Langley resident Heather Mullan holds a photo of her daughter Amelia, who died of a drug overdose. Mullan has launched a new support group for parents of overdose victims. Dan Ferguson Langley Times

Group for parents of overdose victims launched by Lower Mainland mother

There is a lack of long-term resources for grieving parents

It was 10 months before Langley resident Heather Mullan could bring herself to put up a picture of her daughter Amelia.

When she did, the photo she chose was a happy one of Amelia, who died from a drug overdose at 35.

It shows a contented-looking woman posing in front of 20 Mile Creek near Hedley.

At the time, Amelia was in a positive relationship and working hard to stay clean after years of addiction.

The photo was taken about two years ago.

Just over a year later, in March 2017, Amelia had a slip, took some heroin laced with fentanyl, and died.

She was one of more than 1,400 people who died from an illicit drug overdose in B.C. last year.

READ MORE: More than 1,400 people in B.C. died of drug overdoses in 2017

About 81 per cent of the deaths were the result of combining drugs like heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine with fentanyl, a painkiller that is 100 times more toxic than morphine and can be fatal in even small amounts.

The public health crisis has meant an increasing number of parents, like Mullan, are left to mourn their children.

“It’s horrendous and lonely,” Mullan said.

And it can be especially hard when someone is lost to drugs.

“A loss through substance abuse has a real stigma to it,” Mullan said.

She held her hands out as if to hold someone close.

“When you care for them (an addict) you hold them here,” she said.

Then she opened her arms wide.

“When they pass, “here” is empty.

Mullan paused a second to collect herself.

“I said I wasn’t going to cry,” she said, then reached for a tissue.

There was short-term assistance available for grieving parents of overdose victims, including a six-week program offered by a local funeral home, but there was nothing ongoing for parents struggling with the unimaginable, Mullan discovered.

“There was no support,” Mullan said.

So she started looking for something long-term.

Her search led her to GRASP (Grief Recovery After Substance Passing), a support group for parents and loved ones who have had family members and friends who have died as a result of drug misuse, overdose or addiction.

The group was started in the U.S. by a couple whose 20-year-old daughter died from a drug overdose in 1994.

They launched an awareness program that evolved into a peer-to-peer support network with more than 100 chapters in the U.S. and Canada.

There are GRASP chapters in B.C., in Victoria and Kelowna.

To become a qualified peer leader of a GRASP group, like Mullan, it has to have been a year since the loved one has passed away.

The first local GRASP meeting organized by Mullan will be held on Thursday, March 1 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in room 206 of the Cloverdale Recreation Centre at 6188 176 St., which has donated space.

For more information, email or phone 604-616-4800.

READ MORE: Drug overdoses almost a daily occurrence in Langley City

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Search and rescue vessel missing from Agassiz storage site

The eight-metre Spirit of Harrison rescue vessel was believed to be stolen Friday night

Hope stylist holds hair-athon for a good cause

Shayla Ross donating all proceeds of $10 cuts to the food bank

Hope arena turns green for hockey tourney

A second attempt at green ice, with proper ice paint, after food colouring experiment last year

Project Hope celebrates first birthday

Also: lego-mania comes to town, lineup of all-female comedians entertains Friday

New Hope clothing store loses $6,700 after early morning break-in

Broke Buckle Clothing Company owners hold “dirty deeds” sale after loss

Hope stylist holds hair-athon for a good cause

Shayla Ross donating all proceeds of $10 cuts to the food bank

BCHL Today: Wenatchee Wild goaltenders a cause for concern

BCHL Today is a (near) daily look at what’s going on around the league and the junior A world.

Canadian survivors, supporters rally against proposed ’60s Scoop settlement

Some have accused the government of underestimating the number of survivors

Nordic athlete Arendz to be Canada’s flagbearer at Paralympic closing ceremony

The biathlete and cross-country skier from Hartsville has raced to five medals in Pyeongchang

VIDEO: ‘Big time disappointment’ as Vancouver Giants fall to undermanned Kelowna Rockets

Head coach Jason McKee very unhappy with effort in Giants’ regular season home finale

B.C. community cheers on Natalie Wilkie as she wins first gold medal

Local skier tops the podium in 7.5km race at the PyeongChang Paralympics

Experts: Society has a role in trying to prevent domestic violence

Experts are speaking out following the murder of a woman and her son in Ontario

Northern lights chasers in Canada discover new type named ‘Steve’

Phenomenon linked to a powerful current created by charged particles in Earth’s upper atmosphere

Progress on fixing Phoenix pay system backlog could be short-lived: Ottawa

Feds have said they won’t try to recover money overpaid until all outstanding issues are fixed

Most Read