A self-help group supporting families who have lost a loved one through illegal drugs or alcohol abuse has set up what is thought to be the first specialist bereavement service of its kind.
The National Family Support Network (NFSN) said it could not get State funding for the programme and was only able to go ahead thanks to funding for three years by the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin.
NFSN said its addiction-specific bereavement support group is the first in the country, but can only cater for families in Dublin’s north inner city.
Speaking at the announcement of the service, and the launch of research on the impact of drug-related deaths on families, NFSN chief executive Sadie Grace said the service is needed across the country.
“We are well aware that private funding is not sustainable nor appropriate into the future,” she said.
“This service needs to be mainstreamed and receive core funding from a State department.
Further, we need to expand this beyond the north inner city. We need to roll this out to other parts of Ireland, to ensure that families everywhere can access this kind of service.
“Drug-related death does not discriminate, it happens to families in every corner of Ireland.”
She said the network is looking for somewhere to run the service.
At the launch of her research — the first in Ireland — Sharon Lambert, from University College Cork’s School of Applied Psychology, called for specialised bereavement support programmes to be provided on a long-term basis.
She recommended “urgent investment” in early intervention for children living with substance misuse and appropriate supports for bereaved children.
Dr Lambert, who interviewed 17 bereaved family members, called for a public health campaign to address stigma in order to educate the public and people working in services.
She said that while deserved resourcing had gone into tackling road deaths (196 deaths in 2015) and suicide (425 deaths), funding was “desperately needed” to tackle drug-related deaths (695 deaths in 2015).
Drug deaths: Grief, trauma, and fractured relationships - the pain of those left behind
- “I would drive out to the grave, it was like I was making his bed, I would pat the whole thing down and fix it and everything.”
- “I seen him going from 22 stone to about 8 stone...like that [clicks fingers] and that’s what the drugs were doing to him.”
- “Basically they brought him out to a woods, tied him to a tree, and beat him up, but they were also the gang that were ringing the phone, driving up and down the house... and threatening, there was a lot of intimidation going on.”
- “He wanted to die, I think, because his life was just destroyed. he had lost his family. He had no life at all, he had no legs, his arm was gone, he was angry, he just couldn’t get himself together at all, do you know what I mean? It was a blessing for him, you know, that he passed on.”
- “The worst thing that can happen is wishful thinking, cos that’s not reality and that will hit you like a brick wall. I went to J’s grave every day for three years to remind myself t he was dead, cos every night I would sit here and wish that he would walk through that door and I went to bed like that so in the morning it was the worst, rawest pain in my stomach when I woke up and that was the reality kicking in and I never, never want to experience that again.”
- “I see the kids all the time, now his girlfriend is as bitter as the day he died. She never went for counselling, she never looked after herself, never did anything, and she thinks because I have moved on that I don’t give a fuck about [my son]. She thinks because I have had counselling that I have worked on meself, so there can be a lot of arguing, so that’s how I do me counselling, is through the family support. That’s where I am coming from to deal with her, to be honest.”