Panel helps family cope with loss to addiction

LEMOYNE, Pa. (WHTM) – Families in the Midstate are struggling with the heroin and opioid crisis that continues to claim young lives. The Highmark Caring Place in Lemoyne is trying to help families cope with those losses during a forum Sept. 20.

The opioid epidemic spares no demographic, no neighborhood, no family.

“It will be two years on Oct. 29,” Lori Mishlin of Hampden Township said. “Her name is Sara.”

Two years ago, Terry and Lori Mishlin lost their 25-year-old daughter to a fentanyl overdose.

“She was my little girl,” Terry said, fighting tears. “I’m going to miss walking her down the aisle.”

“It’s that little hole in your heart that’s never going to be filled,” Lori said, “but you learn to manage it.”

The Mishlers managed behind closed doors.

“There’s a stigma that goes along with the whole overdose and drug thing,” Lori said.

“There’s a lot of guilt,” Terry added.

Next week, the couple will finally be open with their feelings.

“Speakers will be talking about their life stories,” said John Kajic, the manager of Highmark Caring Place. “There is going to be a panel discussion, and there’s going to be an opportunity for members of the participants to share their story.”

The forum will take place from 9 a.m. to noon on Sept. 20 at the Caring Place in Lemoyne. The center helps grieving families, especially children.

“There’s a 960-percent increase in overdose deaths that are coming to seek services at our facility since 2013,” Kajic said.

“We want to make sure the adults who care for them understand what’s happening for the child and are able to better support and help them with grief,” said Beth Bitler of the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance, which is co-hosting the forum.

There will be resources and coping strategies along with an opportunity to share pain with others who have similar stories.

“When people hear that, we’re hoping that some of the stigma will go away,” Bitler said.

“That it’s okay to grieve in a normal way,” Lori added.

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