Brightly colored artwork

Milestone Gives Voice to New Vision

By Kerry J. Bickford, VOICES Editor

VOICES is celebrating a milestone as we approach the first anniversary of our monthly newsletter. Over the last year, we have introduced you to a new peer grief helper in each issue, along with inspirational stories of overcoming grief, recovery, harm reduction workers, frontline providers, current resources, and research, and we are hoping to add to these voices in the next year. 

One of the reasons VOICES shares so many stories about recovery and loss is to help create a community of support for people who are grieving. Loved ones often say that they felt abandoned after their person’s death and didn’t know who to turn to because the stigma associated with addiction can create boundaries that make it difficult to give or receive grief support.

For this reason, Massachusetts has been thoughtfully declared a State Without Stigma by Secretary of Human Services Marylou Sudders in an effort to help eliminate this mindset. According to the state’s website: Stigmas about addiction can be negative, biased feelings, words, or behaviors towards people living with addiction. Stigma creates barriers -- and can prevent people from getting treatment or staying in recovery. 

VOICES conducts an enlightened and human dialogue for those affected by the disease of addiction, including its effect on the person in recovery, family, friends, and providers. It also communicates the impact of an overdose loss -- as it is witnessed by those who have lost a beloved human being. One of the best ways it does this is by telling the stories of people’s lives with respect and compassion

One of the most healing practices over the generations has been individual and group support to help people who are suffering bear the weight of loss. Talking and sharing can redistribute the pain when others help us carry it and serves as an important reminder that we are not alone. We empathize, commiserate, validate, and remember, opening the door to a sacred place in our hearts and minds while uniting us on a path of healing. We form a human chain -- a lifeline of support.

Still, there’s a hallowed space left behind when someone important to us dies, and it takes some time to figure out how we will honor it. Some people write about their loss in a journal -- exorcising the demons of despair that threaten to destroy them each time they remember their loved one’s departure. Others paint or create permanent reminders of their person to ensure they are never forgotten. Whatever they do to keep the memory of love alive, sharing it becomes as therapeutic as creating it. We are united in life and death, but we aren’t very good, as a society, in facilitating the conversation of grief. This is ever so slowly changing.

As we embark on year two of the newsletter, our goal is to expand the monthly voices by inviting you to share yours. Specifically, we’re hoping to create a healing space where we can share our visions and voices and remember our loved ones. 

Please read “Your ‘Visions & Voices’ Welcome Here” to discover how to submit something you have created in honor of your person -- whether it is poetry, a story, photograph, painting, or a drawing -- or you may share a picture of a carving, quilt, or memorial bench, whatever you have created in remembrance or in honor of a life that was precious to you.

Let’s help each other keep the conversation -- and the memories -- alive.