The 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 overdose crisis 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.
Psychoeducational workshops on a variety of topics related to grief.
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 counseling for adults 18+
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).
Grief counseling for children and adolescents
Developmentally appropriate counseling services that include:
- Individual sessions.
- Family sessions.
Please join us in honoring the beautiful souls we have tragically lost to substance use in the Philadelphia area through our ongoing virtual memorial site.
Connect one-on-one with another individual grieving a substance use loss for support and connection.
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.
Other bereavement resources
Many regional and national organizations provide support and resources to individuals and families who have lost a loved one to substance use.
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 2,000 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 Clinical Social Worker in Pennsylvania. 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.
Cadence blends humanistic and existential theory with narrative and expressive arts practices to help clients process and express emotions, explore their relationships with self and others, and learn new coping skills for daily life. Cadence holds a master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Goddard College; she is an LPC candidate. Cadence worked with individuals and families in Northeast Philadelphia for her clinical internship during graduate school, and she focused her academic studies on grief and bereavement, trauma and attachment, and expressive arts therapies. After completing her graduate studies, Cadence worked as an Outpatient Therapist at JFK Behavioral Health, a community mental health center in Center City, Philadelphia. Cadence provided person-centered individual psychotherapy to a diverse client population; she worked with each person to build a therapeutic relationship rooted in feelings of safety and nonjudgment, and to identify what they would like to receive from participating in the therapeutic process.
Cadence believes that processes such as grief and bereavement, as well as growth and change, are ongoing and non-linear. She works to honor each person’s unique experiences, holds space for emotional expression without judgment, and understands that what is helpful for one person might not be for another. She utilizes a strengths-based approach to help each person use their own skills, values, and interests to create and establish routines of self-care, self-expression, and as coping strategies for the difficult emotions associated with grief and loss. When appropriate, Cadence draws from her background as an artist and writer, as well as her education and training in the expressive arts therapies, to help individuals process and explore their emotions and experiences through engagement in creative practices.
Suzannah is a trauma-informed clinician with experience providing therapeutic services tailored to the unique and specific needs of children and adolescents affected by the substance use of a caregiver or loved one, including fatal drug overdose. Suzannah is trained in trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT) and incorporates a variety of evidence based therapeutic interventions into her work, such as play, talk, art and somatic experiencing therapies.
Suzannah approaches grief work with a lens of cultural humility and acknowledgement that the client is the expert in their own lived experience, while utilizing a holistic and strength’s-based view of each individual’s and family’s processing of traumatic grief and loss. Suzannah received her Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Jefferson University’s Community and Trauma Counseling Program, and is currently an LPC candidate.
Hannah (she/her) is the Bereavement Care Intern with PhillyHEALS for the 2022-2023 academic year. Hannah is currently a second-year, part-time MSW student at University of Pennsylvania. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Temple University in 2018. Previously, she has worked as a case manager in a domestic violence safe haven and as a hotline/intake counselor with Philadelphia’s domestic violence and sexual assault hotlines.
While everyone experiences loss and grief in their life, Hannah understands that losing a loved one to substance use or overdose can be especially difficult. She supports her clients wherever they are in their grief journey by meeting them with warmth, compassion, and humility. Hannah uses a strengths-based approach with her clients and is committed to honoring the memory of their loved one while reducing stigma surrounding substance-related deaths. She seeks to understand the nuances of her clients’ grief and life experiences, with attention to structural oppression, to better support them in coping with their loss. In addition to harm reduction and grief work, Hannah’s areas of interest include trauma-informed practices, attachment-focused and anti-racist interventions, and affirmative care for LGBTQIA+ individuals.
Hannah started with PhillyHEALS in early September and will be with the team through June 2023.