With Ohio leading the nation in overdose deaths, a staggering number of area families and friends are trying to find ways to work through their loss.
The GriefCare Place in Stow is responding to this epidemic of grievers by offering HALO -- Hope After Loss to Overdose.
This new support program for anyone who has lost someone they loved as a result of an overdose will have its initial meeting Jan. 25 at 7 p.m. at the GriefCare Place, 4499 Darrow Road in Stow.
"I've been watching, as everyone has, the overdose crisis in Summit County," says Christine Reinhard, executive director of the GriefCare Place. "These sudden tragic deaths are leaving a swath of grievers behind."
"I feel we have a responsibility to the community to do what we can, which is to help grievers," she adds.
This past fall, Reinhard visited one of GriefCare's support programs for bereaved parents. She says she found the group "inundated with parents who have lost children to overdose."
She asked those in attendance that evening if a separate group for those who lost someone to an OD would be beneficial and received resounding support for the idea.
"At the GriefCare Place, we can't get into prevention and we can't get into the counseling of users," she notes. "I did not feel like there was a lot of help for [those grievers] going around."
She then attended an Akron Community Foundation workshop that had a focus on the overdose epidemic in order to learn more.
"I have a lot of experience with grief, but not this particular kind of grief," Reinhard says.
HALO will be led by Reinhard, who is a certified grief recovery specialist, and Lauren Welsh, a licensed counselor with Crossroads Hospice. Welsh, who is working as a volunteer, brings her own personal experience with a loss to overdose to the program, says Reinhard. Also helping will be Susan Slagle, a longtime supporter of GriefCare and member of its board. Reinhard notes Slagle is a retired hospice nurse and a widow and "I think she's going to be a real asset as a helper."
Reinhard says she and Welsh have been mapping out a plan and curriculum for HALO that "directly addresses this loss because this loss is similar to a loss to suicide."
She explains these particular grievers are dealing with a loss "tinged with an extra layer of stigma."
In addition to going through the grieving process, Reinhard says those dealing with an OD death have two particular areas -- anger and guilt -- that they can get hung up on in addition to the stigma.
"We need to help these people accept there is a stigma, but they don't have to buy into it," she says. "Their loved ones were addicts but addiction is a disease."
Reinhard stresses HALO is not just a group for parents, but is open to anyone who has lost someone to an overdose including grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, friends.
"It could be anyone," she says.
The GriefCare Place, serving grievers from 66 communities in Northeast Ohio, has been committed since 1997 to bring hope and healing to broken hearts caused by the death of a loved one. It is located in the Keystone Vet building entrance in rear. Call the office for further information and detailed directions at 330-686-1750 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Monthly meeting calendars are posted on the website, www.thegriefcareplace.org.