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Women with a Mission

February 9, 2018

It’s been four months.

Four months since Anne Grizzel has listened to her son’s voice, heard his infectious laugh, or seen his contagious smile.

It’s almost been a year for Nancy Dow. A year without her daughter’s voice on the phone. A year without her daughter.

These two women are members of a club no one wants to join. They’ve been through the unimaginable and worse.

Anne’s son, Alex Grizzel, died in October 2017 of a drug overdose. His struggle with the disease of addiction began six years earlier when he joined the high school varsity hockey team and started drinking and smoking pot with the older boys. Eventually they began using harder drugs. And Alex couldn’t stop. He began repeated cycles of using, then quitting, then relapsing again. Ironically, on the night he died, he told his mom he was going to work once more on his recovery. But the next morning, Anne found him dead in his bed.

With Alex’s death came utter devastation and shock for his friends and family, but it was the worst for his mom. Throughout his entire life — even as he battled his addiction — Alex brought joy to everyone he encountered.

“He had the ability to make people laugh and bring them out of themselves,” Anne said. “He was courageous and humble; not at all an egomaniac.”

Alex’s death left a big gap in the world.

When [Dana] died, I lost a part of me I will never get back.”

— Nancy Dow

Nancy’s daughter, Dana Hendrickson, died in April 2017, also of a drug overdose. In 2006 Dana was prescribed opioid drugs to relieve the pain brought on by kidney stones, and so began her decade-long battle with addiction. Over the years, Dana was in and out of inpatient and outpatient rehabs, trying to regain control of her life. She was able to hold on to recovery for many years. But, like so many addicts, she relapsed. In 2016, Dana was hospitalized with a back injury and again prescribed powerful painkillers. That was all it took. Her death, like Alex’s, leaves a mountain of grief in its wake.

“When [Dana] died, I lost a piece of me I’ll never get back,” Nancy said.

As Anne and Nancy mourn the loss of their children, they are trying to make meaning of their deaths. Their immense sorrow has made them speak out in an effort to help others. Their resolve has lit a fire no one is capable of putting out.

By bravely telling their children’s stories — over and over to anyone who will listen and on any platform available — they are working to educate people of all ages about the effects of the opioid epidemic in our area. One of the ways they, as well as others, have done this is hosting the Grizzel Game. The Grizzel Game is being put on by Anne and her late son’s best friend in order to raise awareness about the opioid crisis in Traverse City. The game is on February 10 at 7:00 at Centre Ice Arena.

Anne and Nancy want to make the community aware that no one is safe from the dangers of addiction. Everyone — rich or poor, young or old — is susceptible. They want to remove the stigma of the disease and encourage the victims to seek treatment. Anne and Nancy have come together as a force to be reckoned with as they venture on their journey.

In the middle of their grief, they share wisdom.

In the way they deal with their loss, they inspire others.

These women have a mission, and nothing will get in their way.

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