The City’s Substance Use Prevention and Harm Reduction program offers a range of free bereavement support services for those who are grieving the loss of a Philadelphia resident due to substance use.
The opioid epidemic has hit our city especially hard. Much of our work in Philadelphia has focused on trying to prevent overdoses and drug-related deaths. But our work should not—and does not—end there. Behind every death is a vast network of family and friends that are left shattered. Loved ones often face a complex grief experience that if left untreated can lead to trauma and other negative health consequences.
Our bereavement support services offer a safe space in the form of peer support groups, grief counseling, bereavement support for peers and clinicians, and more. We approach our clients with empathy and a commitment to support them during this difficult time.
Peer support groups
Virtual peer support groups are open to any adult who is:
- 18+ years of age.
- Grieving the loss of a Philadelphia resident who died from an accidental drug overdose.
Grief cannot be “cured,” but it can be managed, processed, and worked through in counseling that can:
- Identify new coping skills.
- Calm negative thoughts (i.e., guilt and self-blame).
Connect one-on-one with another individual grieving a substance use loss for support and connection.
A series of structured, time-limited grief workshops for those new to grief.
Bereavement support for peers and clinicians
Support groups for those who are interested in discussing and processing the grief and loss experienced through their work in the substance use community.
Share your story
Many individuals grieving a substance use loss find purpose in sharing their stories with the hope that it may help somebody else.
Data and prevention
- OD Stat: Learn more about Philadelphia’s overdose death review team.
- Substance Use Philly: Current data on substance use, misuse, and overdose trends
- Broken No More: An online forum dedicated to the hope that more enlightened drug policies may help stem the tide of addiction and overdose.
- GRASP (Grief Recovery After a Substance Passing): An online community for support and healing.
If you have general questions, please contact our team at email@example.com. If you have questions for our team members, please see Staff.
As Program Manager of the Bereavement Care Program since 2019, Laura has offered bereavement support to over 1,500 individuals grieving the loss of a loved one to substance use. Laura created the programs currently offered and continues to develop additional programming for substance use loss in Philadelphia.
Laura builds strong rapport with her clients by meeting them where they are and helping them to feel comfortable in the discomfort they are feeling. She works with clients to process and adjust to their loss while ensuring that they maintain bonds with the individuals they are grieving.
Laura is certified in grief counseling, trauma treatment, cognitive behavior therapy, and has trained and studied various other therapeutic models. As a native Spanish speaker and fluent French speaker, Laura has been able to connect with individuals in their preferred language.
Laura earned her Master of Social Work from the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice. Laura received a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and International Studies from the University of Michigan. She is a Licensed Social Worker in Pennsylvania and is in the final stretch of the clinical licensure process. She is also a member of the Association for Death Education and Counseling.
Kaitlin is the bereavement care provider for the Bereavement Care Program. Prior to this position, Kaitlin worked at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital’s methadone clinic, known as NARP. She spent that time providing individual and group therapy to clients receiving Medication Assisted Treatment. The incredible people she met there changed the way she approaches bereavement, and they continue to inspire her every day.
Kaitlin is committed to working with clients in a way that honors the dignity and strengths of the people they have lost. She is also committed to anti-racist grief work by challenging ideas of what grief should look like. Kaitlin combines her therapeutic approach with cultural humility and a deep consideration of systemic oppression.
Shawanda is a strengths-based clinician who leads with compassion, empathy, and understanding. With more than five years of experience working with Philadelphia’s geriatric community, she has built strong relationships with organizations and stakeholders invested in the healing and betterment of Greater Philadelphia. Shawanda’s experience with overdose prevention and reversal led her to a renewed passion for bereavement counseling. She provides tenacious advocacy and compassion for communities facing complex grief and trauma, drawing on both her personal experience as a North Philadelphia native and from her work with Philadelphia families.
As a member of the Bereavement Support Services team, Shawanda helps individuals and groups to normalize grief, build a support system, and identify and develop coping mechanisms. Shawanda is committed to being an avid learner from her peers, the community, and best practices in the field. A licensed social worker, Shawanda is also continuing her training to become a licensed clinical social worker and an expert in many specialties.
Kym is an intern with the Bereavement Care Program. She is a life-long Philadelphian, Temple University undergrad alum, and a current Boston University graduate student in the School of Social Work (online). Kym’s clinical graduate work focuses on a patient-centered, evidence-based approach, and she incorporates community, policy, current research, race, gender, identity, and culture into her practice.
Kym feels called to grief work. She is honored to have the opportunity to work alongside her mentors at SUPHR to normalize grief, de-stigmatize drug-related death, and help build a supportive community.