- Dealing With The Loss Of A Loved One From Drugs Or Alcohol
- Understand The Five Stages Of Grief And How To Get Through Them
- Reach Out To Others Who Are Affected
- Create A Support Group
- Books That May Help
- Don’t Let Grief Take Over Your Life
- Death of an Addict — Guide to Dealing with This Devastating Loss
- Beginning the Grieving Process After the Death of an Addict
- Go Online for Grief Support
- How to Handle the Outside World
- Healing After the Death of an Addict
- Raise Awareness
- Additional Resources on Dealing with the Death of an Addict
- What to Say to Someone Who Lost a Child to a Drug Overdose: 25+ Ideas | Cake Blog
- Jump ahead to these sections:
- Text Messages or DMs to Send to Someone Who Lost a Child to a Drug Overdose
- 1. “I’m sorry you’re going through this.”
- 2. “[Name] was a wonderful, kind person. I am better for having known them.”
- 3. “I’m so sorry. Please let me know if there’s anything you need.”
- 4. “As a parent myself, I think what you’re going through must be so difficult.”
- 5. “I’m thinking and praying for you during this difficult time.”
- 6. “I’m so shocked and saddened by your loss.”
- 7. “I’m so sorry you’re going through this. I care for you deeply.”
- What to Write in a Short Letter or Card to Someone Who Lost Their Child to a Drug Overdose
- 8. “I’m always here for you.”
- 9. “I can’t stop thinking about you and your family.”
- 10. “Words are pointless right now, and nothing can take away what you’re feeling, but I’m sending all of my love.”
- 11. “I will always remember [child’s name]. Thinking of you.”
- 12. “My heart breaks for you and your family during this time.”
- 13. “Our thoughts are with you now and forever. Wishing you so much strength.”
- 14. “Whenever you want to talk about them, I’ll be there.”
- What to Say In-Person or on the Phone to Someone Who Lost a Child to a Drug Overdose
- 15. “There are no words to take away your pain. I am thinking of you.”
- 16. “[Name] was such a kind, caring person. I will always remember [memory].”
- 17. “This loss is terrible news. I hope you find strength in knowing that you were an amazing parent, and they spent all of their days loved.”
- 18. “I am so sorry. Please know that you’re not alone, and we stand with you in this sadness.”
- 19. “I’m always here for you. Let me know when you’re ready to talk.”
- 20. “I’m at a loss for words.”
- Other Things You Can Do to Comfort a Loved One Who Lost Their Child to a Drug Overdose
- 21. Listen to them
- 22. Cook a meal
- 23. Make a donation
- 24. Send flowers
- 25. Share memories
- Being There for a Parent in Need
- Mourning The Loss Of An Addict
- Unresolved Grief and Substance Abuse
- Be honest with yourself — in every moment
- Understand the Stages of Grief
Dealing With The Loss Of A Loved One From Drugs Or Alcohol
Every year, drug and alcohol addiction claims the lives of too many people. According to the Center for Disease Control, 30-40 thousand people in America die each year due to drug addiction. If someone you loved is one of those whose life was cut too short by addiction, you are ly feeling heartache, confusion, anger, and grief.
Those feelings are understandable and important to feel. After all, nobody deserves to die due to addiction and the unique emotions caused by this type of death are difficult to process.
However, it is possible to not only deal with the loss of a loved one from drugs or alcohol, but actually help others in the same situation. In this way, you can make sure that your loved one’s death has a meaning to it.
Understand The Five Stages Of Grief And How To Get Through Them
When your loved one passes away, you may go through five distinct phases of grief. The fact that drug addiction caused the death is going to make many of these stages more troublesome to pass through, but with help, you can cope with and manage the difficulty of each step.
Here are the stages you can expect, as well as ways in which you can recover:
- Denial and isolation – Here, you are going to isolate yourself from grief by denying the reality of the situation. This stage is potent in drug deaths because they are often so sudden. You might ask somebody if they are “kidding” or even joke about the death in an off-hand way. This phase will ly pass quickly into the next.
- Anger – In a drug death, you are often going to blame everybody you can. Their dealer, their friends, yourself, people who used with them, people who didn’t, society, the drug: everyone will be to blame but your loved one. Get through this phase by accepting that your loved one’s behavior can be blamed on no one but themselves. A harsh truth, but one that must be understood.
