FI - overdose death one

The Grief of an Overdose Death: Part 1

Prefer to listen to your grief support?  Listen to our ‘Surviving the Grief of an Overdose’ podcast above.

If you thought the avoidance around death and grief in our society was bad, it is nothing compared to the avoidance of drug-related deaths.  Don’t believe me?  Did you know that overdose deaths outnumber traffic fatalities in the US?  Did you know that someone dies every 14 minutes from a drug overdose in this country?  In 2011 data came out showing that prescription medication overdose deaths outnumbered heroin and cocaine deaths combined.  Overdose deaths outnumbered prostate cancer deaths and are nearing the number of breast cancer deaths.  Don’t feel bad if you didn’t know – that’s the point.  We hate talking about it!

Even as we see celebrity overdose deaths, from Anna Nicole Smith to Michael Jackson to Cory Monteith to countless others, we don’t like to face the terrifying reality that addiction can touch anyone, anywhere.  We don’t want to consider that even with more money for treatment than most of us could ever imagine, people still loose this battle every day.  And even when we hear the statistics, we don’t want to think about the fact that there are real people behind those statistics – real lives lost and real people grieving.

As more and more people are touched by addiction, more and more families are left with the grief of an overdose death.  Yet the unique experience of grieving an overdose death is still pushed under the rug.  It hides out in the shadows.  It is veiled in guilt and shame and stigma and discomfort.   And this isn’t just a social avoidance, academic research hasn’t even faced this topic.  A 2011 article by Feigelman, Jordan and Gorman highlighted the astonishing lack of research in this area.  They noted that despite the significant impact of overdose deaths, “an exhaustive search for entries on grief or bereavement and overdose (or drug) deaths from Med-line, Psych-Info, and the Social Science Index yielded only two research notes on the topic. Both studies were done outside the United States: one a Brazilian study (da Silva, Noto, & Formigoni, 2007), and the other a British study (Guy, 2004).”  Say what?!  Two?? That’s it?? Are you kidding?!

Okay, sorry.  I get a little fired up about this issue.  This year a close friend from high school died of an overdose.  My family has been touched by addiction from many directions and eight years ago my sister’s boyfriend, who was more like family, died of an overdose.  I can think of far too many other friends and acquaintances who have died from drug overdose over the last 10 years.   Results: I get excited that International Overdose Awareness Day exists and I get infuriated that there is so little discussion about the unique experience of those grieving overdose deaths.

So guess what?  Today we are talking about overdose grief –partially inspired by International Overdose Awareness Day, partially inspired by the research of Feigelman, Jordan, and Gorman, partially inspired by my own experience, and partially seeking comments from all of you who have experienced overdose deaths and found ways to cope.  Let’s talk unique challenges of drug-related deaths.

The Death Feels Avoidable

Much like suicide grief, there is a complexity in overdose deaths in that people feel like the death was somehow preventable.  This can created an array of complicated emotions, many of which can be linked back to this feeling or belief.  Many of the feelings below, including guilt, shame, blame, fear, and isolation all in some way can be correlated back to this.

Guilt

Though guilt can be a component of grief from many types of losses, overdose deaths can present many different types of guilt.

  • Friends and family may feel guilt that they could have, or should have, done something to prevent the loss.
  • Guilt that the family member suffered from addiction (i.e. a parent, spouse, etc feeling it is their fault the person who died developed an addiction)
  • Guilt if the death brings a sense of relief after years of addiction impacting family and friends.
  • Obsession over actions done/not done to support the person who died.

Shame

There is often a question of the difference between guilt and shame, but it is important to understand the distinction as these can impact someone grieving an overdose death.  There are many different ways you will see guilt and shame defined and contrasted against each other.  Here we mean this distinction as a contrast between a personal experience vs a relational experience.  Guilt is something we feel within ourselves, based on our own perception that we could or should have done in a certain situation.  Shame is something we feel based on our perception that others think we could or should have done something differently.  In the case of overdose death, shame can manifest in various ways.

  • Shame that the family member suffered from addiction (i.e. a parent believing others think it was their fault or they were a bad parent for having a child who suffers from addiction)
  • Shame for enabling the person who died.
  • Shame for not doing enough to “help” the person who died.
  • Shame for the person who died (feeling that others blame that person for their addiction and/or death, and hence are less worthy of mourning)

Please keep in mind that there is another definition/distinction you will often hear between guilt and shame – one that is actually common in substance abuse and recovery.  In this definition people say that guilt is the idea that one did something bad, whereas shame is the belief that one is bad. So, guilt is a feeling about an action and shame is a feeling about the self.  Clear as mud?

Though that is a very important distinction to make, it is not the way we are talking about shame here.  My experience with the word shame, and with the grief experience that accompanies it, is shame in the relational sense – shame that others are judging us or our loved one.

Blame

Though there is little research around the grief experience of survivors of overdose deaths, the study by Feigelman, Jordan and Gorman (2011) found a greater incidence of blame among and between parents of children who died of drug related deaths (as well as those who had children die by suicide).  This is both self-blame, as well as blame between friends and family members.  Though this is the first US research to officially document this, it seems pretty darn intuitive if you have lost anyone to overdose or known people who have.  Some common feelings that arise around blame are:

  • Blame toward those who used drugs/alcohol with the person who died.
  • Self-blame for the person developing an addiction.
  • Self-blame for the person’s death.
  • Blame toward the person who died for their own death.
  • Blame toward family members for not preventing the death.
  • Obsession over actions done/not done to support the person who died.

In the Feigelman et al (2011) study, a tally of blame comments made to parents showed that 97%+ of blame comments were made in cases of suicide and overdose deaths, in contrast to 2-3% in cases of accidental deaths and 0% in cases of natural deaths.   64% of these comments were blame toward the child who died, with the remaining 36% of the comments blaming the parent.  Nearly 50% of parents who lost a child to overdose or suicide reported  blame comments being made by one or more of their significant others.  It is easier and easier to understand why people don’t speak up about addiction and overdose deaths, isn’t it?!

Stigma and Isolation

Though we know addiction touches hundreds of thousands of families each year, the family and friends of those experiencing addiction often suffer in silence due to the feelings of stigma, guilt and shame. When someone dies from overdose this isolation often continues from reluctance to talk about the addiction. This can result in:

  • Difficulty accepting the circumstances of the death (denial about drug involvement).
  • Reluctance to openly discuss the cause of death.
  • Reluctance to participate in support groups or counseling.
  • Hesitance to seek support from friends and family members.

In the same Feigelman et al (2011) study, 50% of parents who lost a child to suicide or overdose deaths did not find the support that they expected from their significant others, contributing to feelings of isolation.  People say stupid things to us all the time as grievers.  Overdose deaths can bring out some of those especially terrible comments that drive us further into isolation.  People make us feel this death is not as worthy of grief and mourning as other deaths, which throws it in the complicated category of disenfranchised grief.

Fear and Anxiety

Addiction is a devastating disease that is difficult to imagine if you have not experienced it within your family, friends, or community.  I struggle writing this to even put it into words.  It turns family members into strangers.  It pins friends and family against one another.  It devastates communities.  Once someone has lost a family member to addiction anxieties can arise (or increase) and become consuming:

  • Fear that other family members will start abusing substances.
  • Fear that others who are already using substances will also overdose.
  • Fear that others who are in recovery will relapse.

All of these anxieties can lead to mistrust between surviving family members and friends.   This anxiety can lead survivors to attempt to control those around them, trying to protect them from addiction and overdose.  These anxieties and attempts at control can become consuming if not addressed.

All of this sounding familiar?  Wondering what you can do to manage this devastating type of grief?  Check our Part 2 of this post here, where talk about some tools and resources for coping with the grief of an overdose death.  Don’t forget to check out the International Overdose Awareness Day website.

Head over to our store and check out our print resource:  Surviving the Grief of an Overdose Death

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment to share your experience with overdose grief and any suggestions to be included in our Part 2 of this post.

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COMMENTS

Marty Tousley (@GriefHealing)

Posted on August 14, 2013 at 10:29 am

This is such an important post, Litsa, and I thank you for writing it. Well worth sharing, which I intend to do! ?

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Sophie Matthews

Posted on August 14, 2013 at 8:17 pm

My husband died of an intentional overdose. He was 35 and it was 2 days before our 6 month wedding anniversary. We had fought for 2 years to finally be happy and together. Addiction was part of it, trying to drown out pain from childhood and adulthood and basically his whole life. I have to believe cos he said so that being with me was the happiest he had ever been in his whole life.

I was not enough though. The happiness and love I gave him was not enough to combat the pain he was still trying to drown and finally the pain overtook and he left me. I am lost and broken. Thank you for your blog. S x

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karen

Posted on February 25, 2016 at 7:37 pm

Hi Sophie, I hope this question does not sound stupid or disrespectful to you. I have also recently lost my partner from heroin intoxication ( that’s what his death certificate states). What I am struggling with is I have no idea if it was intentional or not. Like your partner mine had a terrible childhood and also struggled to move on from it. You are so right that not amount of love we could have given them would have been enough to save them. It’s heartbreaking and I beat myself up so much about it. I go over and over it in my head thinking did I not show him I loved him enough, could I have done more and most of all why.. oh why couldn’t I have saved him.

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Suzy

Posted on March 1, 2016 at 4:11 pm

My son died Jan 22, 2016 heroin overdose
My feelings are the same…if only I would have hugged him more and had less of a plan to “fix” him
I am finding from others that our love can’t fix this addiction

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Antonia Rolls

Posted on August 15, 2013 at 9:53 am

Sophie I am so so sorry to read this, sending much love and hugs.

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Eleanor

Posted on August 15, 2013 at 12:19 pm

Thank you Marty!

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Sophie Matthews

Posted on August 29, 2013 at 6:39 am

Thank you for your kind thoughts S x

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Maria Cerqueira

Posted on September 3, 2013 at 5:36 pm

I am the wife of an addict who in the last 3 months has lost 2 of his good friends to overdose. These deaths have pushed my husband to overlook his life and to make changes. One of the families in these deaths has placed soul blame for their sons death on my husband because they were both addicts who used together. I can see the guilt eating away at him. I don’t know what to do to help him but to be there and support him. For years every time the phone rang i was scared that it was going to be us burying him. I am lost on what to do. He already blames himself for not being able to encourage his friend to slow down on his drug use and stop. He did get him to a NA meeting once last month. He now has to deal with the blame of the family. There is another heavy drug user in this family. I’m Lost on what to do for my husband other than support him tell him i love him and reassure him its not his fault. What can i do?

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Litsa

Posted on September 3, 2013 at 11:30 pm

Oh, Maria I am so sorry for all that you and your husband are coping with. There is so much here and I wish I could give you answers, but sadly when there are so many layers and complicated issues, like grief and addiction, sometimes there are no easy answers.

The first thing I will suggest to you is to go to nar-anon. I cannot stress this enough. If you are not familiar with nar-anon, it is a support group for family members of those struggling with addiction. You cannot take care of others until you take care of yourself, so the first question needs to be not what you can do for him, but what you can do for you. Nar-anon will give you a space for yourself to find support, as well as some tools to understand the difference between helping and enabling.

In terms of your husband, the first thing that is important to remember is that he is going to be very limited in his ability to process emotions, including guilt, if he is still using. You said he is making changes, but I know well that can mean a range of things. It is not your job to fix him or get him clean – no one can do that but him – but you and he both need to know that fully experiencing and working through grief while using will not work and that continued use is likely to delay and/or prolong grief. It is a big step that he went NA meeting last month, as NA is an wonderful program and structure for addressing so many complicated emotions. But NA is not a once-in-a-while thing. For him to find those benefits in NA he will need to ‘work the program’ and go regularly. Many people who are just finding sobriety attend daily – sometimes even more than once daily. I will say this again, because I can’t say it enough, you cannot force him to go or to work the program. That is his decision and his recovery. But if he finds a sponsor and begins working the steps he may find that it begins helping him work through some of the feelings of guilt and grief. If NA is not the right fit for him there are other alternatives – SMART Recovery and LifeRing come to mind. The differences are really between ‘powerlessness’ vs ‘self-empowering’ approach, and a secular vs faith-based approach, and again this is something he will need to figure out as part of his own recovery.

As for the guilt, there is so much to say there that I feel like I need to write a post (so I probably will!) but for now there are a couple things I’ll mention. First, telling him it is not his fault certainly provides support, but ultimately it will be up to him to resolve his own feelings and guilt. Though guilt gets a bad rap if it is all-consuming or cannot be integrated in a normal way, guilt is not inherently a bad thing. It is often a normal part of grief. There are three Cs you will here sometimes in the naranon world surrounding someone else’s drug use: I didn’t cause it, I can’t control it, and I can’t cure it. Your husband cannot control whether his friend’s family will ever believe that or not, but hopefully he can work toward accepting it when it comes to his relationship with his friend’s use an overdose. Each person individually is powerless over someone else’s addiction or recovery. Yes people may use together, but they each use because they are addicted to the drug, not because of the other person. Can people drag each other down or hold each other back in addiction? Sure. But ultimately your husband could not ‘slow down’ or stop his friend’s use because that is not how it works. If another person could stop someone else’s addiction, with love or money or time or energy or force or anything else, there would not be an overdose death every 14 minutes in this country.

