After a friend or family member’s death from an overdose, it can be challenging to deal with your own emotions. Grief is hard. However, when you add the stigma of a substance use disorder, it can be extremely challenging for family and friends to grieve for their loved ones. With some assistance from counselors and specialists, you can learn to mourn the loss of your family member from an overdose.
Dealing With a Death
When you lose a loved one, you will experience a great deal of pain. Unfortunately, death is part of life. It’s uncomfortable to face the fact that people will live and die, and there is nothing you can do to stop it. If a person passed away from a car accident, cancer, or old age, it stirs up a range of emotions as you grieve friends or family.
On the other hand, if you have lost someone due to a drug overdose, that death has its own unique set of circumstances. You might feel guilty or embarrassed, especially because some people consider these deaths to be preventable. However, close family and friends are the ones who understand the true scope of the loss. Your feelings and reactions to this unique situation are all normal.
Overdoses Are Common
Unfortunately, drug and alcohol overdoses are common in the United States. An overdose occurs when an individual takes more than the recommended amount of a drug. Misreading a label or intentionally taking too much can all lead to an overdose. As a result, there can be harmful consequences, including death.
You can overdose on prescription or illegal drugs. Most overdose deaths are traced to opioids. In fact, it is estimated that about 80% of overdose deaths are traced to these substances. Out of all the overdose deaths in one study, 85% included illicit substances such as methamphetamines, fentanyl, heroin, or cocaine.
The Opioid Epidemic
Opioids are taking their toll on many American families as people from all walks of life are affected by addiction. When the need for drugs takes over the brain’s pleasure center, the individual has an addiction to those substances. In many cases, the need for more drugs prevents the person from acting in a rationalized manner. They often cannot control their behavior.
In the United States, the majority of drug overdoses are linked to opioids, which are not just the ones you might find on the street, such as heroin. Dangerous opioids also come in the form of prescription painkillers. It is estimated that millions of Americans are addicted to prescription opioids. This crisis is so bad that the Department of Health & Human Services has called the issue an “epidemic” for the United States.
Unfortunately, many Americans are grieving the loss of a loved one from a drug overdose. However, that does not make your individual loss any less tragic for your family and friends. You can find plenty of resources to help you cope.
Grieving a Loved One
When someone passes away in your family, you might wonder if your emotions are normal. However, there is no right or wrong way to grieve for a family member or friend. People will act and react to their own personal feelings. If you are overwhelmed, you might want to reach out to a licensed therapist. Many counselors specialize in substance use disorders, and they can help you find the best way to express your emotions over this loss.
There are plenty of emotions you might feel after the death of a loved one from an overdose. Many people have some anxiety. This emotion is prevalent in those who are helping another individual battle with substance abuse. Since one person you know has died from substance usage, you might believe that someone else will perish in the same manner.
Anger is also common after a death. Directing that emotion toward yourself or the loved one is completely normal. In some cases, you might feel that you enabled the person’s death. If you feel that a rehabilitation center, doctor, or therapist led to the death of your loved one, you are dealing with a form of frustration. In some cases, that can lead to feelings of guilt as you blame yourself for not doing more for your friend or family member.
With a drug overdose death, there is often a stigma surrounding the family. Even though overdoses are common, those in society may judge someone’s family for the death. Many families will hide the fact that their loved one died from a drug overdose because they don’t want to be judged.
Some feelings might make you feel uncomfortable, such as relief. If you have been through a long road with your family member, there might be a sense of relief after he or she has passed. You might feel relieved since you will no longer have to worry about this individual’s addiction.
Finally, sadness is a typical emotion after the death of a loved one. No matter the challenges, that individual was a part of your life. Despite all the ups and downs, you will miss sharing your journey with this person.
Dealing With the Stigma
Let’s look at one aspect of an overdose death: the social stigma. Addiction is a disease that can affect any person, but there is still a stigma surrounding an overdose death. If you have lost a loved one, you might not think that people should judge your circumstances. Unfortunately, that still happens to many families. Some people might try to avoid you or make you feel ashamed of the person’s death.
You need to remind yourself that addiction is a common and deadly disease. You should reach out to others in a similar situation. It is important to talk openly about your feelings. By shining a light on this problem, you can help yourself and others heal from these tragedies.