- Bargaining – After you’ve gotten control of your anger, you may want to control the situation by “bargaining” with it. For example, you might say something “if only we had talked to them about their addiction sooner” or “if we had only sent them to rehab.” Understand that the situation is your control and that there is nothing you can do to change what has happened.
- Depression – Losing control of the situation will plunge you into depression. This phase is often the lengthiest and is caused by the sense of loss and, in drug deaths, it is also caused by a feeling of senselessness and pointlessness. It is wise to talk to a psychologist or friends offering support during this phase.
- Acceptance – This is the hardest stage to reach for anyone who has lost a loved one and it is especially difficult in drug deaths. How do you accept the loss of a loved one when you think it could have been prevented? How can you not be angry at someone who used with them? There’s no set path for you to take in order to reach acceptance, but understanding that your loved one is in a better place and there was nothing you could have done to change the situation will help.
Acceptance isn’t giving up on your loved one or somehow ignoring them. It is simply moving past the death and letting the reality of it no longer actively affect you. Yes, you will remember your loved one forever, but you can move on and live your life again. You might have a hard time with this, due to the nature of their passing, but it is possible in all circumstances.
Reach Out To Others Who Are Affected
When someone you love passes away, it is easy to feel you are alone in your grief and that their death has only affected you. This is especially true with drug addiction deaths as they can seem so fruitless and pointless. However, there are others who are just as affected as you and who need just as much comfort.
If you’re able, reach out to the following people in your loved one’s life to make a personal connection and to ensure that their death has a meaning:
- Other family members of the loved one
- Friends who did not use drugs
- Friends who did use drugs and perhaps feel guilty
- A spouse or partner
- Children of the loved one
It’s easy to feel anger at people who have used drugs with your loved one. You may blame them or think they somehow contributed. And people who feel no guilt or remorse are probably worth avoiding. However, those who feel guilt and want to change should be embraced. You may be able to help them beat their addiction and keep another person from drug-related death.
Helping another person this can help you better understand the nature of addiction (it IS a sickness) and give you a rush of positive emotions, however, you should also avoid investing too much of your emotion in someone who is struggling with addiction.
Often, helping another person suffering from a drug addiction may fill a void that was created by your deceased loved one. But, if this person struggles to get sober while you are involved or even passes away due to addiction, you are going to feel even more devastated. So the best advice is to approach them caringly, but maintain an emotional distance until they are clean.[bottom-inline-cat]
Create A Support Group
After you’ve reached out to other people who you know have been affected by the death of your loved one, bring them all together in a support group. Here, you can talk about your grief and find ways to move on from it together. Sharing stories, remembering positive moments, and engaging each other in constructive ways can help all of you move beyond your grief.
Utilize social media resources, such as and , to create a group where you can share memories and strength. Everyone will need someone they can trust and who has gone through the same experience. Banding together creates a circle of positive emotion that can bring happiness back into your life in a gradual, yet constructive manner.
You can even expand the nature of your group by volunteering for anti-drug groups that focus on education and prevention. Share your story with youths and others who could be affected by drugs early in life;help them understand how dangerous it is and why they need to abstain from use and avoid others who use.
This kind of activity can make you feel an active and vital member of society, one who is fighting against the epidemic of drugs in this country. Though it may be hard to believe, your story and your actions may help inspire others to either avoid drugs or quit before addiction becomes a problem. Anyone can make a difference, even if it starts small and subtly.
Books That May Help
If you enjoy reading and have recovered from grief in the past through literature, there are many fine books available that can help you get comfort during this difficult time. Each of these books focuses on healing through the death of a loved one due to addiction, many of them written by people who lost a child or a loved one due to this illness:
- Losing Jonathan, Robert and Linda Waxler
- One-Way Ticket: Our Son’s Addiction To Heroin, Rita Lowenthal
- When a Child Dies From Drugs; Practical Help for Parents in Bereavement, by Pat and Russ Wittberger
- Sunny’s Story, Ginger Katz
- Living When a Loved One Has Died, Earl A. Grossman
- I Am Your Disease: The Many Faces of Addiction, Sheryl Letzgus McGinnis
While these books feature many heart wrenching stories and difficult sequences, each ends with the writer recovering their hope and moving on from grief. They are poignant and gorgeously written books filled with many inspirational quotes that may help your heart experience the relief that it needs after losing your loved one.