I would strongly suggest you mention some grief counseling to your husband – ideally a counselor with experience in both grief and addiction. He has had a lot of loss in a short period of time and having someone to help him process his complicated emotions may be a huge help to him. The guilt will not magically disappear, but a counselor may be able to help him recognize the space for his guilt, grow for it, and potential transform components of his guilt into meaning. The only way to do this is to face his guilt, accept the role he did play and the role he didn’t play, and figure out how he will move forward. Those as tasks much easier faced with the support of a counselor.

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Coco

Posted on September 12, 2013 at 12:26 pm

Where did you get the stat about overdoses almost equalling breast cancer deaths?

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Litsa

Posted on September 12, 2013 at 12:37 pm

Great question! I should have cited. Per the American Cancer Society there were 39,620 breast cancer deaths in 2012 (http://m.cancer.org/cancer/breastcancer/overviewguide/breast-cancer-overview-key-statistics)

Per the CDC, there were over 36,000 overdose deaths in 2008, 38,329 in 2010 and that number was climbing annually. (http://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/rxbrief/)

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Sherry Wellmer

Posted on December 3, 2013 at 2:57 pm

Alhtough I do not know 100% (I am still waiting on the autopsy report), I lost my 18-year old son to a possible accidental drug overdose just 9 weeks ago. I have heard rumblings from his friends that he was doing Xanax, cocaine, and, recently I was told, heroin. My son was a gifted young man, full of so much potential. Although I started seeing issues with marijuana use and other drug-experimentation when he started high school , I still cannot believe what I have been hearing. I did try to get him into counseling (he went a few times on both occasions but said I was wasting my money), and tried to live my life around him and his needs. I was there for him every day when he came home from school, work, or out with his friends. I tried so hard to love him with everything I could, but now he is gone and I am left with this unbearable pain and guilt of wondering if there was more I should have done. The saddest part is that I heard him “snoring” the morning he died. I thought he was in a deep sleep and possibly had a stuffy nose as he had allergies, but now I know the sound was his lungs filling with fluid. I went to the grocery store and, when I came home, he had not gone to work yet. I went to his room and found him in his bed, already gone. I tried CPR and called 9-11. I even woke his older brother. It was just too late. I am devastated that drugs took my little boy’s life. Just wanted to share…

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QT

Posted on March 5, 2016 at 9:33 am

Omg..Sherry first let me say I’m sorry for your loss…My husband passed away from a heroin overdose as well and when I saw you mentioned the SNORE I also heard the snore and this is where my guilt begins…about 2 weeks before he passed he confessed to me that he was shooting up meth .. I started crying because in my heart i knew something told me this is it he got mad at me for crying and kept telling me to stop but i couldnt…i think this was when my heart first broke.. i saw his arms they had like lumps and so when he went to sleep that night I did a lot of research and found out that the lumps were from him not hitting a vein he had so many track marks I got some vitamin e and some warm pads and put them on his arms he slept a couple days and I was right by his side trying to feed him and get liquids in his system when he finally woke he was mad at me for using the warm pads even though his lumps had gone away he said I made him feel like a real bad drug addict so I left the room for a while when I come back in he is sitting there holding a light bulb to his arm trying to find a vein I never seen him like that he did such a good job of hiding it so it shocked me he yelled to get out so I did about 3 hours later I go back in he is still trying to find a vein I said what are you doing he got mad and stormed out he didnt come home for 3 days and I wasnt able to sleep just worried about him and when he finally did I was so happy to see him I just wanted to hug him so bad but I didn’t want him getting upset and leaving again ..I could see the shame in his eyes..and he just went straight to the room it was late like 2am and I was tired and exhausted from the nights before and I ended up falling asleep I woke up to check on him and I heard him snoring so I thought ok he’s sleeping that’s a good thing I was so much in denial… I think… that I even thought he was fake snoring so I could think he was sleep and go back to bed so he could shoot up or something… I stood by the door a couple minutes to see if he was bluffing and nothing keep in mind it was already like 2 or 3 hours since I had first heard him snoring so I shook him and said you’re snoring its so loud stop it but he wouldn’t wake up I started freaking out then I saw the needle omg I’m tryig to carry him into the shower im 5’2 130 lbs he was 6’3 250 lbs I couldn’t move him an inch I called 911 and they told me to do cpr on him and I just remember everthing in slow motion it sounded so horrid when he took that last breathe it sounded like it was ripped out of him he looked like so scared I saw his face it was in slow motion the look on his face is what freaked me out and then his body just SHOOK and he began to foam at the mouth the ambulance got there like 2 minutes after but I knew he was gone they worked on him for a while but I knew he was gone…I could literally feel my heart break its been 4 years and I’m still trying to deal with it we have a son together our son was 5 yrs old at the time and I remember my son waking up that night as im doing cpr on him I couldn’t let my son see that so I ran to put my son back 8n bed it must of taken me 2 or 3 minutes to get him back to sleep he just kept asking for his Daddy I think maybe I should of never stopped the cpr but then my son would of seen but then maybe my husband would still be alive …four years its been …they say time heals the wounds but i dont think so .. my pain is worse than ever i feel alone so broken..my heart hurts I’m not sure if I handled the situation right…I just need to know that he is ok..I wonder if he sad..I wonder if he is scared I wonder I he is really at peace…I wonder if he misses us as much as we miss him …does anyone else ever wonder the samething? Somebody please…

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Linda

Posted on December 17, 2013 at 12:44 pm

Dear Sherry,
I am so sorry for your loss. I lost my young son to an overdose almost 1 year ago and I have been through so many emotions in that time. Even though I am still extremely sad and at times get overwhelmed with grief, I believe that I will survive and experience feelings of happiness again. A friend of mine told me that life would never be the same but that it would get easier w/time. I believe she is right. I so want life to be what it once was for my family, but it never can be.

I strongly suggest that you get counseling. That is the only way that I have managed.

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Amy

Posted on January 3, 2014 at 1:52 pm

Wow, this was a really great article. My mom passed away from an overdose when I was 17, and now in my 30s I still feel at a loss for words when a new friend or acquaintance asks me how she died.

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Genie 123

Posted on May 4, 2016 at 7:22 am

Hi Amy I don’t know if you will see this but I think it is supremely rate to find stories of losing a mum through addiction. It produces emotions, situations and life choices that are forever clouded (imo) without significant support, honesty and openness which I myself haven’t had a great deal of. So I wanted to acknowledge your grief no matter how long has passed and say you are not alone. This is the first time I have heard someone mention losing a mum in 4yrs since mine died accidentally. That tells us how hidden and stigmatising it is. And the fact I won’t share my own name!

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Mark

Posted on January 13, 2014 at 1:45 pm

Our bright, handsome and creative 23-year-old son died of an accidental prescription drug overdose 18 months ago. His mom and I still think of him every single day and the sting of his loss is so permanent. This article hits so close to home for us — when the coroner from the county he was living in California called us with the news, she shocked us when she said that most of her time is spent dealing with these kinds of deaths in people of all ages. We cannot continue to hide our heads in the sand about this national tragedy — we must take action and stop the stigmas attached to overdose deaths.

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Dia

Posted on January 13, 2014 at 10:19 pm

Thank you so much for posting this.

I lost my cousin about a week ago.
He also died from an Heroin-Overdose.
He was only 29.

I still can’t believe what has happend and the pain makes me feel so numb inside.
His addiction started over 10 years ago and it devided the whole family.
We we’re always close until he got heavily into using drugs.
He just wasn’t the same anymore.
We tried and hoped for the best, but we knew we can’t force him.
He was so in denial and never admitted to having a problem.
At the point he wanted to change , it was already over.

We shared so many memories togheter.Good ones and a lot of bad ones.
We lost another one of our cousins 9 years ago in a drug related car accident, he was only 20.
That was the absolut warning sign for me at 15 ,not to even try drugs in the first place.
I just knew already back then, that using drugs always leads to a bad ending.
So at 18, i joined our local Drug Councelling Team in volunteering and helping young homeless drug addicts to find help and shelter.
We lived togheter when his mother was diagnosed with cancer 11 years ago.
My aunt survived , thank god.But it took a tall on us, especially on my 3 cousins.
We held hands at my grandfathers funeral and he hold me while i was standing on his grave crying.
Tomorrow i will stand in front of my cousins grave.
Crying over his demise.
I’m so afraid of this moment and i don’t know if i can be strong enough.

The Past 10 years have been so hard, scary and exhausting.
Every time the phone rang i was afraid to pick up.
Calling the cops on him, after he tried breaking into our house at 3 am in the morning , was the hardest thing i ever had to do.
Avoiding him even though i wanted him to be around, just for the sake of knowing where he is.
Seeing my Uncle breakdown with a hearth attack last year after a fight with my cousin made me so angry.
But just seeing him being miserable and not wanting any help, broke my heart over and over again.

I feel like we lost the battle, but it’s also the end of the fight.
He’s free now, but also gone forever.

Right now, it feels like being in a bad movie that i have seen way to many times.
I want it to stop.
But when it stops, it will become reality to me.
And i don’t want this to be true…
The pain and guilt are just too much to handle.
How can i live with this and how i can start excepting that he’s gone?

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Sherry Wellmer

Posted on January 14, 2014 at 2:47 pm

Thank you, Linda. The autopsy report finally showed up the weekend before Christmas and my biggest fear was confirmed: His death was due to an “intoxication of Cocaine, Heroin and Xanax (the report used the chemical term of Xanax, not the drug brand name)” I also met with the detective investigating the case and he gave me Richard’s phone back. I have spent countless hours just reading and re-reading the text messages, in shock that these were coming from my son. It sounded like a different young man, not him. I don’t know what happened, or where things went wrong. We were so close until he was a Sophomore in high school. I can’t help but feel guilty about this, that, as much as I tried, I couldn’t prevent him from going down this road. So tragic and so very unnecessary. The only good that has come of this is that he was a tissue/cornea donor (he signed his license as such), so now I am advocating for that. I know his death was not a complete waste, for at least he helped improve others’ lives. I do go to counseling but there is really only so much your friends, family, support group and counselors can do for you. Most of it needs to come from inside of you and what you choose to feel and do with the life you have left. It is so very hard to keep going when that river of pain just engulfs your soul.

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Tim

Posted on January 19, 2014 at 8:42 am

This article was very good,as I read it I couldn’t stop crying.Between the shame,the blame,the guilt.We lost our son Matt on March 18 2013,23yrs old from a heroine overdose.He started using and abusing pot and cocaine his junior year in H.S.Prior that,he excelled on the baseball and soccer fields,enjoyed snow boarding and was a real jokester who loved to make you laugh.He basically spent his junior and senior years not in school but in rehab.His mother and I did what we thought was best for him at the time,after finding drugs in the house more than once we turned him in to the police,thinking this would scare him,it never did.He always claimed he didn’t have a problem even as his classmates were dying all around him.He would tell us that he would never even think about using heroine that his friends who passed were stupid and we believed him.Life has become very difficult after the loss of my only biological child.With him no longer with us,every day becomes a challenge.

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Eleanor

Posted on January 21, 2014 at 11:12 am

Tim, I’m so sorry. It sounds like you loved your son immensely and you and his mother did everything you could to help him. It is difficult for me to know what it’s like to lose your only biological child at such a young age. I can imagine how very difficult it is. I’m glad this post was of some help and I hope we can provide a small amount of support to you in the future.

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Sherry Wellmer

Posted on January 22, 2014 at 1:18 pm

Tim,

I am so saddened by your post. It sounds so eerily familiar to me. My son, Richard, was only 18 when he died of a combination of heroine, cocaine and Xanax. He was also a bright young man. He was an avid soccer player, playing on a select team travel team for 6 years, until he started high school, then he ran on the track team. He was one of those people who got straight As without even opening a book. Richard was a kind-hearted young man. So many people would tell me how I did such a good job raising him since he was so polite and considerate. He too started smoking pot in H.S. At first I made a big deal about it, grounding him, taking away his car, even enrolled him in counseling. I found him lifeless in his bed the morning of Sep. 28, 2013. Before I got the autopsy report his friends told me he used Xanax a lot and a couple of his really good friends said they wished they would’ve told me, but he had started using cocaine and heroine a month or so before he died and was hanging out with some bad influence . When the detectives closed the case and gave me his cell phone back, I was in utter shock and disbelief about what I saw. His life became centered around drug use, buying Oxycontin, Vicodine, Percocets, then, eventually, cocaine and heroine. I still cannot believe that he was using all of these drugs and I didn’t even know. He was enrolled in a college scholar program and worked part time delivering pizzas and working for a landscape company. I feel your pain, Tim, I really do. There is nothing we can do to bring our sons back, but what can we do to keep others’ from going down this same path? Richard said the same thing to me when I told him to promise me he would never, ever even try heroine. He said he wasn’t stupid. I guess I just didn’t see past this.

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Carol

Posted on February 17, 2016 at 12:28 pm

Sorry for your loss…..as I completely understand the grief….I lost my son just 6 months ago due to a heroine overdose at the at of 34…..my son had been fighting this battle for years….he too started smoking pot in HS…..Jimmy was a good kid until drugs got a hold of him. Due to the constant craving of the drug he was arrested several times for stealing……he was in and out of jail….the longest he was away was three years…but it didn’t take long for him to return to that drug. I watched a healthy handsome kid turn into a walking skeleton……through out the years I know I was his biggest enabler….I just loved him so much I though if I made his life easier he wouldn’t be so stressed…when everyone else gave up I never did…….I know my son didn’t want to be like that…..he told me one time “mom, I don’t take the drug to get high…..I take it to feel normal”…..just a few months before he passed, I tried tough love…..wasn’t giving him money or doing the normal things that enabled him…..I did tell him that he needed to get help and that I would support him in anyway…..I would stand in front of him, beside him, behind him…but if he chose not to get help, I couldn’t be in his life……..that’s what I heard all these “counslers” say……and thought it might work……his response was “love ya momma”……two weeks later he was gone….and how I hate myself for saying that.

