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GRASPING FOR HELP: Local support group formed for people who have lost loved ones to drugs

By Ben Kleppinger

ben.kleppinger@centralkynews.com

There are many support groups available locally for people battling substance abuse and addiction. But there’s a definite need for more support for family and friends who have lost a loved one to drugs, said Teresa Castle.

That’s why Castle is starting a local chapter of the support group GRASP — grief recovery after a substance passing. The group’s first meeting is scheduled for 6-8 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 12, at the Garrard County Public Library.

“Seeing a group of people that share your pain makes you feel less alone. You might be able to glean off someone some advice,” Castle said. “… I think it helps when you know you’re not alone. We’re all tech’d up and totally lonely now. To actually see a person face-to-face maybe will actually make a difference.”

Castle herself has lost a loved one to drug use — her nephew, Nathan.

“He was a great, intelligent young man,” she said.

Nathan had started college at one point to become a minister. Later on, he was in a serious car wreck and got prescribed pain medication, Castle said.

Nathan got addicted to drugs. He got clean multiple times, including once when he traveled from his home state of California for treatment at the Isaiah House, here in central Kentucky, she said.

But three years ago, Nathan’s father died and the family had to put down their 12-year-old dog within the span of two months. Nathan used drugs again and overdosed.

“The day before his birthday — we won’t know why, but he gave up on himself,” she said. “I’ll never forget the phone call; I’ll never forget the feeling of being totally helpless.”

Nathan’s two sisters wound up pursuing advanced degrees in counseling and therapy, kind of in response to their brother’s death, as a way to help others who might be in a similar situation, Castle said.

“I just felt like I needed to do something to help, also,” she said.

So, she’s starting the local GRASP group. Her church — Scotts Fork Christian Church — is covering expenses for things like refreshments during the meetings.

“It’s a little, tiny church in the middle of nowhere” in Garrard County, Castle said. “I call it my little piece of heaven.”

Castle said while she personally finds comfort in her faith, GRASP is not a faith-based organization — anyone and everyone 18 and up who has lost someone to substance use is welcome to attend.

The style of the meetings can be defined by those who choose to attend; Castle said she will be a facilitator, which means doing a lot of listening and letting people share about their loved ones.

The group might decide to make memory books of their loved ones, or organize a walk to raise awareness, she offered as examples — but it will be up to the participants to decide.

The group may change locations down the road, depending on where the regular attendees are traveling from, she said.

Castle said the group is all about listening to each other, talking through their memories and pain, and being there to support each other. If someone needs more than that — professional counseling, perhaps — she will connect them with the right professionals who can help.

GRASP meetings are free to attend, but pre-registration is required by calling Castle at (859) 359-2039 or emailing cenkygrasp@gmail.com.

GRASP’s website is grasphelp.org; the organization has chapters in 37 states; in Kentucky, the central Kentucky chapter is one of four. There are also chapters in Louisville, Lexington and Ashland.

GRASP “was created to offer understanding, compassion and support for those who have lost someone they love through addiction and overdose,” according to its website. “Too many times, we suffer not only the death of the person we love, but we become isolated in our grief. … while the pain of this loss will always be with us, we have found through GRASP that we don’t have to walk the road that is our pain alone. We walk it together, hand in hand and heart to heart.”

IF YOU GO

The first meeting of the GRASP Central Kentucky chapter will be 6-8 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 12, at the Garrard County Public Library, 101 Lexington St. in Lancaster. Pre-registration is required by contacting Teresa Castle at (859) 359-2039 or cenkygrasp@gmail.com.