Editor's Note: Jean is not the real name of the woman Hospice served, nor is Miranda the real name of her daughter.

Background: Jean is a health care professional. She has been a physicians’ practice office manager for more than two decades. She also had a 35-year-old daughter, Miranda, who was a heroin addict. Miranda was a high school athlete, participated in the school band, and loved taking dance lessons. She attended a local college for several years, which is when she began her battle with controlled substances – alcohol first, then prescription pain medication and finally, heroin. Miranda attempted to get treatment for her addiction multiple times, hoping she’d be able to overcome her addiction.

In early 2019, Jean got the call every mother of an addict dreads. Her daughter had died of an overdose.

Jean like so many others, called upon Hospice of the Panhandle, seeking grief support.

Recognizing that opiate overdoses increased dramatically (in Berkeley County, 30 percent) during the pandemic, Hospice has begun a bereavement program for those who have lost a loved one as a result of an overdose or other complications related to long-term substance abuse. The program, called “Gone Too Soon,” was started this past summer. Hospice recognizes the continued problem that drug addiction causes in our communities. When family members experience the death of a loved one as a result of an overdose, they are devastated. Their lives are changed forever.

Gone Too Soon is a six-week group at Hospice of the Panhandle where participants can share their honest feelings about the death of a loved one as a result of substance addiction. This group gives participants the opportunity to meet others with whom they can share their experiences to reduce the isolation the bereaved often feel after such a loss. It is a caring, safe environment.

This group is designed to offer grief education and enhance the coping strategies of the bereaved and to reduce stigma associated with substance abuse loss. Overseen by Hospice’s grief counselors, all participants are welcome – whether their loss is new or longstanding.

There are many, many other mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles, throughout the Eastern Panhandle, like Jean, who would benefit greatly from services that Gone Too Soon offers. Because of the unique training and expertise that our grief/bereavement counselors at Hospice of the Panhandle have, we believe this program has the capacity to have a huge impact on a largely unserved population.

Do you know someone who would benefit from “Gone Too Soon” grief counseling? The first six-week session is ending soon, but a new one begins on Saturday, Sept. 11 at Hospice of the Panhandle’s Center for Grief Support in Hospice Main Office Building in Kearneysville. Sessions are for six consecutive Saturdays, Sept. 11-Oct. 16, from 10-11:30 a.m. To find out more and/or to pre-register, call (304) 264-0406.

To learn how Hospice of the Panhandle can help your family, simply call the phone number listed above, or visit us on the web at www.hospiceotp.org

Maria Lorensen is the development director for Hospice of the Panhandle, a position she has held for nearly 13 years. She can be reached at mlorensen@hospiceotp.org or (304) 264-0406, ext. 1225.