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Suzy

Posted on March 1, 2016 at 4:26 pm

Carol
Keep in mind that as my doctor told me “you did nothing right, nothing wrong”
You did your best and when you knew better, you did better
IF YOUR SON had done well after you gave him the get help or leave option…you would be saying you did the “right” thing
but because the outcome was his death, you feel you did the “wrong” thing
Don’t get caught up in right and wrong…you did your best at the time
My only son Kevin died on January 22 of heroin overdose…

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Tim

Posted on January 22, 2014 at 5:09 pm

Sherry,

My wife and I are also saddened by your post,we tried so hard to get our son help for his addiction over the years,atleast 5 rehabs and multiple follow ups.It seemed for a while he was going to make the turn for the better, but just when you thought he was on the road to recovery as my wife would say,he would take two steps forward then three steps back.We would help him financially with bus money to get to work,then eventually buy him a car so he could get to a better job, but because of his drug use,couldn’t keep a job for long periods of time.We allowed him to live with us providing he lived by the house rules and didn’t bring drugs into the house,but before long was living with friends.That is what I struggle with at times,but what were we going to do allow him to do what he wanted,that’s what they call tough love.We miss Matt just as you miss your son,we both have experienced a loss like no other.I continue to tell him everyday,I wish I could have done more for ya Matt,but the entire family tried like hell.These drugs are killing our children,we need to find a way to get these drugs off the streets and better educate our children.

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Tim

Posted on January 22, 2014 at 5:35 pm

Eleanor,

Yes,we had and will always have great love for our son.Like I said previously, every day is a challenge for me.It’s still difficult to comprehend that our son is no longer here with us.I feel his Mom and I did what we thought was best for him at the time.I struggle with guilt,anger and sadness on a daily basis.I know in my heart we did all that we could for our Son,but as a parent feel we could have done more.I was always a father 1st for Matt,I coached him in baseball for 10 years and will never forget those days.He was always a great competitor and had nothing but respect for his elders,coaches and parents.

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Sherry Wellmer

Posted on January 23, 2014 at 9:10 am

Tim,

It sounds like you and your wife did everything you could possibly do, though I know it’s hard to accept that. As parents we just feel responsible for our children, no matter how old they are. I often think about what my life would be like had I found Richard sooner and he had lived. I would probably be in the same boat you and your family had been in for the past several years: rehab, then rehab again, etc.. I think these drugs take over and our children no longer are the children we had. Richard was gone so much that I didn’t have a lot of interaction once he graduated from H.S. (last June), so it was hard to see the day-to-day life he was living. He was either at school or work, or, after work, would hang out with his friends. I never noticed any behavior changes, other than he would nap often, but that’s also normal for teens. I often ponder what could I have done differently. How can we get the message across to those teens who are at risk or who are currently using drugs?

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Renee Saulsbury

Posted on January 26, 2014 at 10:11 pm

I am so sorry for your loss. I too lost my 26 year old son to a drug over dose. Oct 8, 2013 Reading your stories I know exactly how you feel. I pray for you and cry wirh you. I too have not dealt with it, because then it becomes real. Every story i read i can find something that fits our story. My son died of oxy and xanax. The kicker is he beat oxy in 2008. He hadnt touched them. He told me on monday he had taken one that weekend but didnt know he was planning to take more. The guilt is unbelievable. The pain excrutiating. Thank you all for addressing this problem. O stumbled on this website by accident. Renee

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Litsa

Posted on January 27, 2014 at 7:33 am

I am so sorry for your loss. Glad that you stumbled on our little corner of the internet, and hope you find something helpful here. I think so many will agree with what you say about not wanting to face it because it makes it real. I have often thought the mantra used in recovery from substances is so applicable to grief- ‘one day at a time’. Facing it feels impossible, but slowly we have to all works towards it, in order to figure out how we will ever integrate it. Thanks for sharing here.

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Angela Schmoll

Posted on January 28, 2014 at 8:09 am

Sherry, I lost my son in early December and so much of our stories could be the same. Like you, I’m still waiting on the autopsy results, but I’m less sure whether it will be directly linked to overdose or to chronic damage from drug use. He also began using drugs when in high school, but limited himself to near lethal doses the OTC cough suppressant dextromethorphan. He was 23 and had been using heavily since he was 16. As a result he had seizures, could not hold a job, suffered blackouts, hallucinations and psychosis. He had not lived at home since 18 because he was frightening to be around and our relationship was filled with anger and hurt. Counseling didn’t work. He didn’t think he had a problem. Despite the physical damage caused by the drugs, he still enjoyed the sensation so much that he had no interest in quitting. He died alone in his apartment and wasn’t found for a week because he isolated himself so much from everyone who cared that we all just thought he was mad again. My father is an alcoholic who still wants to deny my son’s addiction because that just isn’t talked about. Talk about it. Share. Make people understand because it may help someone else.

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Angela Schmoll

Posted on January 28, 2014 at 8:27 am

I did not realize the statistics were so bad on drug related deaths. My 23-year-old son died the second week of December, alone in his apartment. He was isolated by his drug use from family and friends (his best friend had begged him to quit with him over a year ago and he refused) and had been dead for days before his grandmother asked police to do a welfare check.
The guilt and shame have been so hard on my parents — I had already been to AlAnon with my ex and have been able to have what I hope is a healthier view of my role in this. My mom wishes she had sent police sooner, my dad doesn’t want anyone to know he was an addict, half of their community thinks he committed suicide. He had lived near them the past two years after I left him in jail for several months on some drug-related charges and refused to be his enabler any more.
His drug of choice was the OTC cough suppressant dextromethorphan and he took potentially lethal doses on a regular basis (a dose is 30 mg and he would go for 1000 mg). The drug is a central nervous system depressant and causes seizures, hallucinations and psychotic episodes. At low doses it is like alcohol and at high doses PCP. He started using when he was in high school and was shoplifting it from dollar store shelves because they have lax security, although more recently he had bought it instead. Counseling didn’t work and he did not want to quit, so did not do rehab. Also, many programs do not recognize an addiction to DXM.
After 25 years in journalism, I had begun blogging before his death and my blog now is my daily therapy, mostly charting where I am at in this ocean of grief. I’ve found a lot of mothers who are enduring the same pain and we help hold one another up in ways that even others who have lost children cannot do. I strongly recommend a journal or therapy (you need to deal with emotions and not everyone is comfortable as “out there” as I am) and support groups where you can find parents suffering as you are.
I’m sorry we are all on this journey of pain.

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Justin Stewart

Posted on February 3, 2014 at 4:25 pm

I am so glad I ran into this article. Two weeks ago, someone from High School that I knew, passed away from alcohol poisoning. The town has been devastated, and this guy’s family, friends, and wife and four year old son are still broken. The worst part has been watching my friends suffer over this loss. No words can describe what I have felt for them, and no words can describe what they have been feeling. Things will never be the same!

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Lori

Posted on February 14, 2014 at 7:01 pm

I recently lost two sons from drug overdoses. My 26 year old in August & my 41 year old in October, two months exactly from the day his brother died. I was angry at my older son because he gave the drugs to my younger son.(not that he couldn’t or wouldn’t get them on his own). He was trying to get his life in order stopped smoking pot for two months. That was his drug of choice. But in my state that’s not legal, so instead he died of a drug overdose. I wasn’t really talking to my older son at the time of his death because I was still angry with him. I tried to forgive him but enough time didn’t pass and then he died. He was addicted to prescription drugs after being hurt in the Marines years before and had a Docter who prescribed massive amounts of drugs each month. They both died two days after the scripts were filled. They were both found on a Sunday. I found out about the older son while I was still in church just after I received communion. This is heartbreaking for me. I am glad to have found this site and thank you for the support and understanding.

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Eleanor

Posted on February 16, 2014 at 12:08 pm

Two children…oh Lori I’m so sorry. I can only imagine how many complicated emotions your dealing with. I can’t believe the similarities, I’m sure it seem surreal. I hope our site helps a bit…let us know if there’s anything you ever want to see us cover.

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Dana

Posted on March 11, 2014 at 9:20 pm

My 44 year old brother is in palliative care as we speak. Nine days ago my brother took a prescription drug that was sold to him that was not what he thought (or so we think). As a result his blood sugar plummeted and he went into a coma. Now he has severe brain damage and is unable to do anything except breathe. His breathing has become difficult now and he is showing signs of the last stage of life. The doctors don’t expect him to last more than a couple more days.
I feel like a zombie. I just want my brother back and it’s not going to happen. He has been separated from our family for 10 years as he just stopped calling one day. We have wanted to talk with him and see him ever since but couldn’t find him. He was too ashamed to contact us. I feel so guilty for misunderstanding him and not doing more to help him. I thought he was just being selfish but now I know there was so much more to his story. He is a victim of a child sexual abuse and I know now that was why he turned to drugs. I wish we could go back in time and I could help him to see his worth. I tell him I love him now but I don’t think he can hear me. I feel like I need to explain him to everyone so they understand that he wasn’t a bad person. Yes he was an addict but he had a heart of gold and emotional pain that he just couldn’t deal with. I know he is dying and waiting for that phone call is making me feel sick.

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Dana

Posted on March 17, 2014 at 3:16 pm

Today is St. Patricks day and my brother passed away peacefully this morning. In a way I am relieved that he no longer has to lie there unable to do anything. I really miss him. So does Dad and the rest of the family. I’ve cried so much in the past couple of weeks that I don’t have many tears today.

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Eleanor

Posted on March 18, 2014 at 12:00 pm

Dana, I’m so sorry. I’m sure there is a relief to knowing he is no longer suffering, but this doesn’t diminish your grief for all the time you knew and loved him as man who was full of life. It sounds like you’ve been dealing with the reality that you were going to lose him for sometime now and that you’ve likely been experiencing Anticipatory Grief (we explain that a little here: http://whatsyourgrief.com/anticipatory-grief/) I’m sorry for your loss and I hope you can find moments of peace and relief throughout the next few weeks.

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brandi huntley

Posted on March 24, 2014 at 2:42 am

Hi there,

I am glad to have came upon this site. I have had so many questions and no answers. My story- My fiance and the love of my life passed away on 9/29/13 due to an overdose. He was taking Oxy, Xanax, and also he smoked cocaine that day, however, he did this combo for about 8 months prior to his death so I’m not sure WHY he passed away this day? He was my high school sweetheart and we had reunited 3 years prior to his death and I still cry EVERY single day and ask God WHY? I miss him beyond words and I know that I will never love again, NEVER. He was my soul mate, my everything. His family won’t speak to me now so I unfortunately do not know the autopsy results, but he passed away in my lap. I woke up (we had fell asleep in my car) and his head was in my lap and he was deceased. 🙁 I literally was screaming and crying with 911 I didn’t know what to do. He had a black secretion coming from his nose/mouth and I still have no idea what that was. I am just so upset over all this, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get over this. He was my entire WORLD. To all who have lost someone- my heart goes out to you. I feel your pain. I am now in recovery and have 61 days clean. I will NEVER use again as addiction has taken the one thing in life I loved AWAY. RIP Charles, I love you baby and I will see you again!

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Renee

Posted on March 25, 2014 at 12:02 pm

I lost my 28 year old son to overdose of oxy and xanax October 8 th. I only know my son also had a black secretion from his nose and mouth and still don’t know what that means but I can tell you the toxicology came back as acute drug intoxication. I can’t help you with how to move on as I haven’t figured that out myself. He was my life. I miss him everyday and just go through the motions. I hope knowing what your fiancés toxicology report thru my sons gives you one answer. Keep up the good work of sobriety. That is for you. God bless us all who have lost the ones we love.

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Niki

Posted on March 28, 2014 at 2:10 pm

My name is niki. I lost my step brother yesterday to a herpin o/d he has been using since a teenager and lost the fight at 40 years old, he has been in rehab 5 times and had been clean for a year. He was staying with his mother and my disabled father helping them around the house and caring for my father. They found him yesterday dead. At first I was furious that he had put my father and his wife in such a terrible place then I cried all day. I now travelling 200 miles to be with my father who is distraught he brought him up as he was a toddler when he moved in. I need some advice on how to support them

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Litsa

Posted on March 29, 2014 at 3:15 pm

Oh Niki, I am so sorry for what your family is going through. I think one of the important things to keep in mind about this kind of loss is that there can be a lot of anger, guilt, and shame. This can come out in families if one person blames another in some way, or if there was disagreement about how to interact with the person suffering from addiction when they were still alive. Anything you can do to be aware of these emotions is important. That being said, it can be tempting to say “don’t feel guilty”. That is something you want to avoid, as when people are grieving they need to come to terms with their emotions, not be made to feel that there emotion is not valid or that they need to avoid the emotion. You can find that post here: http://whatsyourgrief.com/guilt-and-grief/. In terms of just general support, anything practical and concrete that you can offer will be of huge help. This post may come in handy, as it has a lot of specific things that your father and his mother may need. http://whatsyourgrief.com/supporting-a-friend-after-a-death/ Lastly, take care of yourself. The emotions that grief brings can be overwhelming. Take it one day at a time and don’t get so focused on others that you forget about yourself. Find someone you can talk to and lean on, journal, create art, or do whatever else works for you to express your grief. We have tons of tools here on this site – hope you find them helpful. Hope you are holding up and sorry for the delay in my reply!

