For Jennifer Kerr, the emotions experienced when losing a loved one to a substance-related death are deeply personal.
Kerr will be running a special six-week group therapy session starting on Nov. 25 through Hospice Georgian Triangle for people who have lost a loved one to addiction or substance abuse.
It’s a battle the group facilitator knows well, as she lost her own mother to a fentanyl overdose.
“Being in this line of work and seeing how unique that type of grief is – it does have a lot of stigma attached – and there’s really not a ton of support available for that specific type of death,” said Kerr.
Kerr has worked with the bereaved for seven years and is currently working on completing her master's of counselling psychology.
She started the group sessions during the pandemic in late 2020, which she says garnered a lot of interest.
“We were seeing a lot of referrals come through specific to parents who were losing adult children to an overdose,” said Kerr. “That specific type of grief was happening more and more.”
She notes the opioid crisis became amplified during COVID-19 and at the time, Hospice Georgian Triangle only offered one-on-one counselling for that type of grief.
“I wanted to meet this need in a bigger way,” said Kerr.
The group sessions are done in partnership with experts in mental health and addictions in the community who will provide more education and resources during some of the sessions.
If people are experiencing grief when losing someone to a substance-related death, Kerr says she hopes they realize they are not alone.
“The reason for their loved one’s death doesn’t take away from the love and care they have for that person,” she said. “The type of grief they’re going through deserves to be acknowledged.”
The group therapy sessions will be taking place every Friday starting Nov. 25 from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at Hospice Georgian Triangle at 186 Hurontario St. To sign up or learn more, contact Kerr at 705-444-2555, ext 7512 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.