Local Residents Hope to Help Those Close to Overdose Victims

The opioid crisis in New Hampshire does not pull any punches with its victims.  Too many residents have felt its affects, whether through the physical and mental affects of the drug itself, or emotionally through the strain that it causes on relationships with family and friends.  Although state officials, medical professionals, and well-meaning citizens have banded together as of late to combat the issue, help simply comes to some too late. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there were 437 opioid-related overdose deaths in the state in 2016 alone.  And those close to the victims not only have to contend with the loss of that person, but also the additional factors at play due to their addiction.

So, in order to help those bereaving under these circumstances, Londonderry residents Jim and Julia Gamache, and Jerry Goncalo are currently hosting the Journey of Hope program at Londonderry Senior Center. Taking place on the second and fourth Sundays of each month from 6 p.m. until 7:30 p.m., the goal of this free program is “to promote healing in the grieving process for those who have lost a loved one through the unique circumstances and chaos of addiction; through education, encouraging support and compassion”, according to the program’s flyer.

Goncalo and the Gamaches all have experience with opioid users, such as how Jerry Gonacalo currently serves as the Londonderry Police Department’s Chaplain, while Jim and Julia are trained therapists. Through their collective experiences, they realize that those who lost a loved one to an overdose need help bereaving as much as anyone else. However, circumstances surrounding drug addiction make getting over a death much more complicated. On top of the stigma surrounding dying from an overdose and what people would be led to believe about the family of the victim, there is also the strain put on these relationships by trips to rehab and distancing oneself from the addict that make it more difficult to deal with.  For this reason, this particular group does not assist those bereaving when the victim died from non-addiction-related causes, although the three do point those people towards resources better suited for them.

“It’s a different kind of struggle”, Goncalo noted.

Although opioid overdoses are a major influence for starting the program, those close to people who died from alcohol or overdosed on other drugs are also welcome.  Throughout the program, participants go through some processes that are normally associated with other grief programs, such as speaking about ones feelings about their loss, but also how the victim’s addiction affected both the victim and those around them, as seeing someone succumb to addiction can be emotionally and mentally taxing.  Participants in the program also go through a curriculum-based series of lessons that help them deal with their grief, and also speak with others who have been affected by addiction in the past, either personally or because of someone close to them.

“It gives us a better understanding of how to deal with the matter”, Goncalo stated.

For more information on the program, email Goncalo and the Gamaches at journeyofhopenh@gmail.com.

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