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Niki

Posted on March 29, 2014 at 5:24 pm

Thanks for the advice I went today and listened and listened I think his mother is still in shock. Every thing we spoke about she brought Steven into the conversation. I took her food shopping it’s the first time she had been away from the house . I offered to do it for her but she wanted to come. She was like a rabbit in headlights timid and overwhelmed. She is blaming herself for having him live with her saying if she had not asked him if he wanted to come down it wouldent if happened, I did say if he wanted to start using again he would of regardless of where he was and although his death is tragic at least he was with people who loved him and not alone in a squat of in a gutter. It seemed to sooth her but I am not sure whether it was the right thing to say, I asked them if they wanted me to visit again tomorrow before I travel home and they both said yes please. When his wife was out of the room my dad thanked me for caring and being so kind and such a good daughter and he cried. Such a catrastothic effect on all of us. I just feel at least now he is not aflictected by the toument any more and I pray he has found serenity

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Julie

Posted on March 31, 2014 at 5:36 am

I am so grateful for this blog post. I found it by googling “How to deal with a friend’s death by drug overdose”. I’m really sorry I didn’t have anyone to tell me this stuff when I was 19. Thank you. It’s been 18 years since I cried like this. I really hope we as a society can start talking about addiction and overdoses. It will save lives and help people seek treatment.

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Litsa

Posted on March 31, 2014 at 7:33 am

I couldn’t agree more about hoping society will start talking about addiction and overdose more. I am glad you found this post helpful!

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Leslie

Posted on April 1, 2014 at 2:20 pm

I am reading all of your comments and I am so sorry for all of your losses.
Yesterday, our friends accross the street son, was found dead in the bathroom after what looks like is an accidental overdose from heroin. I am sickened by what this family will have to bare for the rest of their lives. I went back over today and without realizing it, I was asking questions like, How did you want me to say he died? Or, why is this happening to so many young men? Along with other questions. I wanted to be empathetic and instead probably made things worse.
I am a child of a suicide. Much different than losing your child. I sent a short text apologizing for my insensitivity and told her we loved them. I feel sick that I may of hurt someone that is already in pain. Can someone please share with me the right thing to do.

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Litsa

Posted on April 1, 2014 at 11:55 pm

Leslie, don’t feel bad. When someone dies we all do the best we can in the moment. The fact that you are here looking for support and advice means you are a good friend, and I am sure they know that! I wish there was one easy answer to what the ‘right’ thing to do is, because the needs of each griever is so different. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer. We have two posts that I think are a good start. The first is about how you conceptualize your role when supporting a griever, and you can find that here: http://whatsyourgrief.com/grief-support-vs-comfort/. The second is a really concrete, specific post on supporting a grieving friend. You can find that one here: http://whatsyourgrief.com/supporting-a-friend-after-a-death/. I hope these are of some help. . . .

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Julie

Posted on April 2, 2014 at 9:58 am

Litsa – I’m a writer, and I’m also an individual who has lost very close friends to drugs. I would like to know what your thoughts are on my writing about those events, and helping others through telling my story. I’m not sure if it will be a cautionary tale, or just a simple entertainment piece with a lesson attached, but in this country, we do not grieve the way we should. Everything I’ve read on your blog is right from what I’ve felt with my own grief process. I do not want to bring undue harm or sadness to any of the people involved in the situation that happened to me and my group of friends after our 2 friends overdosed. But some of the same people I’m trying to protect showed me none of the same consideration when this all happened 18 years ago. One girl od’d from meth, one from heroin. The girl who overdosed on meth was pregnant. Her parents wanted someone to blame. The parents blamed us – her friends. So did the whole town. It was horrible. I’m not trying to seek vindication or retribution – I’ve forgiven everyone. I just want to help others, and I want to help heal myself through telling the story. This blog is a great resource for those who are grieving, and you are very, very knowledgable – please keep the blog up. It’s great.

PS – I would like to interview you for a story I’m working on regarding suicides by profession – a CDC report last year noted suicides by physicians, dentists and pharmacists are the top three, and I find this ironic, as they are all in the health professions – a profession you would think had better access to care and less stigma in that community toward talking about suicide or suicidal tendencies.

Please let me know how to get in touch with you via email, if possible. I’ll send you some questions.
Thanks!
Julie

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Eleanor

Posted on April 2, 2014 at 12:30 pm

Hey Julie,

I’m Litsa’s co-author so I’m authorized to speak on her behalf (just kidding….I just like to butt in) =). You can e-mail Litsa at whatsyourgrief@gmail.com. I will say, and I know Litsa will agree, all of what you’ve said here sound like constructive and meaningful ways to talk about your own experience with death and grief while at the same time help others who trying to make sense of similar experiences. You story sounds very interesting and If you send a message to the above e-mail I know Litsa will get back to you asap.

Eleanor

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Beverly

Posted on April 4, 2014 at 9:51 pm

Thank you for this information, which like you reported, is few and far between. I lost brother Tracy 10/04/13 just 16 days before his 42nd birthday. The average age of overdose is 40 in the state of KY. My family had tried for years to get my brother help with no avail.

Guilt has been a big issue for me but anger has played a bigger part of my mother’s grief. She dwells on what potential was wasted and that he has left two little boys behind with a mother who is also a drug addict. Coming from a rural eastern KY area we are no strangers to accidental prescription medication overdoses and trying to be prepared for the worst did not make it any easier.

We struggle more with fear at this point with no power or say over what happens with his children. There is no way to get my sister in law into treatment and anything we try legally may result in the loss of contact with my nephews. I have spoken to friends who are police, social workers, county attorneys for advice and all report failing systems that do not support the children in this type of situation. So, all that we feel that we can do now is support them and her in hopes for a change, knowing that this method did not save Tracy.

I am also struggling to understand a system that has lead to the situation surrounding my brothers easy access to prescription medication and his untimely death. He and his wife were arrested the day before his death and he was taken to the hospital and given an opiate blocker (unsure of the name of the drug) and instead of a 48 hour observation he was released the same night. He went home and took more Opana to get back his high and overwhelmed his body. He was then left to lay on the floor of his home eight hours after showing initial signs of overdose due to fear of legal ramifications of drug possession by his friends and wife. My sister finally found out from a distant relative. She and my brother in law rushed to his home and did CPR for forty five minutes until the ambulance arrived. He died soon after he arrived at the hospital. At the hospital it was like just another overdose and I had to push hospital officials about reporting it as an overdose and requesting a blood test. I have seen numerous accidental overdose deaths labeled as heart failure in my area and wanted my brother to be added correctly to the state recorded statistics. I had to end up making this request to the coroner.

I am far from over my grief. however, I am appreciative of your blog and your efforts to get attention drawn to this issue. It is well overdue. I am also looking for anyway that I can do on a congressional level. I made contact with the KY-ASAP State Program Coordinator for the Justice & Public Safety Cabinet-Office of Drug Control Policy but was not provided any information on how to affect drug policy. I was just asked several details concerning my brother’s ability to obtain drugs across the state line with the ability to fill the prescription a in KY? I want to know what I can do to help my community with this disaster and possibly save other families from having to suffer a loss.

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molly

Posted on April 22, 2014 at 11:45 am

Julie, I was sorry to read about you and your friends experience with being blamed for your friends death. I wanted to share with you that we lost our son to an accidental overdose last November. He had estranged himself from his entire family for over three years. In the process of trying to piece together the distorted puzzle of his demise, I reached out to many of his friends, past and present. I was not in any way seeking to blame anyone, but only trying to understand, and to see if anyone was aware of anything that might have happened that would have driven and perpetuated his addiction.
I met with so much resistance. No one wanted to talk to me about what their experiences were. I feel so alone and so disconnected with my grief. I don’t know the cause of their resistance but my sense is that they fear that they might be blamed.

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Julie

Posted on April 22, 2014 at 12:42 pm

Elanor – Thank you, and I did receive your email. I will contact Litsa at the email you provided. Molly – you and I could help each other. I would think the addiction spectrum shines far and wide on this blog. In my personal opinion, if you really want to find out the circumstances of what led to his death, you may not be able to learn everything right away. From my experience, my own conscience got in the way of my learning exactly what happened to my friends – I blamed myself so heavily that I didn’t think there could be a simple explanation that had nothing to do with me, for years. 18 years, to be exact. This blog is such a good way of learning what the professionals won’t or can’t tell you. Don’t let your grief get in the way of your brain – I mean, let science do as much as possible, and let your emotions do their jobs, and don’t be afraid to make some admissions about yourself in the process. I hope that makes sense.

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Litsa

Posted on April 22, 2014 at 8:28 pm

I think it is hard for people to imagine that someone could be seeking information without seeking blame in any tragic situation. I am sorry you didn’t find what you were looking for. It may be with time that people will begin to share. I will say, from working with many people in similar situations, that often even with all the information possible, it still doesn’t bring the ‘closure’ or understanding that people are looking for. I am not sure how you framed your questions to his friends, but it could be helpful just to ask people if they have photos they would be willing to share with you, or good memories of him from the time you were estranged. This may build some trust that you are truly just trying to get to know who your son was in that time that you didn’t have contact with him. Doing this may be hard, as it is hard not to want to ask questions about the addiction, but if you can start with focusing on gathering photos and memories, with time it may build trust to discuss other things. The sad reality of addiction is that it doesn’t take much to ‘drive and perpetuate’ it. We often want to find a ‘why’ for addiction, when sometimes there is no ‘why’. I am so sorry you are feeling so alone – have you considered seeking a support group?

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Kristi

Posted on April 24, 2014 at 4:22 pm

I lost my husband of 10 years two weeks ago to heroine. I have so many mixed emotions right now it is hard to process everything. I know I have a long road ahead for both me and my girls.

It was nice to find this page and read others stories, gives me the sense of not being alone. I tried for two years to save my husband. Finally in February of this year he made the choice to detox and do a 5 week inpatient program. He came home on March 31. While I was nervous for him, he was so positive and learned so many tools for coping with his addiction. I was supportive and encouraging, telling him that this was a fresh start only to lose him on April 10.

Addiction has no prejudice, it happens to all walks of life. We need to be supportive and help those in need and avoid being judgmental. I hope one day soon that treatment is more readily available to those in need.

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Dave's Widow

Posted on May 28, 2014 at 6:49 am

You get it. That’s the first thing that came to mind….you truly, 100% GET IT and put it in print.

My beloved husband ended his life via overdose. He’d refused to take Ambien for his insomnia – he was a pharmaceutical chemist and a retail pharmacist who knew that brand new drug could potentially be horribly addictive. Eventually, our MD convinced him to go on Prozac, which did help the insomnia. He tossed the remaining pills once sleep was back to normal. Didn’t know in 1998 to never go off anti-depressants cold turkey. He did, and mentally/emotionally was NEVER my beloved husband again. He turned into a complete stranger. A few months later, he died from an overdose.

The shame, the stigma were crushing. I put in his obit that memorial donations could be made to the Mental Health Assn., yet my mom even said, “Are you sure you want to do that??”. I replied, “YES!!! THE STIGMA NEEDS TO END!”

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Doretta Johnson

Posted on May 31, 2014 at 4:08 pm

I am pretty sure I know the answer, but I have to ask the question. If not here, where?

How many parents who have lost children to overdoses started their anti-drug education when the child was a toddler? (Technically mine started in infancy with application and withdrawl of stressors at increasingly longer intervals.)

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Tiffany

Posted on June 12, 2014 at 9:58 am

I have read so many stories and found so much research on parents dealing with the grief of losing their child to overdose, and that breaks my heart… However, I didn’t find anything on the topic I was looking for… Mabye someone could help.
I was friends with this lady a while back and we lived together for a while as roommates too.. I helped with her children all the time and I eventually realized she was an addict. She would disappear days on end, never bought food for her young children… Etc. I ended up the primary caretaker of all three. Her and I started fighting a lot and I moved out. Then she gave the kids away to their dads. I’ve seen them a lot over the past couple years (the kids) and have taken them on outings and things.
Last night I got a phone call from one of the fathers that the mother had died of an overdose… The father did not tell them last night as it was the middle of the night and he allowed them to go ahead to their last day of school before summer break. They had been looking forward to this last day for quite some time…
When they get home, he has asked me to come help break the news since I was close to them… But how do you break that kind of news to a 10 year old and an 7 year old? And I know they will ask how she died, do you tell them she overdosed? I’m at a loss for ideas on this one! Any ideas would be greatly appreciated!

(Let me apologize for any grammatical errors as I am typing this on my phone and typing quickly before work, so please excuse me!)

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Sherry Wellmer

Posted on July 19, 2014 at 7:52 pm

I just spent a few minutes re-reading these posts on drug overdose/addiction. It will be 10 months next week that my son, Richard, died from an overdose of heroin, cocaine and Xanax (actually the active chemical in the drug) at 18 years old. It has been a heart-wrenching time for my family and I, still struggling with the “whys” and “what could we have done.” I miss Richard with all my heart. It seems I read of young people dying from heroine overdoses at least once a week . It saddens me that these lives ended way too soon. I keep hearing about how some people just have addictive personalities, and maybe Richard did and I just didn’t know it. He was a quiet, gifted young man, but kept his emotions to himself. I don’t know if that’s because of the drugs or a reason why he turned to them. Anyway, I think of all of you on this site that have lost children, family or friends to this horrible disease. I wish there was an answer for all of us.

