Moms turn grief into recovery through local support group

By Valerie Franchi, Contributing Writer

Cheryl Juaire (left) and Kathy Leonard with photos of their sons. Photo/Valerie Franchi

Cheryl Juaire (left) and Kathy Leonard with photos of their sons.
Photo/Valerie Franchi

Marlborough – A pair of mothers who lost their sons to drug overdose are using their tragedy to help others.

Kathy Leonard lost her 27-year-old son Jonathan Testa in December and Cheryl Juaire lost her son Corey Merrill, 23, in 2011 – both to heroin overdose.

The pair met at Nar-Anon meetings, for relatives and friends of loved ones with drug addiction. After Jonathan’s death, Juaire reached out to Leonard and the two decided to start a local chapter of the national organization GRASP (Grief Recovery After a Substance Passing).

“The closest chapter was in Lowell,” explained Leonard, adding that the Metrowest chapter will be the eighth in Massachusetts.

Leonard said she knew there was a need in this in this region.

“Unfortunately in this area, there have been many recent deaths,” she said. “I know of at least four others in the Marlborough-Hudson area.”

Leonard and Juaire contacted the GRASP organization, attended meetings in Lowell and Bridgewater, studied the literature, and went through an interview process.

“They wanted to make sure I was prepared mentally to lead a group,” Juaire explained.

Leonard, too, was unsure if she was emotionally ready, but said she believes it will help her through the grieving process.

“It will help me heal, too,” she said. “Helping them helps me because I’m able to tell my story.”

Juaire added that the group does not offer counseling, just support.

“They feel like they are the only ones going through this,” she said. “We want them to know we understand.”

Part of the challenge, she continued, is getting people to open up.

“There is a stigma surrounding addiction and overdose,” Juaire said. “Some people are embarrassed. We want them to know that they are having normal feelings and reactions. That they are not alone.”

The co-leaders have distributed brochures to organizations in the area, including counselors, funeral homes, and police departments to spread the word about the support group. Since they are a nonprofit, they are also focused on fundraising.

Both Leonard and Juaire are very open about their sons’ addiction to heroin.

“The last seven years were hell,” Leonard said. “My son was in and out of rehab.”

She explained that Jonathan was an A student, a talented musician and athlete when he attended Hudson High School.

“After the first year of college, things went downhill,” she said. “Like many others, he became addicted to narcotics and turned to heroin because it is available and cheap.”

“They didn’t want this,” added Juaire, whose son Corey attended Assabet Valley Regional Technical School. “The drugs got hold of them. It’s like Russian roulette; they think they can do it one last time.”

For parents of addicts, Leonard said, “you always know you can get that phone call.”

For her, that phone call came only a few short months ago.

“I don’t wear eye makeup,” she noted. “I still cry every day.”

But organizing the support group with Juaire, she said, gives some meaning to her grief.

“It’s not about me,” she emphasized. “It’s about helping other people through the loss of our sons.”

Meetings will be held the first Thursday of the month beginning May 7 at the First Church Congregational, 37 High St., Marlborough from 6:30 to 8 p.m. To register or for more information, contact Juaire at 508-485-0879 or Leonard at 508-460-2002 or email metrowestgrasp@gmail.com. For more information about GRASP, visit www.grasphelp.org. To help with the group’s fundraising efforts, visit www.gofundme.com and search “GRASP,” to make a donation.



Short URL: http://www.communityadvocate.com/?p=62001

Posted by on May 12 2015. Filed under Byline Stories, Marlborough, Neighbors helping neighbors, Stories With Good Photos. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

3 Comments for “Moms turn grief into recovery through local support group”

  1. God bless the both of you!

  2. I attend the Grasp Group in Saugus Mass. They are a great group of people and very supportive. If you are struggling please
    attend one of these meetings it will help you immensley as it has I. No judgement just support and understanding. I have met
    many people and made new friends. If you only do one thing for yourself, then let attending a Grasp meeting be it………I am so
    glad I have found this group…….

  3. Are there any chapters in Connecticut?

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