For several years after Henry died, I didn’t really WANT to talk about it in a group setting. I found a lot of comfort in sharing my feelings on my blog, Mamapundit, and with the interactions I got with my blog readers, but for a variety of reasons, I decided to shut down my blog, and after a period of time, I found myself for the first time wanting to meet together with a group of people who would understand what it was like to lose a child.
I tried getting together with a couple of different grief groups but maybe through my own insecurities, I just felt… different. When your child dies of cancer, as horrifying in its own way as that is, no one thinks that it happened because you were a bad parent. When your teenager dies of drug overdose, many people believe that it’s your own damn fault. (If you don’t believe me, just read some of the horribly painful comments that people left on stories about Henry’s death in our local newspaper.) So I had difficulty finding a group with which I really connected as the parent of a loved one lost to substance use disorder.
So I went looking for a group that would really connect with my specific circumstances and I found GRASP (Grief Recovery After A Substance Passing). I found a tremendous amount of helpful information and supportive material on the GRASP website, but what I didn’t find when I went looking on the national list of GRASP chapters was a group that met in my hometown on Knoxville,Tennessee.
So with a deep breath and some fear, I contacted the wonderful GRASP chapter coordinator, Laura Cash and began a conversation about launching a GRASP group here in Knoxville. Laura and I had multiple conversations about the mission of GRASP and the appropriate way to publicize and lead GRASP meetings, and before I knew it, I was ready to move forward with launching Knoxville’s first GRASP group.
The first thing I needed was a place for our GRASP group to meet, and the first place I went was to my extremely warm and welcoming church, St, James Episcopal Church in Knoxville. They immediately said yes and offered us a time and a space to meet.
Then it was time to publicize our GRASP meetings, which I’ve mostly done via Facebook. I used my own Facebook page and asked friends to share the info, but we also got help from wonderful groups like HOPE for Victims and the Metro Drug Coalition to get the word out. We also used the awesome Henry’s Fund Community to let people know about our new Knoxville GRASP group. Ali James, a terrific reporter from our local newspaper also did a story on our new group, as did the local NBC TV station, WBIR. I used this blog to make a few briefer mentions of the meetings, and I also sent personal messages to everyone I know personally and locally who has lost a loved one to any aspect of substance use disorder, which is unfortunately far too many people.(Huge thanks to everyone who helped get the word out and who keeps helping us spread the word month after month.)
Based on the church’s availability, I decided that we would meet at 7 pm pm the first Thursday of each month. And soon it was time for our first meeting. I was incredibly emotional and nervous as the evening of the first meeting arrived. But I didn’t have to be. We had about 8 people at our first meeting and for the first time I felt like I was in a grief group where the other members truly understood the particular guilt and pain that comes with losing someone you love to drugs. A lot of crying went on but it was cathartic. We all went through a lot of tissues.
We’ve now been meeting for four months and some months we’ve had ten attendees while other months we’ve had three or four.No matter how many people show up, the fellowship and understanding is unmatchable. There’s just no real way to explain to someone what it’s like to lose a loved one to drugs unless you’ve been through it.
If you’re one of “us,” someone in the club no one wants to join, we do hope you will join us at our next GRASP meeting.
When: 7 pm on the first Thursday of each month
Where: St. James Episcopal Church at 1101 North Broadway in Knoxville (and we have plenty of parking at the church)
For more info: Text Katie at 865-236-1339
We really hope that we can be there for you;