Bright light, caring, kind, loving
Beautiful, struggling lost soul, who deserved better
Jenna’s dad, Dave, described her as a bright light with a carefree attitude, always laughing, having a good time, and enjoying life. She cared about people and “she had their back all the way; people were drawn to her,” he said. Her mom Belynda added, “She loved the beach, winging her eyeliner, cats, tattoos, and music.” ‘We shared a special and unbreakable bond.’
She was raised by Belynda and her stepfather, Steve until she was nine. Jenna’s dad, Dave said. “They did well with her. Jenna was in the church choir and went on a trip to Canada with the youth group.” Jenna’s mother was absent for a time, so Jenna stayed with her stepfather and her younger brother and sister, John and Ashley until she was twelve when she went to live with her father. Ashley said, “Jenna was my best friend, she was my main source of support through my school years.”
Jenna’s dad was a single dad working full time, so Jenna had little supervision. “I’m not so sure living with me was a good idea, he said, I don’t think I was prepared for it, though I tried.” He spent time with her as much as possible, going to movies, out to eat, to the Aquarium in Baltimore, and to a tattoo convention together, which she loved. He has wonderful memories of their inside jokes and talking and laughing while driving in the car. They were always looking for the best steak and cheesy sub. “We were constantly seeking to top the last experience,” her dad said. One of the best, and the last subs they had together, was at Mr. Kim’s Deli in Manassas.
Trying to deal with issues around her mother’s prolonged absence and other things in life, Jenna began skipping school and hanging out with people who did drugs when she was about 13. Dave said, “It shouldn’t be blamed on her mother or any one person, it was really a perfect storm, I didn’t know how to be a dad to a little girl. Jenna was mentally strong but didn’t develop the skills to deal with things. It just felt like she didn’t stand a chance.”
Despite the problems during her teenage years and time in jail on drug-related charges, Jenna stopped using drugs for close to three years. “I thought she could beat it,” her dad said. “You want better for your kids, not being able to take care of the situation for her, to fix it, was very difficult.” Jenna’s mom said, “I admired her bravery, her ability to push forward, and her continuous strength to get better.” Jenna earned her GED, was five months pregnant, and looking forward to being a mother. She wanted to get her own place, raise her child and go back to school to become a substance use counselor.
Family and friends deeply miss Jenna. Many of them became drug-free because of her influence. Belynda and Jenna each had a tattoo of special words they shared; I love you more than a million moons. Infinity. “I feel sorry for the people she would have helped,” her dad said, “And I will miss watching her be a mother.” Missing things that will never happen is what I think about.”
Jenna’s father, Dave Terpening, provided the information for this narrative with input from Jenna’s mother, Belynda Gray, and sister, Ashley.
October 30, 1995-January 19, 2019
Age 23-Lived with the disease of addiction 10 years