When Charles L. “Chaz” Perez III died in April one day before his 30th birthday, his father wanted to disclose why, and his son’s obituary noted he “lost his battle with heroin addiction.”

“Everyone in my family was in 100 percent support of wording it exactly like that,” Charles L. Perez Jr. said. “My family is very tight. Friends of the family are very tight. There were 300 people that showed up to the viewing. When I chose to have his obituary worded in the very beginning, it was to let the family and the friends know that I wasn’t prepared for it. I also knew in my heart that my boy did not commit suicide. He was not a suicidal individual.”

Perez Jr. also wrote about his son’s death and his “battle with heroin addiction” on Facebook.

“I have had an outcry of support from people,” he said. “Because of his obituary, I had a friend of mine contact me who I haven’t spoken with in awhile. We were at odds I’ll say, and because of him reading the obituary, he said, ‘your boy was a good kid. He didn’t deserve to go out that way.’ He wanted to make amends. He cared about my boy, and he cared about me. And he still does. And he came to the viewing and everything and has been very supportive of my family.”

Carol Coolbaugh — who organized a local chapter of the support group Grief Recovery After a Substance Passing, or GRASP, after her son died of an overdose in 2009 — encourages publicly disclosing in obituaries and social media that addiction was the reason behind the death of a loved one.

“People need to do that,” Coolbaugh said. “They should step up and not be ashamed. You can’t break the stigma if you don’t.”
The local GRASP chapter normally has meetings at 6 p.m. on the fourth Wednesday of each month at First Hospital in Kingston.

Contact the writer:
570-821-2073, @cvmikebuffer