Cyndi Ramsey lost her son to substance related death nearly three years ago, but she’s determined that it won’t be the end of his story — or hers.

The pain and grief of losing her child spurred her to form a support group to help others who have experienced loss through similar circumstances.

“I tried attending other grief groups, but none of them were a good fit for me.” she said. “Although they were all incredibly kind and helpful, no one in the groups had experienced this particular kind of loss.”

That journey led her to put into action an idea she said was God-given and now is helping and encouraging people through this grief ministry.

“God planted the idea in my head to start ‘The JOSHUA Tree’ a few months after my son, Josh, died of a heroin overdose in January, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.” she said.

Though it would make sense for the group to be named for her son, she said JOSHUA is an acronym for “Jesus Our Savior Heals Us Again”.  Her grief therapist had suggested the name to her. “He asked a lot of questions and concluded that since (Josh) like the outdoors, The Joshua Tree would be a great name.”

“With my best ‘Southern girl’ manners, I agreed – but I secretly dislked the name because I associated it with the U2 album I so despised.” She kept thinking about how she could make the name work when God gave her the words, Jesus Our Savior Heals Us Again. While she was sitting in her car one day, the song “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” (by U2) just happened to be playing on the radio. She intently listened to the lyrics of the song this time and realized the words could be an addict’s plea.

Josh and his girlfriend, Arika, had their lives ahead of them. Tragically, substance related death took both of them much too soon.

Cyndi said she initially wanted to branch off a national group, but was able to find only one that dealt with loss due to substance abuse. That didn’t pan out when they wouldn’t allow her to start a local chapter so she did the next best thing — formed her own group where participants could be ministered to.

“God definitely had His own plans and the national group wasn’t part of it.” she said.

Group meetings consist of helping people work through the classic stages of grief and other things related particularly with grieving a substance related death. They also have special Christmas services and hope to eventually bring in guest speakers.

“We always begin with a short devotional. The larger part of the sessions are discussing and supporting each other.” she commented. “You have no idea how great it feels for someone to finally understand exactly what you’re talking about and to say ‘me too’.”

The JOSHUA Tree group currently meets at a church in Johnson City (TN), but the goal is to have chapters planted across the state and beyond. “I’ve had some interest from people in other states. We’re on a shoestring budget at the moment and would need extra support to be able to expand.”

The vision for The JOSHUA Tree is to help people work through their grief and be able to talk about it.

“The other part of that vision is that we can talk to the public at large about issues surrounding this type of grief and use our sorrow to help others – those grieving, those addicted and those with the potential to become addicted.” she said.

She has taken the message of The JOSHUA Tree to civic and church organizations and has spoken to recovering addicts, and sees that mission expanding even more.

“I hope to get the group involved in speaking, not only to these types of groups, but also kids at risk of trying that first drug. I’m always available to speak to any group or organization – we want to get the word out about this grief ministry!”

Reach Cyndi at: thejoshuatreeatjc@gmail.com

Find the group on social media: facebook.com/groups/joshtree

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