Don’t Let Grief Take Over Your Life
Drug and alcohol addiction takes the lives of too many of our beautiful children and it can be difficult to move on. Grief can take a debilitating toll on the heart, one that demands your attention without mercy. But you can survive this loss and move on to regain your life.
If you need someone to talk to or have a loved one you want to save from addiction, please contact us right away at Vertava Health to learn more about alcoholism rehab and detox.
Death of an Addict — Guide to Dealing with This Devastating Loss
The death of an addict is something that some loved ones may have to deal with. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the leading cause of injury death in 2012 was drug overdose. And the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence reports that there are 2.5 million alcohol-related deaths worldwide each year.
These deaths leave behind many grieving loved ones, who may not have the resources they need to deal with the death of an addict. Following is a resource guide with advice and information for those who’ve lost a loved one to drug or alcohol addiction.
Beginning the Grieving Process After the Death of an Addict
Address feelings of guilt and shame. This two-part article on grieving after an overdose addresses how those who’ve lost a loved one to addiction often feel guilt and shame because they think they should have been able to prevent the death of an addict.
Part Two of the article offers resources, linked below, to help grieving loved ones begin to deal with these feelings:
Look for a support group in your area that deals with the death of an addict. As this article notes, GRASP (Grief Recovery After a Substance Passing), a group created by loved ones who’ve lost someone to addiction, has support groups throughout the country. Their meeting locations can be found here. This article offers a look at the benefits of grief support groups.
Go Online for Grief Support
If you don’t feel comfortable discussing your grief in person, an online grief support group might be a good option. There are online support groups and forums specifically for people who’ve lost a loved one to addiction.
Speak with a grief professional. Though these tips for finding a therapist from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention were created for those coping with a suicide loss, they work well for those coping with drug addiction loss.
The tips provide great advice, such as asking your medical doctor for a therapist recommendation. They also provide links to organizations that can help you find a therapist, such as the U.S.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration mental health services locator, and those that can refer a therapist, such as the American Psychological Association and the National Association of Social Workers.
Help children close to the loved one. Whether you’re a parent or other family member of a child who has lost a parent or sibling to addiction or the parent or family member of an older child who lost a friend to the disease, it is important to know that children may require special help in coping with death and grief.
The Women’s and Children’s Health Network provides comprehensive information on how to help a child who’s grieving. It explains how children in different age groups—Preschool, Early Years of School, Later Primary School Years, and Teenagers—experience and express their grief. It also provides advice for parents on how to help them through this difficult time.
Use journaling to manage your grief.
This article discusses the helpful benefits of journaling when grieving and touches on the fact that many people don’t take advantage of the benefits of journaling because they find it “difficult, frightening, overwhelming, or counterproductive.
” It also provides tips for overcoming this aversion to journaling. For example, there are no rules when it comes to journaling–don’t worry about grammar and punctuation. And help yourself get in the habit by sticking to short amounts of time, 5 or 10 minutes to start.
Don’t forget to take care of yourself. Grieving is a stressful and taxing process. This article provides self-care suggestions for those who are grieving. For example, the article recommends participating in an activity you’re good at, taking a walk outside, listening to a relaxation exercise, and much more.
And be sure to get plenty of sleep. As this article notes, sleep patterns are often disrupted by grief. It provides tips on how you can ensure you’re getting enough rest as you grieve.
Listen to music. As this article notes, music can play a big role in guiding you through the grieving process. It recommends looking through the list of “Grief Songs: Music for a Grieving Heart” to see if there are any that appeal to you. Grief playlists can also be found here.
Don’t avoid your grief. This article from WebMD explains that those who’ve lost a loved one to an addiction may seek out ways to avoid their grief. The article notes that using drugs and alcohol, throwing one’s self into work, and avoiding feelings can greatly hinder the grieving process.
How to Handle the Outside World
Don’t blame yourself or others. This report from the UK’s ADFAM explains that it is common for loved ones to blame themselves after the loss of a loved one to an addiction.
Often, family members and friends search for ways they could have helped more or look for what they did wrong.
As the report notes, unfortunately, these feelings of blame prevent loved ones from being able to move on.
