one of the messages my husband’s parents are trying to spread after my 19-year-old sister-in-law’s death in March from a heroin overdose.
Hannah was a smart, funny, and loving young woman—a woman with her whole life ahead of her, a world of possibilities at her fingertips.
Except that, unbeknownst to my in-laws until years later, Hannah was robbed of her joy and innocence when she was sexually abused for four years beginning at age 7.
The abuse left her with debilitating emotional pain and a constant barrage of terrible thoughts spinning through her brain. When she discovered opiates, she discovered a way of numbing that pain and quieting those thoughts, but then the addiction took over her entire life.
After 5-6 years of struggling with addiction—which included 20 different rehabs and addiction treatment programs all over the country—she died of a heroin overdose in her bedroom at my in-law’s house.
Some of you may remember bits of this story from the poem I wrote for Hannah back in May. Earlier this week, the story of Hannah’s struggle and my family’s subsequent grief was featured on the local news, and the video has taken off.
My family is speaking so openly about what happened because they know that to do the opposite—to keep quiet about the darkest, deepest struggles in life—is exactly the problem. There’s some downright ugly stuff in this world, a lot of which my poor sister-in-law experienced firsthand, and to deal with it you’ve got to talk about it.
The story is touching the lives of so many people: people struggling with addiction, people whose loved ones are struggling with addiction, parents whose hearts feel the weight of losing a child, and parents who want to learn more about how to protect their children from the evils of abuse and addiction.
If the story touches you in some way, I encourage you to share it in the hopes of saving lives. What Hannah wanted more than anything else was to help others experiencing the kind of pain she felt. Her story is doing just that.