BAY SHORE, New York -- Every week, these parents share tears, laughs and hugs as they try to heal from a tragedy they have in common -- the loss of a child to drug addiction.
And they are finding solace, one bead at a time, at the Beading Hearts bereavement group, which sprang from a foundation started by Linda Nuszen. She called her nonprofit Look Up for Adam, naming it after her son, who lost his battle with addiction in November 2015.
While Nuszen's son was in recovery, he started to make her inspirational beads. After his death, Nuszen chose to honor him by continuing to bead and present them to others experiencing the same loss.
"I didn't have an intention of creating a group, I just was reaching out to other people who understand what I was going through," Nuszen said. "In that space of making it, there was something very healing and connected to Adam."
The group started with three moms and now includes over 300 parents. There is also a spinoff group for people mourning the loss of a sibling.
The parents make beads together once a week, and go out of their way to attend funerals of overdose victims to give the beads to grieving parents -- and invite them to visit the group once they're ready.
"The stigma and the shame of addiction are so deep in some people that they can't get past that so they'll isolate, won't go and seek help," said member Lisa Lempp. "They are afraid to share it, the moment I shared the secret is the moment I freed myself to heal."
Nuszen hopes that more parents will realize they are not alone during this difficult loss and join the beading hearts to surround themselves with unconditional support.
"We live so long with secrecy that it feels so good to be able to say it out loud and we get opportunities to say our kid's names," said Nuszen. "We can use the love we have for our child that never dies and give that out."
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