British Columbia

Drug-related deaths focus of new B.C. bereavement group GRASP

Jennifer Woodside has launched the first Canadian chapter of Grief Recovery After Substance Passing, to help people grieve for loved ones who died after taking drugs.

Grief Recovery After Substance Passing organizer Jennifer Woodside wants to help others deal with grief

Jennifer Woodside and her son Dylan, who died last April after taking OxyContin laced with fentanyl. (Jennifer Woodside)

Talking about the death of loved ones is often difficult, but it can be even more challenging when their death is drug-related.

That's why Port Moody resident Jennifer Woodside has launched the first Canadian chapter of a U.S.-based group called Grief Recovery After a Substance Passing (GRASP) to help people deal with the guilt and anger that often comes with losing someone to drugs or alcohol.

I don't want his death to be in vain.- Jennifer Woodside, bereaved mother and group organizer

Woodside's 21-year-old son Dylan died last April after taking OxyContin that was laced with fentanyl. Months earlier, Dylan had come off an addiction to ketamine, also known as "Special K".

For a long time afterwards, Woodside said she found it hard to open up about how Dylan died.

"I would just say that my son had died and that it was an accident," she told The Early Edition's Rick Cluff. "Then people would ask what kind of accident and I would just say, 'I don't want to talk about it.'"

Woodside said she blamed herself for Dylan's death, and questioned why, after being clean for months, her son turned to drugs again.

But then she thought about the man Dylan had been — free-spirited, artistic, and with plans to travel the world — and she decided to open up about her grief.

"I wasn't ashamed of Dylan, I love him. Still love him," she said. "I don't want his death to be in vain."

Woodside says she hopes the GRASP meetings will allow people who have lost loved ones to drugs to share their stories and coping strategies.

The first meeting is on Thursday, 12 February at 7 p.m PT at the Gilmore Community School in Burnaby, B.C.

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