INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- The death of a loved one is devastating and the opioid epidemic is leading to even more families dealing with similar grief.
“There’s a lot of money in education for prevention and rehabilitation, and I think there should be,” says Mark Tripodi, the Executive Director and Founder of Cornerstone of Hope. “There’s very little resources for what we do, and that’s picking up the pieces after a loved one has died.”
Tripodi says the grief center he and his wife founded after the sudden death of their son, Bobby, 17 years ago, was seeing a huge increase for individual counseling appointments for people who lost a loved one to an overdose.
In 2012, the staff decided to start free group sessions for these families.
“There’s a lot of the judgment from the outside world and that is all wiped away in our groups,” he says. “We can really get inside their heart and they can share in a way that they wouldn’t in any other setting.”
Mike Smith went through the 10-week session.
“Just being in a room with people who are going through the same thing that you’re going through or you’ve been through is enormously powerful.”
Smith lost his daughter, Hillary, to a heroin overdose about three weeks before her 25th birthday.
“She was a loving, wonderful, soulful, happy child who unfortunately made a bad decision; the decision to use heroin.”
Hillary struggled with addiction, went into treatment, got clean and then relapsed.
“It was a shock when she passed away,” says Smith. “Why did my daughter, my child, make these choices? What kind of parent was I? Why didn’t I see the warning signs, that this was going on?”
Smith says the accidental overdose support group helped to educate him about grief, how to cope and empowered him to move forward in a positive way.
“I started to see through the program that I also have to think about the choices I’m going to make,” he says. "How am I going to spend the rest of my life? How am I going to use this for good and how am I going to honor my daughter’s life by doing something?”
Smith is taking steps to become a volunteer with Cornerstone of Hope and has already shared his story in front of staff and students at University School where he teaches.
For more information about the accidental overdose support group click here.