Everyone experiences grief at some point in their lives, but grief due to a passing from substance use can be a particularly difficult and lonely experience. Many people who experience this type of loss feel that others cannot understand what they are experiencing and may have wide range of emotions, including despair, anger, or guilt. Grief can be complicated and messy.
No two people experience grief the same way, but it is important to remember that you are not alone. There are online resources and in-person meetings you can go to for support. You may also want to consider talking to a licensed mental health provider. Go to Find Support to get more information on how you can help your family members and yourself cope with the loss of a loved one.
In March 2014, Natick hosted its first vigil to remember those we have lost to addiction, and it proved to be an important opportunity for community members to connect with each other around their loss and their loving memories of deceased friends and family members who lost their battles with addiction. The stigma surrounding addiction can make the grieving process a particularly lonely experience, but the vigil gave community members a time and place to come together in solidarity to remember the deceased, to support their families and friends, and to remember that addiction does not discriminate. No community, family or individual is immune to it, and the entire community is impacted each time we lose a life to addiction.
The next vigil was held in December 2014, at which point it became an annual event hosted each December. While the holiday season can be a time of great joy, too many families face the holiday season with an empty chair at their dinner tables because of a life taken too early by substance use, so it seemed like an even more important time of year for the Natick community to come together to support each other.
The vigil is led each year by the Interfaith Clergy Association of Natick and is hosted by the First Congregational Church of Natick (2 East Central Street, Natick MA), which opens its doors to the public and to Natick residents of all faith backgrounds to come together for this somber event of remembrance. If you have questions about the event, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In September 2018, Natick High School hosted the purple flag project, inviting every student and faculty member to place a flag in front of the high school as part of a school assembly about addiction and mental health. Unfortunately, the number of flags had to be increased in number as the confirmed death toll from 2017 in Massachusetts rose. But this moving event, coupled with a presentation by Cory Palazzi about his own struggle with opioid addiction and recovery, made a lasting impression on the Natick High School community as well as the thousands of Natick residents who passed the display.
The Purple Flag Project is displayed in the Natick community for a couple of weeks each year in recognition of International Overdose Awareness Day (August 31st).
The Opioid Project: Changing Perceptions through Art and Storytelling
In September 2018, SOAR Natick, The Journey, and The Reddish Foundation came together to create and display a powerful art exhibit at the Morse Institute Library as part of The Opioid Project: Changing Perceptions Through Art and Storytelling. This interactive art and storytelling project was founded and is facilitated by Boston-based artist Nancy Marks and physician and Health Story Collaborative founder Annie Brewster. The process of creating and displaying this moving exhibit intends to support those personally touched by the opioid epidemic and create community dialogue about stigma and the costs of the ongoing crisis. The project goals include:
Increasing public awareness about substance use disorder and addiction.
Decreasing stigma by fostering and creating space for community dialogue.
Contributing to policy change to increase access to mental health services and substance use treatment.
Supporting those who those in recovery, first responders, caregivers and those grieving the death of a loved one by providing space for story sharing and creative expression.
The Opioid Project features recorded audio narrations by the individuals who created each piece of art that can be heard by visiting the Opioid Project website or by dialing the phone number displayed with each piece in the exhibit.
To learn more about the Natick Opioid Project display or to get information on how to sponsor an exhibition of this traveling display, contact SOAR Natick.
If you are grieving the loss of a child, family member or friend due to substance use, please know that you are not alone. There are support resources available that can assist you.
is a bereavement support group that meets at the Natick Community Senior Center (117 East Central St, Natick, MA) on the last Tuesday of each month, 7:00-8:30 PM. This group focuses specifically on supporting individuals who are navigating the journey of life after the passing of a loved one due to substance use. For more information and to RSVP, please email The.Journey.Substance.Loss@gmail.com or text 774-286-9986.
The Journey also has a virtual meeting on the last Thursday of each month from 7:00-8:30 PM. Contact Kathryn at The.Journey.Substance.Loss@gmail.com or by text at 774-286-9986 for the link.
December meeting dates and times may change. Contact The Journey directly with any questions. You can also view a comprehensive list of bereavement support groups around Massachusetts on the Learn to Cope grief resources page.
For many people who struggle with grief, counseling helps by providing a safe, confidential space to process grief and learn new ways to cope with life after a loved one’s passing. Natick residents can call the free INTERFACE referral service, a service that will match Natick residents with appropriate mental health providers. Call 888-244-6843, Monday through Friday, 9:00 AM-5:00 PM, and a Resource and Referral Counselor will conduct a brief intake in order to assist you in identifying local mental health providers who might be able to best help you and your family. The Resource and Referral Counselor will also follow-up with you to make sure that you are successful in obtaining an appointment with a mental health provider.
Additionally, if you are grieving the loss of a loved one due to substance use, members of The Journey have compiled the following recommended reading list to assist you:
Read This Till You Believe It by M.H. Clark Healing After Loss by Martha W. Hickman It’s OK that You’re Not OK by Megan Devin Bearing the Unbearable by Joanne Cacciatore Chasing the Scream by Johann Hari