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Helpless and Hopeful: Wis. group helping victims families who lost loved ones to opioids, heroin

Posted at 11:56 AM, Feb 24, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-24 12:56:05-05

GREENFIELD -- Last year, 400 people in Milwaukee County died from a drug overdose and a local family is trying to help victim's families cope with their loss.

Robin and Jeff Monson-Dupuis know first hand the weight and grief of this kind of pain. They lost their son, Ethan, to a drug overdose in 2016 -- just a few days after Christmas.

"He loved playing basketball. Yeah, he was a big guy.", Robin recalls.

The proud parents still speak fondly of their son. They display Ethan's greatest accomplishments and his best moments captured in pictures. A table in the living room now stands as a memorial to their son. Dad admits he was somewhat envious of Ethan's ability to master any instrument he was interested in playing.

"He just had an ear for music he was a brilliant pianist."

But in Ethan's senior year of high school, his tune changed --- prescription drugs to treat depression lead to opioid abuse and later to heroin addiction.

"He had a mighty struggle. We walked with him every step of the way."

Eight years of fighting the powerful grip of heroin ended in 2016... just a few days after Christmas.

"It was a great weekend and it was a blessing that we enjoyed him. He had bought heroin as he was planning to leave town. And that last dose killed him."

That same year 611 people died in Wisconsin from an opioid overdose.

Devastated by their son's death Robin and Jeff found a way to not only cope with their grief but help others just like them.

Once a month at the Greenfield library community center strangers become family. A sobbing father faces the reality is daughter is no longer here.

"It's been a year and you think you are going to get over it."

Fighting daily to survive without the ones they loved, families struggle through their tears, but Robin assures them a support group is a safe place.

The parents who attend the monthly meetings want their children to be remembered for the lives they lived not how they died.

"This is the last picture I have of her and me together."

One mother shares a stack of laminated pictures chronicling her daughter Melissa's life.

"She was clean there really happy."

She can preserve the pictures but she couldn't protect Melissa from a heroin-fentanyl overdose.

"I didn't know anything about heroin I was scared to hear that word."

Over the last few months, the group has grown. Robin and Jeff just hope more people will come out from behind the shadows of shame.

"I will not turn my back on any opportunity to get the word out....part of what keeps me going is anything I can do to honor Ethan."

The Monson-Dupuis' will continue to honor their son Ethan with a 5k Run/Walk Against Addiction on June 9, 2018. for information on registration, click here. Call race director Richard Dodd: (608) 770-5906; E-MAIL: The family has also set up a fund in Ethan's name to help

To learn more about GRASP (Grief Recovery After a Substance Passing), click here. 

414ward: "Addiction Doesn't Choose Who Its Victims  Are"