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Eleanor

Posted on July 20, 2014 at 2:58 pm

Sherry,

Thank you for your message. I wish there was an answer as well…I guess everyone does. I’m so sorry about the death of Richard. I know your heart must ache for him every day.

Eleanor

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Sherry Wellmer

Posted on July 20, 2014 at 4:07 pm

Thank you, Eleanor. Yes, it has been a very hard time. My world was shattered when Richard died, and I have spent the past 10 months trying to understand why. None of his friends have admitted to anything. They just said they all smoked pot and “experimented” with painkillers. That’s where I think it all started. The detective told me kids start with prescription pain meds they buy on the street, but they are too expensive and that’s why they end up doing heroine and cocaine. Heroine in this part of Ohio is only $3.00 a bag, which is a lot cheaper than $80.00 for a Percocet. Anyway, it is a terrible thing but I do find some respite when I know other’s can understand my pain.

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Linda

Posted on July 22, 2014 at 7:18 pm

I lost my 34 year old son to a heroin overdose last July.It’s been a year but feels like it happened yesterday. There has not been a day that goes by that I don’t cry. I miss him so much. I am in a support group and that helps. I have come to the realization that I couldn’t have saved him. I tried for so long but he wouldn’t or couldn’t give up the drugs.I wish every day this could have ended differently. I love Jake.

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Linda

Posted on July 23, 2014 at 12:37 pm

Sherry, I know the pain your feeling.When I think about my son I can actually feel a pain in my heart. I think you got to look forward because it’s to painful to look back.

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Khristi Stump

Posted on August 13, 2014 at 9:58 pm

I don’t know where to begin, so I’ll begin with the day he died and part of me died with him. It was a Friday night at 9 pm on March 14 2014. I knew about his heroin addiction. This demon plagued him for 7 years. In and out of jail, rehab, and methadone clinics. He lost his job, his home and his beloved children. I have had custody of them for 5 yards now. I can b early cope some days I think the pain will just envelope me. Sometimes it’s so hard to find the light through the what seems like endless darkness. Yesterday while at the grocery store, the older women in line with me started telling meveryone how she had lost her son. I usually don’t talk about it but for some reason I told her that my son had recently passed away also. She looks at me and said “What did he have?” I said “A heroin addiction.” She literally turned her back to me in silence! I felt so ashamed, so embarrassed and hurt. Tears rolling down my cheeks I quickly paid and left. Once in my car this rage and anger began to swell inside me like a volcano! How dare she treat me like I was a horrible person or a terrible mother! My son wasn’t just a junkie. He was a son a father, a friend and a good person with a heart of gold. But most of all…he was loved! My son was Nicholas Sean Able and I loved him no matter what he had done! I dreamed of him. In my dream he was still my little boy. We walked on the beach, his tiny hand in mine. I looked down at the sand and saw his little footprints along side my own and kissed his beautiful face. My boy…Nicholas Sean Able. 11-16-80 3-14-2014

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Fuck Off and Get Off the Planet

Posted on August 14, 2014 at 12:38 am

Drug Addiction = Borderline/Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Drugs are a lame excuse for being born a demon. Fuck all of them, get them off the planet! Do yourself a favor and stop giving a crap!

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Litsa

Posted on August 14, 2014 at 1:17 am

FOAGOTP, though my initial inclination was to delete your comment, we hate to delete comments around here unless it is promoting the work of spellcasters. You are absolutely entitled to your feelings about those struggling with addiction. I have similar feelings about those who leave thoughtless, uneducated and offensive comments on the internet using fake names and email addresses, especially on sites for those grieving the death of a loved one.

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Tasha

Posted on August 15, 2014 at 12:17 am

Hi. My name is Tasha. Three years ago my little sister died of an accidental heroin overdose. She was 20, her name is Breanna and she was my rock. I thought at the time I had handled it will but I am starting to learn that I have never really dealt with her death and it’s finally taking a toll. My sister was my best friend and we were really close. She was always there when I needed her no matter the time or the reason. I used to pick on her reminding her that I was the big sister not her. She struggled with addiction for several years before she finally lost her battle. No one understands the sadness and the empty part of me that is left. For years I have struggled with the questions always pushing them to a back burner in order to get through the next day but I can’t do it anymore. There is very little material out there that deals with overdoses and even less with the death of a sibling. Thank you so much for this article. As I finally claw my way to whatever peace I can make I know there are people out there that understand and that means a lot

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Litsa

Posted on August 17, 2014 at 4:49 pm

Tasha, I am so sorry about the death of your sister. It isn’t uncommon for people to experience ‘delayed grief’, which is just what it sounds like – not grieving a death right away. It can occur for many reasons. It is great that you have been able to recognize the signs that you didn’t deal with the loss at the time and need to begin grieving the loss now. Many people don’t recognize the symptoms of delayed grief when it arises, so they are left feeling totally confused! I am glad this article was a help to you. We have tons of ideas here for coping with grief — from journaling, to art, to photography, to how to connect with the right therapist. We hope you will find resources here that help you. Please know we’re here if you have any questions or need anything!

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Bonnie

Posted on August 29, 2014 at 10:43 am

I am so glad I found this sight.. The lose of my nephew was different somehow I realized I was having such different emotions than when other loved ones had passed away. That is because on 8-3-14 my nephew who had just turned 29 overdosed and was found by his girlfriend after a Fentanyl overdose. We had no idea he had started using again he had just gotten out of prison two weeks before so we didn’t even find out it was a overdose until 8-21 from the death certificate. Needless to say I am heartbroken and all those emotions guilt,blame,shame and of anger. He had been in prison since he was 17 he had maybe a year and a half of freedom in 2011 and 2012. And somehow he was introduced to Heroin as soon as I found out he was using I lost it and it brought me to my knees. There are only two people I know that have used and still use Heroin that are still alive. And Fentanyl OMG what a dangerous drug to abuse!!! I am so surprised that there are not more overdoses on this sight with this drug it could be 100 times stronger than morphine. That is really scary! Addiction is so terrible everything was going so good for him he had chances he never had before. And a Awesome girlfriend that waited him. It is just so sad.

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Julie

Posted on September 2, 2014 at 6:49 pm

Hi, my name is Julie. Alanon. Been to a few. My son Matt just passed 2 months ago. July 1, 2014 at 27. He would have been 28 August 6. Matt had it all, looks, body, intelligent, personality like no other, but… he was ill. He was born with a brain disease called Addiction. It ignited fiercly after he had surgery at 14 and took pain meds. Although, it was calling his name before that. Nothing he didn’t do or try. Addiction is a progressive disease. It is relentless. Cancer aint got nothing on this. I have so much to say that my 56 year old fingers would freeze up typing. I been studying the disease when I realized, at 14, something was off with Matt. The last 14 years have been living hell for him and his family. He was in jail 17 times. Rehab, lock down rehab, you name it. He always completed because he knew at the end what was waiting. The anticipation was part of completing the program. I spent 2 years in another state with him living in an apartment. Trying to save him but knowing I could not. It was living a documentary. He talked about his disease, when he could, very candidly. He hated it. Hated having it. He had just gotten out of another half-way house 4 days before he died. I miss him every single minute, but, he is free of his suffering with this demon. He did not want to spend the rest of his life in prison for a disease. He told me this. He knew what he was dealing with. I would rather he be free and without suffering than imprisoned, mentally or physically. He has given us signs that he is a free bird. Finally.

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Sherry

Posted on September 2, 2014 at 8:45 pm

Julie, That was the most realistic story of addiction I have ever read. Although it was also, sad, you painted a very real picture. My son, Richard, died of a heroin/cocaine overdose last year when he was 18. He was a gifted, quiet, caring young man full of potential, but for some reason, he got into prescription pain medication his senior year of high school, which eventually led to heroin. I knew nothing about the heroin or the pain medication until after he died, but I know that, in time, his addiction would have certainly reared its ugly head and I would have been dealing with much of what you had to. I miss Richard with all of my heart and have pretty much cried every day for the 331 that he has been gone. I have learned so much about addiction since then and just wanted to tell you how much I appreciate your story. I am so very sorry you are suffering with the loss of your son, and understand the pain you are feeling. God Bless…

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Suzy

Posted on April 7, 2016 at 4:28 pm

Julie
On January 22, 2016 my son Kevin overdosed on Heroin. On that day, in my daily bread reader that I keep on my nightstand the title was A Prisoner No More…I feel God was telling me the truth…still the pain is unbearable at times

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Claire

Posted on September 3, 2014 at 8:51 am

I’m glad to have found this site. My ex-husband and friend of 30+ years passed away this May of an overdose of the drug fentynyl. It is a medication they give cancer patients for pain. People who are addicted to other drugs, pain meds, heroin, etc., often use this for a “better high.” I learned that dealers also lace heroin with it for a more powerful sale to keep their customers coming back for more.

I had no idea that he was using this drug, but I was aware of his addiction issues. Before I married him, he had a terrible addiction to cocaine, but overcame that and was sober for a couple of years before we started dating. He remained that way through our engagement and marriage until he had an injury and was prescribed pain medications. He became addicted to a few different ones over a few years. I talked to him about the affect it had on our relationship, and he sought counseling and actually got off them only to become addicted to another a short time later. I spoke to his doctors and tried everything possible to help him get help. It didn’t help that he was out of work on disability because he had entirely too much time on his hands to use and have few responsibilities to keep him afloat, or at least a part of the family and part of society. We had two children in the midst of these years and I run my own business. He promised to care for the children while I worked, and I was very open to the idea of Mr. Mom, though he couldn’t achieve success at that role because he often couldn’t get out of bed. The lethargy and fogginess of taking so much pain medication made him irritable and constantly tired, and I believe even messed up his own ability to discern the real chronic pain he suffered from.

Finally, after a few years of living this way, and with a lack of motivation on his part to make a very big change as far as the drugs and his work life were concerned, I made the most difficult decision of my life: to ask for a separation. He was surprised and angry. He asked if there was anything he could do. I told him I’d been talking to him for years about the same issues and I realized I couldn’t make him change. I could though make a decision about my own life. And that was that I didn’t want to spend the rest of our lives making him feel bad or being resentful of him. I loved him too much. So we cried and parted ways, and ventured into a horrible period of the divorce process, where people pit you against each other and there’s all sorts of stress and stuff to contend with. Add to that his using turned from pain meds to street drugs, and it was a rollercoaster. He often didn’t show up to see our children and they were just little ones. It was heartbreaking for me, and for them. We each became involved with other partners, and unfortunately, I later learned that his had suffered from a Xanax addition when he came into the picture. I think it was like a tornado when they got together because both had issues to start with. It went from bad to worse, and he tested positive for cocaine for a year in family court, but due to privacy issues, the court wouldn’t tell me. They’d just say I had to use my judgement and not give the kids to him if I thought he was high. Nothing like putting the pressure on even more.

Well this all went on for years, but in between his bouts of anger with me, we were still friends. I always told him I’d help him and that I was really concerned about him. He denied everything until one day he fessed up and cried to me about his lifestyle, and I assured him I’d never use it against him, but wanted to help him get well. At this point, I remarried and my husband was even supportive of this plan. He got better for a while, but as all drug addicts families know, it’s a rollercoaster on again/off again thing.

I never lost hope for him, right up until his death. Very sadly, I lost one of my best friends in October last year. Then my ex-husband’s girlfriend died. I was friendly with her also, and believe she was trying to reach out to me for help just a month before she passed. She OD’d also. After that, my ex’s family stepped in (finally) and arranged an intervention. He went away, but he was grieving the loss of his girlfriend and said the place he was at was filthy and awful. No one had checked it out in advance so I believed him (and still do). He came home and his family wrote him off. My husband and I and one of his friends helped him get through a few weeks of winter while we searched for a drug rehab program that he could go to as an inpatient. There are so many limitations due to insurance requirements. Because it was winter, we were also afraid for his life because he was homeless. Couldn’t even get him into a shelter.

All the while I kept his family posted on his well being, even though they wanted no part of him and made it very clear. I assumed, as a parent myself, that his parents and siblings would sleep better at night knowing he was alive and fed with a roof over his head. Finally, I convinced them that he truly did want rehab and at the ‘nth hour, they stepped back in and joined us in getting him into another rehab out-of-state where he stayed for 45 days. I spoke to him routinely while he was there, and we had some really good talks. Even though we’d been through so much in our relationship, we loved each other very much and were devoted to one another as the closest of friends. I never actually stopped loving him, which made all these decisions that much harder. Loving someone and having to end your marriage due to these issues is a very complicated and difficult place to be.

He came home and was well. It was so great to see him healthy and happy, and peaceful. But that was short lived. He had all kinds of challenges, from financial debt, to finding an apartment, to dealing with the loss of his girlfriend, and the judgements of many people. We were able to spend some good quality time with him, and for those weeks, I am forever grateful.

He was waiting to move into an apartment so his family finally agreed to let him stay with them for a week or two and that’s where he died. The week before his death, I became concerned because I noticed some of his old addiction behaviors – not showing up on time to see the kids, etc. He avoided me when he was using because he knew I’d know. He avoided me for a few days during which, I later learned, that he had a car accident and spent a night in the hospital with low blood pressure. He died a few days later on the couch in his family’s home.

