Grieving When a Loved One Overdoses

During recovery from addiction, we often face the reality that not everyone seeks treatment or heals. Unfortunately, not everyone gets the help they need in time, or they relapse with devastating consequences. While we might have moved on from friends who enabled our addictions, others may have never gotten past their own struggles. Friends and family members who tried to help might not accept our best intentions, continuing down a dangerous path. 

When a loved one overdoses, we might struggle to move forward and continue in recovery. We might feel vulnerable to relapse ourselves if we lose a peer in recovery due to an overdose or relapse. For parents witnessing their own children or their children’s friends overdose, they might blame themselves or question if they did all that they could. 

Grief Moves at Its Own Pace

No two people grieve at the same pace. Depending upon our coping skills and experiences, we move on at varying rates. Some of us in recovery might feel emotionally raw during our treatment, and the death of a loved one can trigger us to seek a quick fix to feeling better. We might want to get over the death quickly, as we do not want to experience the pain of loss. 

However, when we fight emotional pain and seek quick fixes or deny ourselves these powerful emotions, we only prolong moving forward. We should be mindful of allowing grief to go at its own pace. Sometimes, these feelings will catch us off guard throughout our lives. Months may pass from our loved one’s overdose, and we might find ourselves choked up seemingly out of nowhere. We might be at work, school, or even driving in our cars when thoughts of our loved ones come into our minds. 

When these emotions come up, we often try to stuff them inside, thinking this isn’t the right time for me to grieve. However, if we can find a way to take a break in those moments to cry, talk to someone, take deep breaths, or utilize any healthy coping mechanism we have and allow ourselves to experience these emotions. Pushing grief aside or bottling up our emotions can manifest itself in other unhealthy ways. We might never heal from our suffering if we do not move through the pain.

It Is Not Your Fault

Many people feel guilty and struggle to move forward when a loved one overdoses. We might have needed to end a friendship with someone who continued to use for our own recovery. If they overdose, we might feel that we abandoned them and left them vulnerable to relapse. When our children or their friends succumb to an overdose, we might question whether we did all that we could do.

Remember that a loved one’s overdose is no one’s fault. We might wish we could have done something differently or helped in other ways; however, the effects of drugs and alcohol can be unpredictable. Our loved ones might not have realized the danger of what they were doing, thinking they were in control. They might have lost control of their ability to stop drinking while under the influence or miscalculated a dose of an illicit substance. In most cases, they likely had no idea that they were heading toward destruction.

The Confusing Emotions of Loss

We might feel a confusing mix of emotions when a loved one overdoses. We might feel guilt, depression, or even anger. Sometimes, we blame those who pass away for the grief and pain that we experience. Then, we feel guilty for blaming our loved ones, as if they knew the outcome of their substance use. The emotions begin to pile up as we feel one in response to another.

To process our emotions, we need to talk about them with others in a safe place where we can be open and honest. By getting these confusing emotions sorted out in a place where we can feel free of judgment, we can move through our pain. Remember that processing grief has no time limit, and we might continue to process our loss throughout our lives.

Grief Is Honoring Our Loved Ones

When we grieve, we are honoring our loved ones. We might struggle to remember our fond memories of them without feeling sad over our loss. However, by going through the pain of loss and grief, we honor their impact on our lives. When people are important to us, their loss will impact our feelings. We can be ever mindful of how fragile and precious our lives and the lives of our loved ones truly are. We can honor our loved ones by remembering to love ourselves and others to the fullest every day. 

Grieving the loss of a loved one is never easy. When our loved ones lose their struggle with addiction, we might be left with many more questions than we will ever have answers. We might blame ourselves or hold onto guilt, wishing that we could have done more to save them. We might even feel angry with them for refusing help or blame them for the pain we now face. Grief can be incredibly complex, and for peers in recovery, we might worry about ourselves as we recognize how fragile we really are. If your child struggles due to addiction, they might have an underlying condition that needs to be addressed for recovery. Fire Mountain Residential Treatment Center is here for kids struggling with addiction. We also help parents cope with the challenges they face while their child is in the throes of active addiction. Call us today at (303) 443-3343. We’re here to make your family’s fire burn brightest.

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