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You Grieve Differently When You Lose Someone to Overdose


Bereavement Relief

Posted On: Feb 15, 2017

You Grieve Differently When You Lose Someone to Overdose

Losing someone to drug addiction results in its own kind of grief. Although it roughly follows the standard stages of grief, it has several unique characteristics that no one can understand unless they've also lost someone to addiction. There's such a stigma surrounding overdose that the people left behind are often forced to suffer their sadness in silence. Because no one talks about it, a survivor may incorrectly think that their feelings are shameful, wrong, or horrible. They're not. You have a different, one-of-a-kind set of emotions, and they are normal, healthy, and completely understandable.

Your Anger Stems from One Idea

Granted, this isn't true for everyone, but if your anger seems like it's more intense than it should be, and if you find yourself angry at the person who died, in particular, it stems from one idea. Death by overdose seems like an avoidable tragedy. It didn't have to happen. It shouldn't have happened. To say this is simple anger, however, is a misnomer, as you shall see.

Guilt Is All-Consuming

Many grieving people feel guilty. Survivors' guilt is nothing new. The loved ones of someone who succumbed to her or his addiction feel guilt on an entirely different level, however. You may feel like you could have stopped this from happening. You may feel guilty that you couldn't curb the addiction in the first place, or that someone you love had an addiction. You may feel guilty because you also feel relieved—you don't have to worry about where your loved one is, if s/he's safe, if you're going to get a call in the middle of the night. You may spend hours thinking about all the things you could have, should have, and would have done. That's all normal. It's painful—gutting, even—but normal.

You're Ashamed at Your Shame

Shame is a natural reaction to the loss of a loved one to an overdose, as well, and just like guilt, it's also unnecessary. That doesn't stop it, diminish it, or invalidate it, though. Feeling shame that your loved one had an addiction, feeling as if you enabled it—you're not alone in that. The shame exists because of the stigma that surrounds both addicting and overdose.

You Play the Blame Game

Blame is another aspect of this unique grieving process. There's more than enough of it to spread around. First and foremost, you blame yourself, for the existence of the addiction and its final play. You blame your loved one for developing their substance abuse and for her or his death. You blame everyone who ever used with your loved one. You blame other friends, other relatives, other sources.

These feelings are why it's a good idea to seek help or join a support group after losing someone to an overdose. Even if you join an online group, you can talk to people who are in the same position with the same emotions. It helps.