Fortunately, my kids and I and my husband were able to attend the services. They told us the medical examiner thought it was a heart attack or a blood clot. I’m sure they knew more than what they told me after hearing some stories about things that were going on that I was unaware of. The niceness was short lived, however. Suddenly, it was all about whatever death benefits he had – his family seems to think they were entitled to these above and beyond his kids. We had words about that and they have since made me the target of all of their anger about the whole situation. They have actually told me that I am the reason he turned to drugs. I offered to put a headstone at his grave (since the family was complaining about the costs for the funeral and there’s no headstone there yet), and the reaction was hate-filled words of blame and anger and bitterness. These people don’t even care about their son’s children! I’m so hurt and we are all so grief-stricken still. I have compassion for them because I understand there’s so much grief and mixed emotions, but there has been zero compassion for me or my children who really loved this man beyond belief.

I have no regrets about never giving up on him and I also don’t feel angry at him for his relapse. I don’t think it would be realistic to assume that one would be fully “cured” and recovered after only 45 days of rehab, and a few weeks back home, with all the reminders and temptations.

I’ll never forget the goodness in this man – he was a wonderful human being who I spent many happy years with and no matter what these people say, they can never take that away from me, or the love we shared. RIP JS. I miss you terribly and will never get past the pain of losing you. I can only hope that each day gets a little easier and that we will someday meet again. Watch over us.

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Litsa

Posted on September 10, 2014 at 10:00 pm

Claire, I am so sorry for your loss and that the situation with his family has become so painful and complicated. Even without the complicating factors of addiction, death can bring out the worst in families. When overdose and addiction become part of the picture, worst can become even worse! We have another post that you may find helpful here: http://www.whatsyourgrief.com/family-fighting-after-a-death/

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chuck mumah

Posted on September 8, 2014 at 8:47 pm

i live in powder springs ga. we lost our son to heroin addiction auguust 1. my wife is really having a hard time with it all with blame.shame. you name it. She asked me for help in finding some meeting or something to help her cope. can you help ? i miss my son herribly but it is tearing her up, and I do not know what to do.

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Litsa

Posted on September 8, 2014 at 9:09 pm

Chuck, I am so sorry about the loss of your son. Please know that the feelings she is coping with are completely normal amd are some of the most common emotions after an overdose loss. Please take a look at part II of this post, if you haven’t already, for some suggestions and resources http://www.whatsyourgrief.com/grief-of-an-overdose-death-part-2/. I am not sure where in GA Powder Springs is, but GRASP has two chapters that meet in Georgia. Their info is:

Athens Area GRASP Chapter
Krista Reed
706-248-7715
grasp_athens@yahoo.com
First meeting Sunday, July 8th, 2PM
Please call to pre-register

Newnan area GRASP Chapter
Patricia Rudd
770-301-3990
ruddpr@gmail.com
Please call or email for pre-registration

GRASP is a support group specifically for those who have lost someone to overdose. She may also want to consider meeting one on one with a grief counselor to help her with coping and working through some of her guilt, blame, shame, etc. If you call a local hospice they may either have a counselor or be able to recommend one. She may also find some ideas and resources on our site for all types of coping, from journaling to photography, to finding ways to memorialize and remember. Hope this is at least a place to start.

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Warren

Posted on September 13, 2014 at 5:43 pm

Hi my name is warren, from South Africa my son Dean died from a herion overdose on 31 May 2014. I also found this site by a random google search. It has been like reading an extract from my life and the daily torment Dean had to go through every day. The sad part is that most of our stories are so much alike, the struggles we had with our loved ones and the burden and guilt we carried with trying to help them and protect them yet we were powerless in preventing there overdose. To find a site like this after Deans death is helpfull but also frustrating, but I guess I knew a lot of the facts posted here and I could not have ever prevented deans death. He was in rehab more than ten times and staying at a halfway house when he overdosed. Our relationship was strained from all the past torment that had happened, stealing lying etc, but he tried every day to live one day at a time. People will never understand the helplessness of a parent who sees there boy being a herion addict, ” friends ” said show him tough love but now he” s gone what can they say. The guilt shame and pure hurt I live with every day is so painfull but I know with that pain he does not need to fight that daily battle he lived with every day of his life. I will never understand the battle he fought every hour of every day but one hope to come to terms with the grief. It is so true the loss of a child is never something you get over but a new way of living your life RIP my boy

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Warren

Posted on September 13, 2014 at 5:44 pm

Hi my name is warren, from South Africa my son Dean died from a herion overdose on 31 May 2014. I also found this site by a random google search. It has been like reading an extract from my life and the daily torment Dean had to go through every day. The sad part is that most of our stories are so much alike, the struggles we had with our loved ones and the burden and guilt we carried with trying to help them and protect them yet we were powerless in preventing there overdose. To find a site like this after Deans death is helpfull but also frustrating, but I guess I knew a lot of the facts posted here and I could not have ever prevented deans death. He was in rehab more than ten times and staying at a halfway house when he overdosed. Our relationship was strained from all the past torment that had happened, stealing lying etc, but he tried every day to live one day at a time. People will never understand the helplessness of a parent who sees there boy being a herion addict, ” friends ” said show him tough love but now he” s gone what can they say. The guilt shame and pure hurt I live with every day is so painfull but I know with that pain he does not need to fight that daily battle he lived with every day of his life. I will never understand the battle he fought every hour of every day but one hope to come to terms with the grief. It is so true the loss of a child is never something you get over but a new way of living your life RIP my boy.

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Harry & Gina

Posted on October 19, 2014 at 2:17 pm

I don’t know where to start. We red all the postings and cried. We lost our 19 year old Son last Friday what appears to be a drug addiction/over dose. This is so hard… My wife and I trying to make some sense out of this but can’t. We tried placing him to rehab, he kept swearing that he is no longer doing drugs, I don’t know why we believed him. I feel we could have saved him and failed to do.

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Nancy Trense

Posted on November 3, 2014 at 12:31 am

My 46 year old son died of an overdose of meth, ate a fentanyl patch, percocets. He was a chain smoker and had blood clot surgery. His body was a mess. He was a handsome, talented personal trainer, gracious, funny and intelligent, but he was an addict. He went to a boys home at 14 after his father and I divorced. I always wanted to blame his father for teaching him about drugs and myself for being a perfectionist and saying some things that were not nice. But I went to Alanon, and I learned better behavior when he was 20. He met a lady 42 years old who was an alcoholic. They would drink and fight and he would go to jail. He was in a bad car accident and became addicted to pain pills. He came to California and worked as a personal trainer and met a lady who had a lot of prescriptions. He was in pain from bodybuilding and the accident, and then learned about meth and it’s hightening sex. He told me about it.
I got a call November 7, 2012 that he ha passed. I was so depressed, but got help from Hospice and Kaiser. It will be two years, and I have finally realized that he alone made his choices, and he was responsible for his death. I want to beat myself up for giving birth to a person that could act like a monster at times – and yet he was the sweetest child and when sober we had so much fun and got along. It is the biggest mess this drug thing, and it is an epidemic. My bio father was an alcoholic, and his father was a compulsive gambler who got into drugs too. I don’t know – it’s genetic and a personal choice. I had a rough time as a young girl, but turned out OK and had a successful life. It’s like someone who chooses to be a police officer and gets killed – it’s a choice that has been made by that person to take risks. This site is awesome and helped me a lot since it’s close to the anniversary of his death. I did the best I could as a 20 year old mom who worked, kept a clean house, loved him so much, and we got along. It’s a disease that is fatal without abstinence and a psychic change by AA and rehab.

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Joanne

Posted on November 7, 2014 at 12:58 pm

My only child & son died of alcohol and heroin overdose three weeks ago. He was 31 yrs. old. A brilliant , extremely handsome young man. He began drugs and alcohol when he as 12 yrs old. I have been going to Alanon for the past 6 yrs to learn about the disease of brain chemistry and my part in it. I am blessed to have really got the three C’s , I didn’t cause it, I can’t control it and I can’t cure it. I have been watching his struggle, torment, torture and the evil of this baffling, cunning, insidious disease for a long time. He has left a beautiful wife, 3 yr old girl and another one on the way. I just want to say thank you for this site. I was wondering today if he suffered or felt pain when he died? I have a lot of work to do now with so many emotions and the rollercoaster ride of the loss of an incredible awesome man. He had just finished an aviation program and was hired at a prestigious aviation company in a large city. His dream come true. He had been clean from heroin and meth for a couple of months…. so after drinking probably thought “just one more slam”….. Does anybody know if there are counselors just for us survivors of drug overdose deaths? God Bless You and my heart aches for all of the survivors of this dreadful evil disease.

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Sherry

Posted on November 7, 2014 at 1:30 pm

Joanne – First of all I am so sorry about your son. It just seems so terrible that we are on this site( I am on others as well) that relay how beautiful souls first make a decision to use these drugs and then, before they even know what has happened, they become different people, no longer fulfilling their life dreams but just trying to beat the demon of addiction. My son, Richard, was only 18 when he died of a heroin/cocaine overdose. I never knew he was using these drugs. He put on a very good façade for me, being the “good son”, going to college, working, helping out at home. I was aware that he was smoking marijuana occasionally, but that was it. Richard was an honor student and athlete, and very loved by his family. He was the light of our lives. I don’t think I will ever understand this disease but am learning more and more every day. I do think there is an addictive gene that runs in the family and that probably contributed to Richard’s use. I do know from his text messages that he started using prescription pain medications that he bought off friends or dealers, and evidently this escalated to cocaine and then heroin use the past couple of months before he died. Joanne I appreciate you sharing the “3 Cs”, as that is really a good mantra to remember. I still harbor guilt over not knowing about this and not saving his life. I don’t know if I will ever get past that. Hugs to you all.

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Emily S

Posted on November 7, 2014 at 11:16 pm

Drugs are something that have been an obvious influence in my life for as long as I can remember. My father had been addicted since he was a teen. Memorial day weekend 2014 I lost my cousin who was like a brother to a fetanyl laced heroin overdose. Its only been a few months… I still cry about losing him. i still get angry. But, about a week ago my dad overdosed on fetanyl. TH he only way i;ve been able to really deal with it is by playing pool (our favorie game) and looking through old pictures off good memories. Don’t focus on the addict focus on the good person that they were.

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Suzy

Posted on April 8, 2016 at 4:19 pm

working through the grief is hard but necessary to heal…I have been seeing a grief counselor and I attend a grief support group

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Donna Lungo

Posted on November 16, 2014 at 8:15 pm

Thank you all for sharing your stories of pain and loss of your sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, cousins and FRIENDS! My only sister died on October 25th 2014 from a heroin overdose. She was 50. The wound is still fresh and the pain excruciating at times…This site is helping me and I agree with the stigma and shame associated with losing a loved one by an overdose..I was worried what others would think when I shared her cause of death…how absurd! She didn’t want this disease! We need to stop the stigma.

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Faye

Posted on November 29, 2014 at 9:08 am

My husband (35) passed away a month ago to a drug overdose. I don’t want to see the coroner’s report so I don’t know what he took. It doesn’t matter. He was an addict and now he is free from his pain. But I miss him so much. He was the love of my life. Now I’m a single mom. He was highly functioning so people had no idea. He had a good job but was also a workaholic. He was funny and smart and kind hearted. It’s so unfair.

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Jenna

Posted on January 14, 2015 at 4:25 am

My partner died of an overdose. I don’t have the toxicology report, but his parents must have it by now and I don’t know if they will ever tell me what it said. He was 34 years old. I often thought about him dying because I lived in fear just about everyday, that his addiction to alcohol and drugs would kill him. I tried to warn his parents many times that he might die, and the last letter I wrote them went unanswered. I wasn’t surprised because I had a feeling they were sick of hearing about my concerns and their son’s dangerous and terrible behavior. It’s a long complicated story and I don’t blame them for his death, I just wish they had been more willing to talk with me and not enable him in any way. I enabled him in my own ways in the beginning of our relationship, but I had stopped when I did research and realized I was only helping him kill himself by living in any amount of denial with him. This pain I feel is unbearable and I replay so many memories in my head everyday and night. I go to therapy and al-anon meetings to help me cope. There are many unhealthy people in some of those groups, but also some people who just want to cope and not enable their loved ones anymore. I love to listen to others stories and sometime I share. So many people are affected by this disease…it seems to affect us (loved ones) almost as much as the addict himself. I feel so much pain thinking about how much my boyfriend suffered inside everyday….He fought a battle most of his time spent on this earth. I knew that and therefore felt compassion for the man I love. I knew how much he wanted to not use or drink, but I also knew he wasn’t fully invested in his recovery. It is one of the gut-wrenching feeling to think your loved one is going to die and not being able to stop it. Other than encouraging treatment, therapy and having conditions/boundaries. I did all of that and still lost him. I used to stare at him while he was asleep sometimes, and morbidly imagine what he would look like dead…how I would feel knowing he was gone from his lifeless body. He looked so peaceful and I would wish he could always feel so safe, comforted and at peace…instead of suffering with his demons of substance addiction. I knew I couldn’t fathom how it feels to suffer in that way. I didn’t want to give up on the person I love just because of this terrible disease he had…but I knew I couldn’t go on living in hell right along with him, dragging me down. I told him all this and much more. We would talk for hours in person and on the phone about his addiction, our potential future and love for each other. He like most addicts, was extremely manipulative to get his way, and when he didn’t their was hell to pay. I was always his target of choice because he felt safest with me. It’s was easy for him to take out all his self-hatred and anger out on the woman he knew he could always return to. Addicts hurt the ones who know the very best and worst of them. For him, that was me. He told me deep-dark-secrets. He felt comfortable confiding in me things he had never felt comfortable sharing with anyone. I listened and was there for him. I miss him as much a as a person can possibly be missed. I can’t say I loved him unconditionally, because I did set conditions and boundaries for our relationship….but this was because of how much I love him and wanted us to be together forever, as well manage his disease. You can’t have a healthy relationship with anyone, especially a romantic relationship without boundaries. He was finally getting help, but he wasn’t invested enough to stop using and drinking. His parents told my mom and I how good he was doing…but I knew this just wasn’t true. I had a few conversations with him while he was drunk on the phone in the couple of months before his death. Also, he had at least one withdrawal shortly before his death, and I had a strong feeling he was using or about to use. He treated me horribly before he died and I knew he wouldn’t be behaving that way if he was really sober and working the steps. Sure, there might be some anger and mood swings are a definite in these situations, but the level of irrational anger he had towards me showed me that he wasn’t anywhere near recovery. He half-assed it and even picked a sponsor who didn’t seem very responsible or involved. I had a feeling he picked the guy because of these facts and he knew this sponsor wouldn’t be “hard on him”. That to me is a clear sign of an addict not really wanting recovery enough to do everything to accomplish being in recovery. Everyday is a struggle and seems impossible to get through. I feel your pain and hope that the stigma and shame attached to this disease will get better. I don’t feel ashamed my boyfriend had this disease. I did lose some respect for some of his dangerous choices that endangered himself, me, and others at times….but this is not what he wanted and I know that no child wants to grow up to be an addict. It is not a choice…but managing the disease is a choice….Sadly most addicts aren’t able to do this and suffer their entire lives.

