When a Loved One Dies from Overdose
Through a partnership with the Frederick Police Department’s Victims Services Unit and the County Health Department, Hospice launched its Overdose Survivor Outreach Program to bring care, comfort and support to the families and friends of individuals who have died from overdose.
Until Deena Loudon lost her son, Matthew, to overdose last fall, the last place she expected to find grief support was at Frederick Health Hospice. Just weeks after the death of her son, still reeling from her devastating loss, Deena accepted an invitation to attend Surviving Our Ultimate Loss (S.O.U.L.), a peer-led support group for moms held at Frederick Health Hospice. Today, still in the early stages of what will be a lifetime journey through grief, Deena says that attending that first S.O.U.L. meeting helped put her on the road to reconnecting with herself and the world again.
“I connected with the other moms immediately,” said Deena. “I instantly recognized that these women were my people–my tribe, my sisters. My heart was broken but I felt deep comfort right away. In fact, during the meeting and for five minutes after, I actually felt normal.”
The S.O.U.L. support group is just one of the many pieces of the Overdose Survivor Outreach Program. Victoria Leizear, the Traumatic Grief Specialist who helped launch the program last year, responds to calls from police and first responders when a person dies from overdose. She also follows up with the family to offer support and resources, as well as one-on-one counseling and a variety of support groups for surviving family members. Where appropriate, Victoria provides referrals to recovery and harm-reduction resources to loved ones who are also struggling with substance abuse and addiction.
Even though the program’s launch has been impacted by the pandemic, it has made a huge difference in our community. According to the Frederick Police Department’s Victims Services Supervisor Suzy Boisclair, PhD., Hospice’s Overdose Survivor Outreach Program is helping to change how those involved in fatal and non-fatal overdoses are treated.