SADOD's Community Peer Grief Support Programs

SADOD and our partner The Sun Will Rise offer peer grief support to people grieving the drug-alcohol-related death of a loved one or of someone they feel close to. Our trained staff and volunteers are peer grief helpers, people who themselves have suffered a death from substance use and now support other grieving people. Please use the Request Help form to contact us.

All of our services are free and confidential, and we will mail a free grief support booklet to any Massachusetts address.

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One-on-One Outreach

Through our outreach programs — Grief Connections and Finding Your Way — grieving people are contacted by a peer grief helper, who listens with compassion and gives information and support to each person according to their particular needs. Grief Connections works with local agencies to reach out and provide timely, personalized assistance to grievers. Finding Your Way responds to individuals who contact SADOD directly.

One-on-One Support

Through the Peer Grief Ally Program, a bereaved person and their Ally work together on the issues most important to the griever. Allies are not clinicians: they are volunteers trained to support grieving people by having conversations about what each person most needs and wants to talk about. The tragedies suffered by the Ally and the grieving person create common ground that is the foundation for a mutually healing experience.

Emotional support group

Peer Grief Support Groups

SADOD and our partner, The Sun Will Rise, provide training, technical assistance, and robust support to about 35 Peer Grief Support Groups (PGSGs) across Massachusetts that specialize in grief after a substance-use death. There are currently 14 face-to-face meetings and 18 virtual meetings every month.

There are specialty groups for men, spouses, multiple losses, and other populations, so we can ensure that grievers are connected with a support group that is right for them.

Hundreds of grieving people attend PGSGs every month, and the most visited page on is our searchable Support Group Directory, which lists the 35 substance-use focused grief groups and about 30 additional support groups for grieving people.

Online Support

You’re invited to subscribe to the free SADOD VOICES monthly newsletter.

What to expect from peer grief support

Every SADOD staff person and volunteer who offers direct support to grieving people has personally experienced the death of someone they love from a drug-related cause. They are trained to help others cope with their grief, and they treat every griever as a unique individual who is on their own journey.

Handdrawn Cartoony Female to Male Friend Support
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Lined Hospital Child online class




  • Whether support groups meet in-person or by video call, they each create a circle where people help each other by sharing grief that is caused by a tragedy everyone has experienced.
  • Each person’s grief is unique, but a group gives you an opportunity to meet people whose loss and circumstances are similar to yours in meaningful ways.
  • No one is required to share in a Peer Grief Support Group. Sharing and listening are both healing, and you may listen until you feel it is the right time for you to tell your story.
  • Peer Grief Support Groups are designed to be safe spaces where you can share the most difficult things about your grief and be accepted no matter what has happened.
  • Support groups are one of the best places to share who your loved one was and why you miss them so much — and you can cry when you need to.
  • By connecting with a Peer Grief Helper, you will be able to tell your story to someone who knows what the pain of this kind of grief is like — and who will listen without opinions, pressure, or judgment.
  • Peer Grief Helpers have traveled their grief journey for a year or more and, from their own experience, can relate to how difficult it is to cope with loss after a loved one dies from substance use.
  • Peer Grief Helpers have found hope and healing, and they also understand what it is like when grief is overwhelming. They meet you where you are at on your grief journey.
  • Peer Grief Helpers give you reassurance that you are not alone. Each of them has found their way to the other side of grief and will help you find your personal path to healing.

To learn more about and connect with any of our free peer grief support services, complete this form.

Meet SADOD’s Peer Grief Support Specialists

Kerry Bickford

Kerry Bickford became a peer grief specialist with SADOD after losing her son, Nathan, to substance use in 2018. She joined the staff as the founding editor of VOICES in 2020, later transitioning to her current role as a grandparent peer grief specialist. Kerry has been a grandparent advocate statewide since 2007 and has raised two grandchildren (now in college) whose mother died by overdose. She believes empathy and time are the greatest gifts you can give a grieving person/family.

Kyanna Harris-Hairston

I am Kyanna Harris-Hairston, a Peer Grief Support Specialist here at SADOD. I do this work in honor of my mother, Yvette, who passed away on December 6, 2021 to an accidental fentanyl overdose. As a Peer Grief Support Specialist, I work with families early on in their grief journey and I provide resources that are tailored specifically to the families needs.

Leslie Lagos

Leslie Lagos is the director of The Sun Will Rise Foundation (TSWR), SADOD’s partner in delivering grief support in Massachusetts, where she oversees the expansion of in-person and virtual peer grief support meetings. Leslie founded the Timothy Patrick Morrissey (TPM) Memorial Fund in honor of her brother, who died from an overdose in 2013. She is a person in long-term recovery.

Don Lipstein

Don Lipstein, CBFRLC, ACC, is a grief-focused professional who has been facilitating individual and group support for over 10 years. He is currently working with SADOD as a Peer Grief Support Program Coordinator. He founded Imagine Family Recovery LLC in 2020 and is continuing to offer his compassionate care to the newly bereaved. Don lost his oldest son, Joshua to suicide in 2011 after a long battle with alcohol and substance use.

Aileen Lovejoy

Aileen Lovejoy is the mom of a son who suffered with the disease of addiction for 20+yrs and died on May 12th, 2013, Mother's day, from an overdose 2 days following his birthday. She co-facilitates the HALO 18 Grief Group in Worcester. Aileen volunteers as a group leader for grief support at the Carriage House, Worcester, and is a member of Team Sharing-MA. She is a Peer Grief Support Specialist and a Peer Grief Ally, providing one on one support to those who have loved one to the disease of addiction. Aileen is also a member of the Worcester DA's Opioid Task Force.

Meet the rest of the SADOD team here.