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Kara

Posted on January 18, 2015 at 10:42 am

Yesterday was the funeral of a friend of mine who died from an accidental overdose. He was 24. I only knew him for a little over a year but we had an on-again, off-again intimate relationship during that time. I didn’t see him the last 4 months of his life because he was in a program and then in jail for violating probation as the addiction worsened. I was told the morning he was found in his room dead. I was shocked. I had no words. In the week leading up to his funeral, I met his sister that he always talked about, and eventually the family. I attended the funeral but I didn’t know anyone so I felt out of place, like my grief was petty compared to the people that knew him his whole life or spent many more days with him than I. It was a sad service and I was saddened more than I thought I’d be but I had no one to share my grief with. I just left feeling alone and confused by my strong feelings for someone I had just gotten to know and had a brief year fling with.

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nellie

Posted on February 8, 2015 at 2:45 pm

My first bff and big brother passed away a year ago, on Feb.28. It has been extremely, yet necessary to have gone through the emotions of his passing. BC its complex and deep rooted. He was an openly two spirited man. He was the oldest of many half siblings. I was the fortunate flood blooded sister. He was genuine, outgoing, a very hard worker, a big teaser, sometimes stern family man. I believe he started using as a coping consequence from becoming HIV pos. I moved away from the core of my fam and he was upset with me. I didn’t know why. He then isolated himself and moved away from the core also. The thing that plagued us was the overwhelming historical trauma we fought out, together(by being together), that was embedded into our family, three generations deep. For 5years we didn’t know each other, and family never brought us back to together. I suspected he was infected, but by the time I suspected, our parents did not do anything. That was just how they were. Historical trauma didn’t force them to be dramatically different then their upbring, unlike my brother and I. So I yearned for my brother, I was upset our ‘rents weren’t proactive. I have been on a journey the remorse the guilt, the imprint of him saving me as young kid in depression. But I know he knows my truth with him, that he will always be the most couragous and strong family I have ever had. Thanks for letting me share.

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Lolita

Posted on February 15, 2015 at 11:11 pm

I do not want judgement. But I need to tell someone out there in anonymity as I am so so ashamed. My partner of 11 years and the father of my 9 year old son died just a week ago. The autopsy indicated his heart was good, no stroke or attack. No aneurysm. The tox report is not in yet-but he struggled with addiction all his life. He was a hardcore user – injecting heroin, crack and powder cocaine. He had been up the night before on crack but I saw him in the morning making breakfast for our son. I went back to bed. Later I heard a weird thud but just sounded like somebody dropped something. My son made some comment like “Daddy is destroying the bathroom” but jokingly. I thought nothing of it and fell back sleep and an hour or so later my son comes to my room again and says daddy won’t answer the door, I gotta go the bathroom. I yelled and yelled, heard water running -finally I had to kick it in. He was laying face down, he had vomited recently eaten food but there was also a brownish red liquid around that. There was some blood on the floor, and blood on his nose, nothing copious. I tried to wake him, thankfully our son did not see him. I was trying to move him, there was NO drug para anywhere – I would have known and there was nothing, no indication he had just shot up, nada. The emts came and they told me he’d been dead for awhile – probably very suddenly. It haunts me that I heard him fall – I just can’t get over it. The worst part? I too am a hardcore addict. We had been clean a few months and had just relapsed 2 days before. I do the same stuff-but was doing injection of crack. My drug addiction has been hardcore for about 10 years. BUT i have been using since two days after his death- every day. Everytime I am terrified I will die but I can’t stop. IT seems like the only way I can cope. I am too ashamed to admit it, I am in the process of moving as we were being evicted, so I can’t just check into some rehab or psych ward I have to take care of my boy. Don’t lecture about how I need to be there for my son, and that I have to find another way to cope, I KNOW all this. But I can’t understand myself all I can think is I am doing it because there is a part of me that wants to die? I love my son more than life itself, despite my actions. His father made our life very difficult with his moods, bipolar, addiction, etc. but still it has shattered me. Tell me someone else has reacted this way. It should be the biggest wake up call of my existence. I just don’t want to feel like I am just the worst piece of shit in the world-I just can’t seem to stop

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Litsa

Posted on February 16, 2015 at 2:41 am

Lolita, I am so sorry for the loss of your partner. There is no judgement here and please know your reaction is normal. When the worst things in life happen to us one of the most common reactions is to avoid the deep and unimaginable pain, and using is often the easiest way to do this. I know many people can’t understand why losing someone to OD isn’t enough to stop using, but unfortunately addiction is a lot more complicated than that. It isn’t about scared straight or willpower or wanting it enough. Those things are a place to start, but it is then about treatment and support. I know you feel like you can’t check into a rehab because of your son, but I would encourage to look into your options. There is an article here about going to rehab when you have kids. https://valleyhope.org/who-will-care-for-my-children-during-drug-rehab/. Though in the short term figuring out options for your son while you are in treatment will be hard, in the long term it is going to help you be a better mother to him- something that will be worth it for both of you. The best way you can take care of your son is to start by taking care of yourself!! (We have a post about that here: http://www.whatsyourgrief.com/parenting-grieving/ ). I know thinking of inpatient treatment is a lot and you may feel like it can’t happen overnight. But you can always start by going to a meeting. Here is a link to the meeting search on the NA website: http://www.na.org/meetingsearch/. There is also an app. NA can provide an incredible network of support. Please know you are not alone and that there are programs and people that will offer support. The first step is reaching out, for yourself and your son.

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byran

Posted on March 4, 2015 at 8:58 pm

1year ago today I lost my sister to heorin,her and her daughter was living with me because she finally left a abusive boyfriend,that morning my neice came to me saying her mom was not responding so I ran in there and she was on her knees I put my hands on her shoulders ,she was so cold I always took CPR classes in school and was always certified but when you have to do it in real life I froze, the 911operator worked me thur it in till the first police man got there I tought she had a pulse but she was not breathing the cop put the defibrillator on her and it keep saying no shock needed so I took that as a good thing not knowing that if you do not have a heart beat it will not shock you they gave her narcan and adraling shot but it was to late I met our mother at the hospital and found out she pass away I did not cry because I wanted to stay strong for my mom and neice part of me wants to blame her ex and whoever sold it to her I have a hard time with feelings there have been times I feel like crying my eyes out out of no where me and my sister had a hard life growning up she was always there for me and I for her ,she would always say no matter how big I get I will always be her little brother ,I love and miss her so much ‘we will meet again’

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Auri

Posted on March 9, 2015 at 3:22 pm

I lost my fiancé and best friend about a month ago February 11th 2015. He was an addict and alcoholic. I’m also an addict and alcoholic. We both took clonazepam and tramadol with a few beers. I woke up and he didn’t because he took more. I called an ambulance and they got a pulse took him to the hospital. He was unconscious and under the respirator, also had brain damage. He died the next day. We were not careful and mixed prescription pills and that’s what did it. I was very lucky to have survived. I feel as if I could have prevented his death. We tried rehab a few times together but he always wanted to get back into drinking which later always led to using something stronger. I couldn’t convince him and myself to stop drinking and using. I feel so much regret and I just miss him so much everyday, I wish I could see him. I am sober since his death and getting counseling everyday. I hate that our addiction took him away from me. Two weeks after his death I found out that I’m pregnant with him, and it felt so bittersweet because I’m so happy to have his kid but I want him to be here for the baby and my pregnancy. I really wish he could experience fatherhood and have a family with me. He was the love of my life and I regret so much that I couldn’t convince him or myself to get help with the addiction. Going through this is so difficult and I just want him back.

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Paula

Posted on March 24, 2015 at 11:22 am

On February 7th 2015, less than two months ago, my partner of 11 years, father of our 9 year old son, died in the bathroom of our apartment. My son had to use the bathroom, but it was locked and he could not get his dad to answer. He woke me up to tell me. I tried to get the door open, but could not so panicking I told my son to go to the neighbors to call 9-11. He ran across the hall to the neighbors while I finally ended up kicking the door in. Thank God my son was not there to see what I saw. He was lying face down with a pool of vomit and what looked like blood on the floor in front of him. Just one spot, not like he moved about or struggled. He was a life long heroin addict, and struggled for years to get that demon under control, with some long successes but the last year had been mostly relapse after relapse. But there were no needles, no sign he had just used, no drugs. I said his name over and over, screaming it, wake up wake up! I tried to move him but could not. When the EMT’s got there I was hysterical screaming for them to do something and saying his name and “what did you do?!” over and over.. I had vomit on my clothes, in my hair – when I found him I felt he was warm and I moved his head and it just flopped grotesquely, making me grow more hysterical- I think part of me knew he was dead but when the emt said he had been dead at least an hour I fell to the floor screaming. There was no sympathetic person in the whole group who came-as the EMT commented right then over my husbands dead body, that they had “Just came two months earlier for an od” when I was at work. In rage I screamed at him “SO WHAT?! That mean something? Like he deserved to die?! Then I turned my anger to a police officer who appeared to have an odd smile on his face – What are you smiling for?! I screamed at him like three times and he in embarrassment and frustration, snapped he was NOT smiling. Ironically, he was the only one who came up to me later and expressed any sympathy and support. The Medical Examiner didn’t come for like an HOUR, so they just left my husbands body laying on the floor outside the bathroom and they didn’t even cover him. Weeks later it was confirmed it was a heroin overdose. Nothing wrong with his heart, no heart attack no stroke no nothing, just bad dope cut with something wicked. His heart must have just stopped.I had been hearing about these deaths from dope cut with fentanyl a very strong pain medicine. But he had done drugs so long and hard and OD so many times it seemed he was invincible. It just seemed impossible. Another horrible part of the story? About an hour earlier before I kicked in the door, I was in bed sleeping, and had a fan running. I heard a thud like someone dropping a box. My son went to my door and said “Daddy is tearing up the bathroom again” (long story, that), but I shrugged it off, as did my son as there was no other noise as my son would have heard so I fell back to sleep. Now I know it was his body hitting the floor that we heard. I feel sick when I think of it. It really seemed like he died before he hit the ground but still, I agonize that I didn’t get up and see what the noise was. He had a bruise on his nose and a small gouge in his forehead, blood on his nose. When I saw him at the funeral home he looked so beautiful and at peace. I kissed his lips that were still soft but he was cold as ice. I put my head on his chest and held him and sobbed, his heart silent as a stone. Then they burned him, cremated him, which I didn’t want. I didn’t want to think of my beautiful man burning. It seems hard to believe that my 6″ 220lb man is now reduced to ashes in an Urn on my dresser. I talk to him, have held that urn, smelled, touched and tasted his ashes. I am still in so much pain. Our son is so wonderful and we talk a lot and he has grieved a little, but I am getting him therapy. I had to go into a psych hospital for a week – I needed much longer. I cannot get the vision of him laying on that bathroom floor out of my head. I just needed to tell this to some people who can understand this. An overdose death is treated like a stigma at times, avoidable, blame to the victim, etc. He fought so hard his entire life. He was a good man with a beautiful heart, funny, brilliantly smart, charismatic, handsome, people were drawn to him. He could have been anything, he aced school and college and could have been a doctor. But tragedy and trauma in his childhood and teens turned him to drugs early, and the only thing that slowed him down a little was having our son, who he adored and loved deeply. But sadly, drugs finally won. Sometimes the grief seems too much to bear and I feel like I am screaming and no one hears me. I pray there is a God, and there is a heaven where he is finally at peace. He never felt loved enough. Good enough. He had an abyss in him that could not be filled so he did drugs. He was a monster when he used, but sober he was a better man than most, with a complex and generous heart, and I miss him everyday, his sins suddenly hard to recall, the good memories foremost in my mind. The everyday laughs, how he made breakfast for my son every morning, dinner for me every night. The shows we loved, the private jokes and laughter we had even though much of the time in the last year there was terrible fighting. 11 years and all the moments and history jam together in my mind, a mass of pain and loss. My son has no father and he is only 9. I worry how this will affect him, and I will do anything in my power that he does not know it was a drug overdose ever, at least not until he is an adult, maybe like 30. I don’t want him to ever think his father’s legacy will be his own. I am staying sober and we are starting over, but grief still envelopes me daily and I feel it will be ages before I will be able to go through a day without sobbing at least once.

