Even if Your Heart Would Listen: Losing My Daughter to Heroin

In January 2014, Elise Schiller’s youngest child, thirty-three-year-old Giana Natali, died of a heroin overdose while a resident in a treatment program in Boulder County, Colorado. Even if Your Heart Would Listen is about Giana’s life, which was full of accomplishments, and her mental illness, addiction, and death. Using excerpts from the journals, planners, and letters Giana left behind, as well as evidence from her medical records, Schiller dissects her daughter’s treatment for opioid use disorder (OUD) at the five residential and several outpatient programs in eastern Pennsylvania where she tried to recover, taking a close look at the lack of continuity and solid medical foundations in the American substance-use treatment system even as she explores the deeply personal experience of her own loss.

Poignant and timely, Even if Your Heart Would Listen is a meditation on a family’s grief, an intimate portrayal of a mother-daughter bond that endures, and an examination of how our nation is failing in its struggle with the opioid epidemic.

Author: Elise Schiller

Publication Date: August 27, 2019


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2019 Philadelphia Writers’ Conference, Nonfiction, 3rd place

“A heart-rending story of a mother’s anguished journey to understand her daughter’s addiction. It indicts a treatment industry that often does more harm than good and a drug policy that fails to help parents save their children’s lives.”
―Maia Szalavitz, New York Times best-selling author of Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding Addiction

“Courage is a parent who gets up every day and presses forward after losing a child. Bravery is a parent who fights to change the stigma of losing a child from Substance Use Disorder. In Even If Your Heart Would Listen, Elise Schiller shares the personal story of her beautiful daughter’s struggles with mental illness and addiction, and her own story towards courage and bravery. A heartfelt read, and one that offers encouragement to me as a parent on my own journey towards courage and bravery.”
—Lillian Hightower, mother of Andrew 4/19/1985 – 3/5/2017

About the Author

Elise Schiller has been writing fiction and actively participating in writing groups since adolescence. After a thirty-year career in education and family services in Philadelphia, she retired to write full time. She is currently working on a fiction series about Philadelphia; SparkPress will be publishing the first book in the series. Schiller sits on the advisory board of the Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Services (DBHIDS), and she has served on the Philadelphia Mayor’s Task Force on the Opioid Epidemic. When not writing, reading, or volunteering, she enjoys visiting museums and historical sites, often with one of her seven grandchildren or various nieces and nephews in tow.