How a Viral Obituary Inspired Others to Share Their Stories of Death by Opioids

How a Viral Obituary Inspired Others to Share Their Stories of Death by Opioids

Obituaries are a great way to let your community know about someone that you thought was a great person. They are a great way to honor someone and share some facts about them that would interest others. A viral obituary was recently released and inspired an online memorial project to honor those who lost their lives to opioid addiction

The Death of Alexa Rose Cioffi

On the day Alexa Rose Cioffi died, she was too sick to take care of her two-year-old son Frankie. Her father, Frank Cioffi, decided to help her out by taking his grandson to the store to buy diapers. When he returned back to her house with Frankie, Cioffi thought Alex was asleep. He made himself a snack, changed the baby, and found Alexa lying sideways on the bed. He discovered she was unconscious and not moving. He called 911 and started CPR where he found marks on her neck and chest. The EMTs injected Alexa with Narcan medication but it did no good because it was not an opioid overdose. 

Alexa died of acute bronchial pneumonia as a result of substance abuse. Alexa broke her wrist in a car accident at 17 and was prescribed opioids. She did not become addicted until her mid-20s. It was not until she stole from family members that Cioffi realized something was wrong. The autopsy showed traces of fentanyl. After she died, Cioffi adopted his grandson and wrote in the obituary that he wishes Alexa could see him.

All Our Hearts

Cioffi never shared the details of his daughter’s death before. He, along with others who lost loved ones to opioids, wrote about the honest and personal details about them in an online memorial project called All Our Hearts. This project was made by Seven Days, a Vermont-based newsweekly to show to the human cost of the opioid crisis. This site currently features 12 memorials written by parents, siblings, and partners. They would write about who these people were before they discovered drugs as well as their darkest moments and how addiction changed their relationships. 

The idea came from an obituary that got an overwhelming response. Kate O’Neill wrote about her sister Madelyn Linsenmeir who struggled for 12 years with opioid addiction before she died. O’Neill learned just how much shame there was in addiction when her sister was alive and how she wanted to put a face to this epidemic. All Our Hearts manager Cathy Resmer saw this obituary and saw 1,000 heartbreaking comments on it. She realized that these comments were a safe space. It reminded her of the AIDS Quilt that helped break the stigma of those who died during the AIDS epidemic. The name for the project came about when O’Neill wrote in Madelyn’s obituary, “Know that we believe with all our hearts that you can and will make it. It is never too late.” It was not easy for Cioffi to share the details of his daughter’s death to online strangers, but wanted to encourage others to seek help before it is too late.

Angela Bowser-Camilletti

One of the memorials in All Our Hearts is when Sandy Camilletti spoke of how her daughter, Angela, was held down and injected with heroin at a college party. Angela was an avid skier and snowboarder as well as a lifeguard, swim teacher, dancer, and dance teacher. She played the Sugar Plum Fairy in her high school production of The Nutcracker and was studying criminal justice before she died of an overdose in 2009. Camilletti said she did not feel like the mother/daughter dynamic they both had was ever the same. She felt fear, lack of understanding, anger, and hopeless. Angela did not enter recovery until she entered her third rehab in three years. Camilletti said the love they had for each other never changed. Angela’s youngest sister, Lena, helped develop All Our Hearts.

Angela overdosed on over-the-counter medication and methadone. Lena would never hear anyone speak of heroin addiction outside of her family. She felt like it was of great importance to be honest about her sister’s death as it was therapeutic for her and did not want other families to go through this pain. 

Virgil Shepard

Melissa Shepard wrote an obituary for her 34-year-old brother who died in Ohio after shooting up a drug he had no idea of. What he thought was heroin was actually a mix of heroin, fentanyl, carfentanil, and cocaine. The police said he took something he had no idea what he had and it went straight to his heart. Shepard loved football and Tom Petty. While it hurt Shepard to write about her brother’s death, she knew it was important to open up discussions and for harsher punishments to come to those who sell drugs.

Being Part of the Project

These obituaries teach the world about the horrors of addiction. We can read through each writer’s words how painful it is to lose a loved one to something that can be treated with the right guidance and support. In order to make sure your obituary appears on All Our Hearts, fill out an online form on the Seven Days website or call the paper. The team then contacts people who submitted their entries and interviews them to get additional details of their experiences. By submitting an obituary for this project, you are helping break the stigma of addiction and honoring your loved ones.

Located on the shore of Southern New Jersey, Enlightened Solutions is a recovery center that uses evidence-based therapies and holistic healing to treat addiction and mental illness. With the opportunity to learn about therapies that are keyed in to healing the human spirit and learning about new stress-reducing techniques centered around a 12 step network, you will ensure a lasting recovery. For more information, please call us at 833-801-LIVE as we are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.


Benefiting from Support Groups

Benefiting from Support Groups

Many of us struggling with addiction have formed the very destructive and limiting belief that we need to recover alone. We isolate ourselves thinking that no one else can relate to us or understand our pain. We often have given up hope altogether and don’t believe we can be helped. When we isolate ourselves, we remove ourselves from the communities and resources that can in fact support us in our recovery. One of the best resources available to us are the many support groups with regular meetings we can attend and benefit from.

Support groups are comprised of other people living with similar addictions and experiencing similar struggles. When we join a support group, we can immediately feel less alone and less isolated. We can look around us and see just how prevalent addiction is. We see firsthand how it runs the entire spectrum of religion, ethnicity, background and socio-economic status. When we feel less isolated, we’re more likely to come out of our shell and share our story. This powerful experience helps us to conquer our fears of expressing ourselves. Our addictions no longer have our silence, avoidance and denial to feed on. We’ve allowed our pain to come into the light of our awareness. We start to develop courage and resilience. We learn that we are stronger than our addictions.

Being in community with other people is like holding up a mirror to ourselves and our lives. The people with whom we are in fellowship help us to measure our progress, track our efforts and take inventory of where we can improve. We learn so much not just from sharing our own experiences but from hearing the stories of the people around us. We absorb all their wisdom. We benefit from their learning experiences almost as if they were our own. We share of ourselves and learn things about ourselves we might never have been aware of had we not joined this community. We can become more mindful of the behaviors and thought patterns that contributed to our addictions. We benefit from the cumulative awareness and collective consciousness of a group of people all striving towards the same goal of sobriety.

Support groups can give us the encouragement and motivation we need. They can be our source of strength when we feel down, weak and defeated. In addition, we can benefit from a renewed sense of purpose and fulfillment when we feel we are of service to other people.

Enlightened Solutions is here to provide you the community, love and support we all need for a successful recovery. Call us today: (833) 801-LIVE.