Ease back into work. The University of California, Berkley presents “Guidelines for Responding to Death.” This section on dealing with grief and work provides great suggestions on how to handle returning to work after the death of a loved one.
For example, it provides great help on how to handle communicating with coworkers: Consider what and with whom you want to share about your loss and know that while most coworkers will be sympathetic they may not know exactly how to express their concern to you.
Respect their limits.
Develop tools for coping. GRASP offers advice on how to develop coping tools that will help you deal with the “realities of living.” GRASP recommends sticking to a regular schedule. The group stresses the importance of understanding that the grieving process is slow, and you shouldn’t try to rush yourself through it.
Talk about it with family/friends. Talking through your grief is part of the healing process, and yet, it can be a very difficult thing to do.
This article from Psychology Today explains why it is so difficult—often others simply don’t know how to give you the support you need. The article also provides tips for grievers.
For example, it suggests first asking someone if it is OK to discuss your grief with them and then always thank them for listening.
And these tips provide great advice for those providing support to a grieving person. They offer a list of things not to say and explain that often the greatest role you can play is that of kind listener.
Don’t compare yourself to others. As this article on dealing with the outside world while grieving explains, we have a tendency to compare our own grief to that of others. For example, as the article notes, we might chastise ourselves for not coping with a death as well or as quickly as someone else who recently lost someone. These comparisons aren’t productive.
Avoid making money decisions. Grief can muddle your thinking and decision-making. Because of that fact, as this article recommends, it is a good idea to avoid making major financial decisions while you’re grieving. For example, the article suggests waiting to make decisions on selling your home or paying off a mortgage.
Don’t “throw” yourself back into your normal routine. As these tips on how to grieve point out, those around you will go back to their daily lives. However, that doesn’t mean you should rush yourself back into your normal routine. Don’t let the outside world distract you from your grieving process.
Be open to receiving help. This article takes a look at healthy and unhealthy ways to respond to grief. The “Unhealthy” section of the article cautions those who are grieving from thinking they have to do everything on their own. Recognize that you are going through a difficult time and know that it is more than okay to accept help from others.
Healing After the Death of an Addict
Help reduce the stigma. This article points out the stigma that still surrounds drug and alcohol addiction. It encourages those who know and understand what addiction is, to inform others in order to help reduce the stigma associated with addiction. In doing so, you can play a role in making sure people get the help they need.
A great way to heal after the death of an addict is to help raise awareness about the dangers of addiction and the pain it causes those who suffer from it.
The groups below, many of them formed by family members who’ve lost a loved one to addiction, work to raise awareness about addiction:
Give back. Giving back and the positive feelings that come with it can be an important part of the healing process. This article from the University at Buffalo provides seven reasons to give back. For example, the social connections that come from volunteering can be a great way to overcome loneliness, and it can also help people feel “needed and appreciated.”
Host a vigil. Narcotics Overdose Prevention & Education Task Force (NOPE Task Force) is a group that encourages others to host vigils in remembrance of loved ones they’ve lost to addiction.
These vigils help participants heal from the loss and also raise awareness in the community about addiction. The group recommends three different types of vigils: Community Vigils, Campus Vigils, and Home Vigils.
Find out if there is a local chapter in your area here.
Leave a tribute. International Overdose Awareness Day offers a Tribute page on their website so that people who’ve lost someone to addiction can commemorate their loved one. Tributes can be added here. International Overdose Awareness Day recognizes that you may also want to remember your loved one in other ways. The organization offers silver pins to wear in remembrance of your loved one.
Campaign for changes in drug law and policy. An article from TheFix.com tells the stories of mothers who channeled their grief from losing children to addiction into creating change. One mother advocated for the passing of a 911 Good Samaritan law in her state.
These laws give fellow drug users some protection from drug charges when they call 911 for someone who has overdosed. The article tells about another mother who became involved in educating others about drug addiction and how to prevent it.
More information about becoming involved in drug policy reform can be found via the Drug Policy Alliance.
Commemorate your loved one in your home. This article provides great tips on how to commemorate your loved one through a home design project. For example, the article suggests planting a tree in their memory, displaying their photos, framing and hanging one of their favorite pieces of clothing, and other great ideas for commemorating the death of an addict.