Mourning Your Loved One’s Death
There is a difference between grief and mourning. Grief is often known as the feelings you experience on the inside. Mourning is a way that you express your sorrow to the public. When you cry or attend the funeral, that is considered mourning. As you talk to others about the person’s death, that is another sign of mourning. Many families mourn uniquely due to the circumstances surrounding an overdose death. You might start your mourning process by focusing on the cause of death. Over time, you will likely stop focusing on the overdose and begin to mourn the loss of a special and unique person.
If you want to cope with the stigma, you should openly discuss your thoughts and feelings about this death. By mourning, you acknowledge the reality of the person’s death. Along with that, you will be able to face the pain, remember the person, and receive support from others.
You should never allow the stigma of a drug overdose death to keep you from mourning the individual. By talking about your experience, you can help others become more compassionate. In turn, these steps can help you work toward a solution to prevent more of these deaths in the future.
Reach Out for Resources
If your loved one was enrolled in a substance abuse program, the program might have resources to help you grieve. You should reach out to your local hospital or health department to find support groups, volunteer opportunities, or counselors to help with the grieving process. In some cases, the funeral home might have information about grief groups. You should seek support from those who have experienced the same type of loss. These individuals understand the issues that you will face as you deal with the reality of overdose death.
In addition, there are many resources online. You can find plenty of grief support groups for overdose deaths. Several forums and websites are dedicated to helping mourners deal with their grief. As you share your story, you can find comfort in the expression and validation of others.
Take Care of Yourself
As you grieve the death of your loved one, you want to practice self-care. You have suffered an emotional injury and need care to help you recuperate from the loss. It is important to get enough sleep and eat nutritious foods, despite how difficult it may be to eat. It’s important for your strength and mind to keep nourished and hydrated.
Take some time to remove a few stressors from your life. You might even want to get out and take a walk. Now is the moment to spend time with people who care about you. Don’t forget to express your feelings, especially if you are feeling grief.
Meet Those Spiritual Needs
In the end, you need to realize that grief is a spiritual journey. It is normal to ask questions about the individual’s death, and you might also want to know the purpose and meaning of life. If you believe in God, this is an excellent time to take some solace in your faith. On the other hand, you may feel angry at God for allowing this to happen to your family.
These responses are all normal. If you are a spiritual person, you may want to pray, visit a place of worship, go for a walk, journal about your journey, or speak with your spiritual leader. These practices are all forms of mourning. They will help you deal with your feelings to move forward with your healing.
Explaining Death to Children
Children also need time to grieve and mourn the loss of a loved one. Children who are affected by an overdose death need compassion, but you should never lie to protect them from the hard reality of a drug overdose.
You need to place yourself in the child’s shoes. Make sure to give them a safe place to ask questions and receive answers. You can find solutions that are appropriate for that particular child’s age and development. For example, you might want to explain the realities of addiction. However, you need to be gentle with young children. If you say that drugs killed the individual, a child might be afraid to take any medicine.
Younger children often fantasize about the events. They might believe that their actions or thoughts caused the death. You need to reassure them that the death was not their fault. Unfortunately, children can sense the stigma of overdose deaths. You might want to explain that addiction is an illness. Make sure to talk openly about their feelings without any judgment. Take this time to start teaching your children about the dangers of substance use.
Children grieve differently from others. They may seem upset in one moment and be happy the next second. You need to provide them with opportunities to face any concerns and ask a few questions. It is important to be present and offer support to them. When your own grief arises, you always want to express it. Make sure to let your children know that it is okay to feel sad about losing a loved one.
Granite Recovery Centers Can Help
Dealing with an overdose death is hard for friends and family. However, you need to remember that you are not alone. Support groups and programs are available to help you grieve. Overdose deaths present their own set of circumstances to the mourning process. Above all, you want to make sure to take care of your own mental and physical health.
If you fear that a loved one might overdose, make sure to get help for your friend or family member. Drug and alcohol treatment options are available from Granite Recovery Centers, which treats drug- and alcohol-dependent adults in the New England area. Our treatment center blends the 12-step curriculum with clinical psychotherapy. Treatment options include residential treatment, medical detox, and intensive outpatient counseling. If your loved one is dealing with a substance use disorder, make sure to reach out to Granite Recovery Centers. It could save their life.