Guest Blog from Hope and Healing after an Addiction Death

In the midst of the opioid epidemic ravaging our country, it’s important to stop and remember the mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, friends and loved ones who have lost their battle with addiction. As it was discussed at the first four Knock Out Opioid Abuse Town Halls, the stigma of addiction is a large barrier in effectively addressing the opioid epidemic, but vigils and other remembrances honoring overdose victims help break that stigma. Below is a guest blog from Gail Cole, who helped establish Hope and Healing after an Addiction Death following her son’s overdose death in 2014. To find out how you can get involved in helping to address the opioid abuse epidemic, sign-up for a Knock Out Opioid Abuse Town Hall at Join the conversation and be part of the solution in your community.


Candlelight Vigil in Bergen County Honors Those Who Have Lost Battle with Addiction

By Gail Cole

As the heroin and opioid epidemic continues its path of devastation across the country, it is important to take a moment, and remember all those lost to the disease of addiction. On January 4, 2014, I lost my beautiful son, Brendan, to an accidental heroin overdose at age 22. There are no words to describe losing my son, but suffice it to say that my heart has been irreparably broken, my life changed forever, and my mind still filled with disbelief and endless questions.

In 2015, I co-founded a bereavement group named Hope and Healing after an Addiction Death, along with Lani Bonifacic. In the perfect world, this group should not have to exist, but it does and has become an incredible community of wonderful people, all walking the same indescribably difficult journey through grief. We call it the "crappy club," one that no one wants to belong to...but here we all are. Most of the tragic losses have been related to opioids and heroin. 

Last year, Hope and Healing held a Candlelight Vigil to honor those who have lost their battle with addiction, to promote hope and healing and eliminate the stigma and shame associated with the disease of addiction. We thought that we might have 50 people; we were overwhelmed when 250 people showed up, including family, friends and many community leaders. People who attended were shocked by the multitude of people suffering losses, but many felt they had found a home, a safe place to cry and honor their loved ones, and left knowing that they were not alone in their grief. It was incredibly heartwarming to see the community come together and support those suffering with deep grief. It was a huge step towards eliminating the stigma and shame.

This year, we will be holding our 2nd Annual Candlelight Vigil at 7 p.m. Wednesday, September 13 at The Red Barn at Crestwood Lake on West Crescent Avenue in Allendale. We will have a Wall of Remembrance for people to post a picture or note, and candles will be provided. Please join us as we remember all the beautiful and amazing people who have been lost and support the loved ones left behind. They are also victims of this epidemic. 

Unlike the hurricanes causing devastation across the country in the past few weeks, this devastation causing unprecedented losses is man-made. Everyone must unite together to stop the tide, to educate people about the dangers of opioids, to re-educate the medical community about better prescribing practices, for reforms in the pharmaceutical industry, for affordable, long-term treatment and support for those in recovery.

Stop the stigma, stop the shame.



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