Additional Resources on Dealing with the Death of an Addict
What to Say to Someone Who Lost a Child to a Drug Overdose: 25+ Ideas | Cake Blog
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Losing a child is one of the worst things anyone can experience. Losing a child to a drug overdose is heartbreaking, and it’s hard to find the right sympathy messages for the loss of a child to soothe this hurt.
A simple “I’m sorry for your loss” doesn’t seem to cover any of the pain of losing your own children. With this in mind, where do you begin? If the child was young and otherwise healthy, this loss is devastating and painful.
Jump ahead to these sections:
It’s essential to recognize that you can never eliminate this pain. The parent will ly carry this grief for their entire life. That being said, losing a loved one to an overdose is an isolating experience. Being there for someone in need helps them feel supported in a time of crisis.
What should you say to someone who lost their child to a drug overdose? These 20+ messages below help them feel heard and supported, even if you’re not sure how else you can help.
Tip: A parent who lost a child is ly sorting through the life that child left behind. Our post-loss checklist can help them through that painful process.
Text Messages or DMs to Send to Someone Who Lost a Child to a Drug Overdose
While calling or being there in person is a good way to show someone you care, sometimes a text or DM is the fastest way to make contact. If you don’t know the person very well, sending a text or DM shows them that you’re thinking of them.
1. “I’m sorry you’re going through this.”
Saying “I’m sorry for your loss” doesn’t breach the surface, so this is a much better way of phrasing it. You can’t possibly understand how the parent feels, so just let them know you’re sorry that this is an experience they’re going through.
2. “[Name] was a wonderful, kind person. I am better for having known them.”
If you knew the deceased in any way, honor their memory by sharing something you loved about them. Parents who lost a child to an overdose worry that their child won’t be remembered for who they were.
3. “I’m so sorry. Please let me know if there’s anything you need.”
Sorry isn’t often enough, but we can always use this as an opportunity to show support. Offer to help the parent or just lend a listening ear.
4. “As a parent myself, I think what you’re going through must be so difficult.”
Offering sympathy from a parent’s perspective, if you’re a parent yourself, helps the loved one feel understood. All parents can understand just how this might feel if they were in the bereaved shoes.
5. “I’m thinking and praying for you during this difficult time.”
Sometimes less really is more. Offering to keep the parent in your thoughts or prayers is sometimes the best thing you can do, but it’s still an effective way to show support.
6. “I’m so shocked and saddened by your loss.”
Again, less is often more. If you’re not sure what to say, it’s okay to simply say this loss is something that shocked and saddened you. The family doesn’t want to hear this loss downplayed.
7. “I’m so sorry you’re going through this. I care for you deeply.”
Last but not least, remind the parent that you’re sorry for their loss and that you care for them. As mentioned before, losing a child is an isolating experience. Make sure the parent knows they are not alone.
» MORE: Create a free online memorial in just a few minutes.
What to Write in a Short Letter or Card to Someone Who Lost Their Child to a Drug Overdose
Writing a letter or card to the bereaved parents after they lose their child is another way to show your support. When paired with gifts for grieving friends, these can be a source of comfort and strength in the darkest of days. Include one of these messages below to show support.
8. “I’m always here for you.”
Again, a short and sweet show of strength is a powerful message. Finding the right words is hard. Being there for someone is hard. If you can be there and show support, you’re doing the right thing.
9. “I can’t stop thinking about you and your family.”
After a tragic loss, the family wants to feel remembered and heard. Remind them that they’re never really alone by telling them just how much you’re thinking of them.
10. “Words are pointless right now, and nothing can take away what you’re feeling, but I’m sending all of my love.”
It’s sometimes hard to grapple with traditional sympathy messages, especially after such a devastating loss. It’s okay to acknowledge that these messages fall flat sometimes.
11. “I will always remember [child’s name]. Thinking of you.”
When a parent loses their child, it’s that person is gone forever. Someone who was at the center of their world is suddenly gone. Honoring their legacy by telling the parent you’ll always remember their child means the world to them.
12. “My heart breaks for you and your family during this time.”
Being sympathetic is sometimes the most you can do. Honor their pain and listen to it, even if it’s uncomfortable.
13. “Our thoughts are with you now and forever. Wishing you so much strength.”
Sometimes what the parent needs to hear most is that they’re strong enough to get through this. It feels the world is ending in front of their eyes, and being there matters more than you think.
14. “Whenever you want to talk about them, I’ll be there.”
