York hosts expert on grief surrounding addiction, other tragedies
In just the past year alone, the opioid epidemic has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of Americans. The death toll now rivals the total number of US casualties from the Vietnam War.
Losing a loved one to addiction is never easy, and for those who find themselves in that situation, there may be help.
The York Chapter of Not One More, an organization dedicated to education, advocacy and support in the face of addiction, is hosting bereavement expert Amy Florian Monday, April 9, in the Pullo Center at Penn State York.
"We are a county in the middle of a major drug epidemic," said Alyssa Rohrbaugh, co-founder and vice president of the York chapter of Not One More.
York County has seen a lot of drug overdose deaths and suicides — some that go hand in hand, she said.
That means a lot of families are grieving, and some have no idea how to do that.
How to respond: "The American way is to say 'I’m sorry' when somebody dies," Rohrbaugh said.
"I had two deaths that impacted me," she added. "After the first 300 people said 'I’m sorry,' you start to hate that."
Florian's presentation is not just for those who are grieving but for family and friends who want to be supportive and don't know what to say, she said.
Some people stay away because they don't want to bother the family, or they choose not to bring up the loss at all, but Rohrbaugh said the family wants to talk about it.
"She teaches you what to say," she said of Florian. And the content covers grief from all types of losses — not just those related to addiction, Rohrbaugh said.
Florian shares her own story about grief, she said, and then brings her knowledge to the process.
Expertise: "Florian combines the best of neuroscience and psychology with a good dose of humor," according to a news release, and her resume backs up her expertise.
Throughout her career, she's worked with more than 2,000 grieving people in the past 25 years, the release states.
Her experience includes almost a decade of teaching as a Loyola University of Chicago graduate school professor; founding Corgenius, which trains professionals about death, loss, aging and transition; acting as a consultant to firms, corporations and individuals worldwide; and writing more than 150 articles.
Florian is also a fellow in thanatology — the highest level of certification in the field of grief studies.
Challenges: York County has options available to help with grief, such as Olivia's House — which offers grief services for all ages — as well as weekly or monthly support groups and therapists, Rohrbaugh said.
But not everyone has the insurance to take part in such services or the time to commit to them, she said.
Addiction-related grief also comes with its own challenges.
"When you have a loved one who is addicted, you are grieving a living person on a daily basis," Rohrbaugh said.
Families know their loved one is addicted to a drug that could potentially kill them, and they wake up glad they didn't get that phone call about an overdose, she said.
It's also hard to talk to friends and family because they do not always understand addiction and might react with judgment.
Florian will offer the opportunity to talk about the issues surrounding grief with free programming.
“Grief and Healing in the Face of Addiction” will be held at 7 p.m. Monday, April 9, at the Pullo Performing Arts Center of Penn State York. Free tickets are available at the center's box office, 1031 Edgecomb Ave., in Spring Garden Township, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.