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Sharing Stories of Love, Grief and Hope from the  Opioid Crisis

Almost everyone today knows someone affected by opioid-use disorder. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 130 people die in the United States every day as a result of overdosing on opioids — and that number doesn’t capture the many other ways that this disease kills those who suffer from it.

More often than not, losing a loved one in this way can be an isolating experience. People often feel uncomfortable acknowledging addiction. Obituaries rarely mention it as a cause of death. That’s one reason it’s so hard to calculate the human cost of the opioid epidemic — it’s largely  invisible.

To change that, Burlington, Vt.-based newsweekly Seven Days has created “All Our Hearts,” an online memorial project. It documents the lives of those who are no longer with us and the people they touched.

Video: Families Make Memorial Heart Stones

In November, we brought together some of the Vermont participants in All Our Hearts to craft clay hearts in memory of their loved ones. Margery Keasler (pictured), whose son Brennan died in 2013, said of the experience:

“Family members who have had mind-bending losses sat together and worked clay with our fingers into hearts. We were able to concretize our loss in the forms of our clay hearts. We would write their names in the clay and remember these remarkable people who have died. The experience was poignant, and I was so very happy to be part of it.”

On Sunday, December 8, we held a reception to distribute the hearts, and to hear from their creators, including Keasler. “If you know someone who struggles, do not feel shame. Get help. Talk about it,” she said.

“Addiction is a disease,” said Dawn Tatro, whose daughter Jenna died in February. “It has nothing to do with failure, with sin, with weakness or with being less than a whole person.”

Numerous city and state officials were among the crowd of about 40. Attendees took home heart stones imprinted with allourhearts.com.