Parents often have a hard time talking about their child after a passing, especially in the case of a drug overdose. Let the parent know that you’ll be that listening ear when they’re ready.
What to Say In-Person or on the Phone to Someone Who Lost a Child to a Drug Overdose
Knowing how to comfort someone who’s crying or what to say when someone experienced a loss over the phone or in-person is never easy. The truth is there is no “perfect” thing you can say to make their pain go away. However, these messages are a form of support and comfort.
15. “There are no words to take away your pain. I am thinking of you.”
Parents will hear time and time again that time will heal their grief, but they know that’s not true. It’s okay to acknowledge that words cannot take this pain away.
16. “[Name] was such a kind, caring person. I will always remember [memory].”
When the parent is ready, share a happy, uplifting memory you have with their child. These memories form someone’s legacy, and these are what we should remember the most.
17. “This loss is terrible news. I hope you find strength in knowing that you were an amazing parent, and they spent all of their days loved.”
After a loss this, your loved one ly is feeling doubts about their parenting and whether they could have done anything differently. Assure them that their child knew they were loved and that they did everything they could.
18. “I am so sorry. Please know that you’re not alone, and we stand with you in this sadness.”
Remind your loved one that this is not a burden they have to carry alone. Everyone comes together to help them find the strength they need.
19. “I’m always here for you. Let me know when you’re ready to talk.”
Simple can sometimes be best, especially if you’re not sure what to say. Telling them that you’re always there to talk makes them feel a bit less lonely.
20. “I’m at a loss for words.”
Finally, sometimes it’s best to say nothing at all. Just being there for the one you love is sometimes the best thing you can do.
Other Things You Can Do to Comfort a Loved One Who Lost Their Child to a Drug Overdose
There are a lot of practical and supportive actions you can take after a loved one loses their child to a drug overdose. It’s our actions that often speak louder than words.
21. Listen to them
Losing someone to a drug overdose is a heavy, challenging experience. Many people don’t know how to hear about this in a supportive way, and they might find it uncomfortable. Be the person who can listen to and support the parent through this time.
22. Cook a meal
Food brings people together, especially after a loss. If you don’t know what else to say, cook a meal for someone after a loss. Making sure they have a warm meal in those first few days makes all the difference.
23. Make a donation
Making a donation in honor of the deceased helps turn the tragedy of a loss into something good. While this can’t ease the parent’s pain, it can help another parent escape this same experience. Donating to a support group, organization, or nonprofit is very meaningful.
24. Send flowers
Another common, thoughtful sympathy gift is to send flowers. These serve as a reminder of life in a time when the world seems a darker place.
25. Share memories
Last but not least, don’t be afraid to share memories of the deceased with the parent. While you should wait until they’re ready to take this step, they’ll ly be thankful to know that their son or daughter is remembered in such a positive light.
Being There for a Parent in Need
If you know someone who lost a child to a drug overdose, it’s hard to know what to do next. Finding the right words to sum up the pain and loss is usually impossible. There’s nothing you can say or do to take away their pain.
However, by being there in this tragic time, you give them more support than you know. Your condolences mean more than you think. It’s important to always be there for parents in need, especially when times are tough.
Mourning The Loss Of An Addict
For many people, grief is the process of mourning the loss of a loved one, moving through the painful yearning to have them back by your side. But what if that emptiness has been there for a while? How do you grieve for a conflicted relationship?
Unresolved Grief and Substance Abuse
Not every relationship is smooth or free of conflict. Many people have mixed feelings about the person that they lost. This is especially true when an addict dies, and even more significant if the two of you have been estranged for a while.
Be honest with yourself — in every moment
The first thing you can do and should do when losing a loved one to addiction is a promise to follow up each guilty, self-hatred thought with, “This was not my fault.” As hard as it is to believe, it is the truth. Addiction is a serious, often deadly disease, but any disease, no one person is to blame.
Allow yourself the opportunity to name your emotions, even the ones you may feel guilty about. Mourning an estranged addict loved one forces you to analyze every aspect of the entire relationship. You are bound to have these mixed feelings. Remember, no relationship is perfect.
Conflicted relationships can often complicate pain in the wake of death. It can be more challenging grieving, and you may fixate on the not-so-pleasant memories of the time and distance spent apart. Invite these feelings in, and open up with others about them. The more you hold in, the more damage you can cause.
