Grieving the loss of a loved one is gut-wrenching – the pain rips our hearts open and makes time standstill. When a loved one dies from a drug overdose, those feelings of loss can be even more intense. Perhaps the deceased was young and vibrant before struggling with addiction. It’s tough to imagine that their lives stopped so suddenly, from a senseless disease that has taken loved ones away from families and friends for decades.
An overdose occurs when a person takes more drugs than their body can handle. This can happen in more than one way. They may have unknowingly taken a drug that was laced with a stronger drug. For instance, heroin and cocaine are often laced with fentanyl, unbeknownst to the person using them. Or, they may have relapsed. When using drugs regularly, bodies develop a tolerance that allows them to consume higher doses of illicit substances. After even a short period of sobriety, that tolerance is lost – but those in relapse often consume the same amount of substances as they did previously, resulting in an overdose.
If you’re here and you’ve suffered from the loss of a child, spouse, friend, parent, or anyone else due to a drug overdose – we’re so sorry for your loss. While we can’t make the emotional pain disappear overnight, we can give you some tips on how to handle your grief in a healthy way.
It’s Not Your Fault
First and foremost, take a deep breath and tell yourself: “it’s not my fault.” Oftentimes, family members and close friends blame themselves for their loved one’s addiction. They think, “If I had just given them the money when they asked…” or “If I had just been there…” or “I missed their phone call and I could have saved them…”. As humans, we try to make sense of sudden death, and one of the ways we do that is finding where to place blame. But an overdose is no one’s fault.
It’s likely that your loved one had been struggling with addiction for a long period of time. Addiction doesn’t discriminate, it can affect people from all walks of life – football stars, valedictorians, business powerhouses, and those that grew up in close families and tough environments.
What to Expect When You’re Grieving
When the death of a loved one occurs, you may experience a wide range of emotions, from denial, disbelief, confusion, shock, and sadness, to anger, humiliation, despair, guilt and regret. According to Mental Health America, these feelings are all normal .
You will mourn and grieve, and that’s okay. Mourning is how we can cope with loss, whether it’s honoring religious traditions, gathering with friends and family for comfort, looking at old photos, and more. Mourning can last weeks, months, or even years, but everyone is different.
Grieving is how you express your loss physically, emotionally, and psychologically. Crying is a physical reaction, and some people report stomach pains, loss of appetite, trouble sleeping, and loss of energy. You may be suffering from acute grief or even depression. In these cases, we encourage you to seek help in therapy or counseling.
Looking Forward: Everyone Grieves Differently
There will be times when you may feel like the pain will never subside, but it will. It will take time, support, patience, and effort. It takes time to absorb the impact of a loss. You may feel triggered by seeing photos, hearing their name, or even by being around things they loved – favorite foods, music, movies, etc. Over time, these triggers will become easier to confront.
Surround yourself with supportive people who can help lift you back into good spirits. Don’t give up on the things you enjoy, like your hobbies or your job. Visit your friends and have them visit you. Take care of your health by eating nutritious food, even when you don’t feel like eating. Continue to see your doctors regularly and get plenty of rest. Try to postpone major life changes such as moving, changing jobs, etc. These things can cause extra stress while you need to focus on yourself.
Most importantly, be patient with yourself. Everyone grieves differently and moves at their own pace. You may see that others move on more quickly than you do, and that’s ok. Some people throw themselves into their work and stay busy, while others take time off.
You’ll likely never stop missing your loved one and thinking about their overdose will always cause a bit of pain. But, keep reminding yourself that life is worth living joyfully and you deserve to be happy.
If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, call us today at 1-877-MyRehab or contact us here, and we can help you on the path to recovery. https://www.mhanational.org/bereavement-and-grief