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Chester County Press

Editorial: The burden that need not be carried alone

12/19/2017 12:50PM ● By Richard Gaw
There is a sense of community that pulls the townships and municipalities of southern Chester County together -- shared lives in which one family knows another that has lost – or is in the process of potentially losing – a child or a parent to the opioid epidemic.
Nearly 100 Chester County residents died of accidental drug overdoses in 2016, and there is reason to speculate that at the end of 2017, that number will be higher. Nationwide, opioid overdoses killed 64,000 people last year, making that the leading cause of death for Americans under 50.
The scourge may be affecting someone in your family, and right in the middle of it -- like an unwelcome and overzealous guest -- the holiday season rises and will not retreat. It will remain in your face until the last decorated tree is removed and the last Christmas card is received. 
Somewhere, at some time over the next week, in Oxford or West Grove or Kennett Square or in Chadds Ford, a grieving parent will attempt to avoid the monster that has taken over, and try valiantly to share the merriment of the season. While Christmas bells chime and carols play, that parent will spin memories and guilt together, and it will deaden their steps and their resolve to glean any happiness from this glorious season.
While the pain of losing a loved one to the viciousness of an addiction can not be measured, there is hope through healing, and it's being done locally.
Too often, grief is done in lonely rooms. For those who feel that choosing to remain in one during this holiday season is the only option, there are also windows and doors that lead elsewhere, very slowly.   The Chester County Department of Drug and Alcohol Services can help open them.

Tips for handling grief and the holidays
Be kind to yourself. You've lost someone special. Your life will be forever different.
Know that it's OK to hurt, even during the holidays. Someone is missing. Their absence is everywhere.
Accept that this holiday will be different. You bump into a memory at every step. Nothing is the same now, including this holiday.
Manage your own and others' expectations. Take your heart seriously. You get to decide what to do, and with whom.
Get the time alone you need, but don't isolate yourself.
Spend time with safe people. They accept you. They meet you where you are. They empathize and listen well.
Limit your time with those who are not helpful to you. Some people judge, criticize and try to fix you. You don't need that additional heartache and stress.
Find ways to honor your loved one. Continue a tradition. Share memories. Find ways to speak their name and tell their story.                               

Source: Gary Roe (

To learn more about the Chester County Department of Drug and Alcohol Services and its many resources, visit