We can help you overcome addiction and get your life back. Your calls are always free and 100% confidential.
Understand the Stages of Grief
During the bereavement of an addict or anyone you love, we spend different lengths of time working through and expressing different emotions, at varying levels of intensity.
Most psychologists call these the five stages of grief, but that description can be a bit inaccurate. Simply put, grief is just not that simple. However, it’s important to recognize that there are common emotions involved with the loss of a loved one.
They may not happen in any specific order, but many people experience them all before moving on to acceptance and peace.
However, when you lose a loved one to addiction, your grief can be more complicated. Here are the stages of grief and ways you can make healthy progress when you are dealing with unresolved grief from substance abuse.
You may immediately feel this can’t be real, especially if your loved one has made frequent hospital trips due to his or her addiction. You may feel inclined, at first, to think they’re going to pull through, just the other times. It’s normal to try to rationalize these painful emotions, a strategy your mind uses to slow down the pain from the shock of the loss.
You may also find yourself denying that you care. You have been estranged from this person for months or even years, and though you love him or her dearly, they have caused you great harm. Don’t try to decide which emotions are right and which are wrong. Allow yourself to feel them without judgment, accepting them as a valid way to feel in this moment.
When the reality of the situation, and its pain, finally sink in, it’s going to hurt — a lot. These intense emotions, overwhelming our hearts and minds, can often be expressed instead as anger.
The anger may be aimed at the deceased — you gave them so many chances, spent so much time and money… why couldn’t they love you enough to go to drug rehab? Rationally, you know the person is not to be blamed; the addiction is. That may lead you to feel guilty for being angry, maybe even becoming angry at yourself.
Your anger at them for not beating their addiction can also swiftly turn into anger at yourself for not doing more.
Seeing a grief counselor or a therapist can help you talk through these emotions to face the reality of death. In 2016, 60,000 people, and maybe even more, died from an overdose. That number doesn’t even take into account people who pass away due to complications of their addiction, cirrhosis of the liver or heart attack from stimulants.
This can be a pretty profound emotional state for someone mourning the loss of a drug addict. This normal reaction to feelings of helplessness and vulnerability is elevated because you feel responsible.
You weren’t there recently and you weren’t there when the death occurred.
You may say to yourself, “If I hadn’t cut him off, I could have been there when he needed medical attention…” or, “If only I made her go to rehab one more time…” or even, “If only I had been a better parent…” Death from addiction is so complicated.
Keeping a journal of these emotions can help you reflect on them from day to day, and allow you to see any patterns emerging. For example, when you had to clean out the deceased’s apartment, how did you feel? Log a journal entry describing the experience. Being able to attach moments of bargaining to what you’re experiencing can help you move forward.
When mourning, depression can result from a general sense of worry about the costs of burial, correcting unresolved issues and going through their belongings. However, it can also result from not having seen the person for a while before their death, and imagining the worst.
This depression could convince you of a lot of things, creating scenarios that may or may not be real because you weren’t there to know. You might also feel depressed because of the stigma of death from addiction.
You may experience isolation or a lack of sympathy from people close to you.
During this stage, you should try to stay social and active. Go to the gym, join a running group or take long walks in nature. Visit with supportive friends and family members, even in small doses. Most importantly, when you feel overwhelmed, ask for help.
The grief from losing a loved one to drugs or alcohol doesn’t go away quickly or easily; it probably never fully will. You will have moments where you completely second guess yourself, and times when you feel peace and clarity.
It’s when those times of peace outnumber those times of depression that you’ve come to a place of acceptance. That doesn’t mean you no longer feel, or don’t get angry from time to time, but it means that you recognize you couldn’t have changed this situation and that this person’s death isn’t your fault — or theirs, either.
You make your peace with reality and focus your memory on the positive, hopeful times you shared.
Mourning the death of someone from drug addiction is so complicated that there is no manual, no how-to guide you can follow word for word. Your experience will be uniquely yours.
However, if any of the stages of grief seem prolonged, friends and family seem overly worried about you or you have taken to cope with these emotions with illicit substances yourself, you must reach out for mental health help.
You are not at fault, and you are not alone. Where there is a help, there is always hope.
At Vertava Health Massachusetts, formerly Swift River, we are here for you. Let us help.