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Sher

Posted on March 24, 2015 at 11:38 am

Paula, there is so much I want to write, but I have seen my previous comments show in web searches, so I am more private now. Please look into GRASP, a support group for those who have lost loved ones through substance abuse. I lost my 18-year old son through this means, and it is a very empty, painful life. He was a lovely young man, so gifted, kind, and had so much potential. Anyway, if there isn’t a group in your area, you can join via Facebook. It has been a saving grace for me.
I’ll be thinking of you..

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Paula

Posted on March 24, 2015 at 11:26 am

I just posted about the death of my husband to an overdose death. I forgot to mention he was only 43 years old.

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Paula

Posted on March 24, 2015 at 11:50 am

Auri, I so feel your pain and my heart aches for you. I got pregnant for son when I was using and it changed my life though I still struggle off and on. But since his death, though I did kind of lose it for awhile, I am slowly getting stronger. You have a gift, a precious child that you will love more than you will ever imagine. I was shocked to find out I was pregnant because I was 40! But I had a beautiful boy who is now 9 and the love of my life. I see his father in him, but I also see me. Just show your baby the best of both of you if you can, and don’t tell them about the reason of death. I just think at some point, especially tweens and teens, they get angsty and with information like that about the father it can give them an excuse to be destructive.

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Lea

Posted on April 2, 2015 at 11:57 pm

Less than 1 month ago, I lost a close friend. He was only 25. Today we found out it was a heroin overdose. I am at a loss for how I should feel because I’m angry, hurt, depressed. I feel like because he was recovered he should’ve known better and known how dangerous it was to use again.

I feel like it would be easier had I not been there when he was discovered, but seeing him that way and preforming CPR was traumatic and I can’t stop seeing him like that, and seeing him everywhere.

It’s like I see flashes of him when I look at other people because I’m just so afraid I’m going to lose someone else and find them that way… I don’t know how to get past all of this…

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Eleanor

Posted on April 3, 2015 at 11:19 am

Oh Lea I’m so sorry these memories are so vivid for you, but I can see why they would be. You have been through something traumatic very recently. The anger, hurt and depression…these are all a part of grief. Go easy on yourself but if these feelings remain intense and intolerable then know that there is help available. I’m so sorry about the death of your friend.

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Jennifer

Posted on May 12, 2015 at 3:32 pm

My child died of an overdose. He was depressed in early teen years which led him to psychiatry, pill after pill, then street drugs. He was a perfect child until he met with doctors. I have tried countless times to get him help. He was intellectual, handsome, college educated 3 years, witty, and funny. All that left when he was an addict. It’s not their fault. Addiction is a disease, not a moral failing. My life is now over. My son, my best friend dead at 25. It’s just been a year God help me.

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Eleanor

Posted on May 13, 2015 at 10:19 am

Jennifer,

I can tell by your comment that you must be living with a lot of pain. I’m so sorry. Addiction is a disease and like other diseases it does strip your loved ones of the spark and the joy you want to be able to fondly remember. I’m so sorry for the struggled your family dealt with and I’m sorry that you now just grieve the death of your young son. No one can say anything to help take away the pain but I do hope there is comfort in knowing that, although you probably feel alone at times, you are not entirely. Please let us know if there are any more specific ways we can support you.

Eleanor

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R Johnson

Posted on July 25, 2015 at 10:33 am

Thank you for sharing this list of feelings and giving examples of what family and friends might experience as they cope with a loved ones substance abuse death. It is helpful to express this in a safe and supportive community.

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Vicki

Posted on September 8, 2015 at 3:54 pm

I know its fatalities are probably higher than for MVA’s (motor vehicle accidents); I’m a paramedic. Actually there’s a good reason for it and more than that the number of people doing it is so high. The reason is that naloxone, the antidote for opioids, is far from perfect. With cocaine there ISN’T any antidote yet. The antidote to crack lies in the paramedic’s knowledge of cardiac care and time means everything in those instances. At least in one case nobody can do anything to save the person; cardiac tamponade is a true emergency, meaning the patient will die within 15 minutes unless you get them into surgery stat. Which means within minutes.
I honestly don’t understand overdoses, drug and alcohol addiction. That’s after spending a year in Paramedic School and listening to several doctors talk about all the varying diseases, conditions and syndromes. Nobody has ever explained to me why they would want to repeatedly put themselves through the pain of OD’ing and ALmost dying but making it only to finally die on some night when we’re too late or there’s too much drug in the bloodstream to be overcome by flushing it or using naloxone as antidote to heroin and other painkillers.
My job isn’t as easy as some people think and I rarely comprehend the insanity of drug use. There’s a component to it that simply looks like insanity; it’s not a judgment, it’s an observation of how it appears when I see it in my work.
Incidentally doctors are more willing to talk about unique diseases than anything related to drugs or alcohol. In one case we had a doctor who was using drugs and dosed himself before he started his operation but did so with the succinylcholine he was supposed to give the patient instead of the drug he wanted to give himself. He never gave his to the patient but he fell to the floor and stopped breathing after dosing himself with succinylcholine. It stops all your skeletal muscles from moving, including the ones in your lungs that control your breathing and we had to intubate him, then wait for the succinylcholine to take its course. In that case I think the doctor wouldn’t have wanted to talk about drugs & alcohol for an obvious reason. Maybe that’s why for lots of people; they don’t want to look at their own usage.

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Litsa

Posted on September 8, 2015 at 6:16 pm

Hi Vicki, I think your point about not understanding addiction based on the concept of rational choices is understandable. What is important to understand about drugs is that they fundamentally change the entire way in which people make decisions, so it is no longer rational a rational process. Reason lives in the front of the brain, an area that can help us with long-term consequences of our actions. Alcohol and other drugs activate a part of our brain that is focused instead on immediate pleasure responses, while limiting how the rational part of the brain functions. This video actually does a great job to looking at the neuroscience of this. The end goes into a medication treatment that they were trailing for cocaine, and that isn’t necessarily relevant, but the explanation about the brain I think is helpful https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WXxxcElL7Cs. We also have a post you may find interesting. It is focused on alcohol, grief and the brain but some of the principles are the same: http://www.whatsyourgrief.com/understanding-grief-alcohol-brain/.

As for your work as a paramedic, I cannot imagine who would think it is ‘easy’! Being a paramedic is challenging work on many levels, especially emotionally. Like any job where you are exposed to pain, trauma and death, it can start to take an emotional toll over time and many times people don’t have an outlet to process the emotions that come with that sort of work. Thanks for the work you do and make sure to take care of yourself!

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blake langdon

Posted on September 21, 2015 at 4:31 pm

I am dealing with the lost of my ex of ex and best friend of 6 years, he helped raise my oldest daughter and we had two kids of our own together, its hard and this really helped because no on I know understands how I truly feel. Because they didn’t know him as well as I did, not even his own mom knew he was fighting certain demons.. Its only been 6 months since we lost him but it still hurts like I found out today..

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Cindy

Posted on September 24, 2015 at 1:39 pm

My husband passed in July of 2012. Our daughter, whom we suspected of being an alcoholic, spiraled out of control. I got her to go to rehab and after 3 months, she was herself. This lasted about 6 months than she began drinking and abusing prescription drugs. I found her unresponsive on April 29th. In less than 2 years, i have lost y entire family. I am overcome with grief and anger. Each day is a struggle to just get out of bed.

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Anne

Posted on October 1, 2015 at 2:05 pm

My beautiful, gentle, kind, FUN and loving son died of a heroin overdose on September 10, 2015, just a couple of weeks ago. I go through all the feelings that are described, but I try to push them away. We were given the grace of an amazing summer, where Brian was sober and happy and I cling to that. He had great plans of a trip booked to Vietnam and Thailand with the love of his life, as well as telling me all about the green chicken curry that he was going to make me the following week. The last thing he said to me face to face was “I love you mom, I’ll see you soon” and I remember the prickles of his beard as he kissed me goodbye.

What I am trying to say, is that is what is helping me in these very early stages is to try separate the person from the addiction. I know my son certainly did not want to be addicted, or die. I know he tried as hard as possible to overcome this. He was a beautiful person with a horrible disease. I love him, I am proud of him, and like any disease, I am proud of his fight against it. If anyone is interested, you can see a little vignette of Brian’s life on youtube, under “Brian Seamus South” I really hope that by being completely honest and putting the truth out there about people suffering from this epidemic will do even the smallest bit of good.

I miss my son so terribly, and now I realize this is forever.

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julia from http://whattogetyourboyfriendforhisbirthdays.com/

Posted on October 2, 2015 at 11:15 am

This is such an important post, Litsa, and I thank you for writing it. Well worth sharing, which I intend to do!?

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julia from http://whattogetyourboyfriendforhisbirthdays.com/

Posted on October 2, 2015 at 11:16 am

This is such an important post, Litsa, and I thank you for writing it. Well worth sharing, which I intend to do!?
http://whattogetyourboyfriendforhisbirthdays.com/

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Pat zielinski

Posted on October 5, 2015 at 2:59 pm

I lost my son David, on Sept 9th 2015… and I am glad, I found this article.. there are not enough groups for parents… and this is a nightmare, an unbelievable situation… reading, the descriptions, on Guilt, blame..shame… It hurts, and I will forever have a hole in my heart… He was such a kind, loving soul..always, helped everyone, but struggled, with alcohol, then Heroin, …for years… re-nabs, and out-patient, he thought he can conquer his demons… I am sorry, but I can understand, the saying, of someone else’s, comment..to do tough love… well, now that he is gone… who has tough love.. we all would give anything, to have him back.. I sit, and feel guilty, try to justify, my actions, of not giving, him, money, when I didn;t have it… I realize, this pain, will last forever, and it;s effects, on the family, our lives, have forever changed… there are no groups, in my area, and I am glad, to at least found this… I don;t feel alone, ..thank you for this article…

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Suzy

Posted on April 8, 2016 at 4:32 pm

Pat
Please keep searching for groups in your area…hospice has excellent grief counselors in my area and a group as well

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Juls

Posted on October 19, 2015 at 12:23 am

I have spent all night reading your blogs. My heart goes out to everyone. I have lost my nephew last July 24,2015. Due to accidental drug overdose of oxy. I raised him and his twin brother after my brother passed away of cancer at the age of 30. The boys came to me at 5 years of age. I was 21. Matthew passed at the age of 36. I am greive stricken. But, his twin Michael, is my main concern now. I don’t know how to help him. His loss is more than I could ever imagine. Michael was a heroin addict years ago. But with strong will and many many long nights, we were able to get passed it. He is a heavy drinker and now it is worse. I am having a difficult time trying to help him . I am grasping for any advise any one can give. He refuses counseling. My husband and a close friend has been taking him to AA meetings but, not regularly. I am exhausted. We are very close and always have been. We spend a lot of emotional time together. He is now living with my husband and I. But can’t hold a regular job. Any advise or comments are welcome. God Bless.

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Eleanor

Posted on October 19, 2015 at 9:22 am

Hey Juls,

Hopefully someone else has a helpful comment. I just had a few grief related thoughts, although I’m not sure they will be all that helpful because at this point because it seems like Michael’s alcohol addiction is far overshadowing his grief.

1. Your comment reminded me of a book about a girl who experienced the death of her twin sister to a heroine overdose; after which she herself started to spiral I’ve never read the book so I can’t necessarily say whether it would be helpful, but if you’re interested here is a link to an interview NPR did with the author.
2. If Michael is ever ready to attend a support group regarding the death of his brother, there is an organization called twinless twins specifically for those who’ve experienced the death of a twin.
3. Have you and your husband ever attended an al-anon or nar-anon group? I’ve heard these groups recommended not only for people who are trying to support someone addicted to substances, but also for people who’ve lost a loved one to overdose. People in these groups also sometimes have good suggestions for resources, etc.

Anyway, I’m sorry this was not more helpful with helping Michael which is your primary concern, but maybe some of these resources will be helpful if the time is ever right.

Eleanor

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erica

Posted on December 17, 2015 at 2:05 pm

We lost Andrew my son, Sept 16,2015…to an accidental over dose of prescription drug…oxcycodone …hydracodone…alcohol. He had just come home from the hospital…with a broken nose and his jaw wired shut. The doctors prescribe him…these opiates in liquid form…large bottles…they new he had a drinking issue…had asthma ..allergies…depression….anxiety…was in and out of rehab. He died the second day of being home. I read that he should have never been prescribed oxycodone. He should have not been lying down….so many should have nots. We thought he was finally on his way to going to a really good rehab within the month…he was going to a rehab in phionex az. He was home one day gone the next…seems he took a weeks supply of oxy and hydrocodone..for his pain , depression and anxiety….felt fine..laid down went to sleep never woke up…leaving us ..completely broken hearted , shocked and stunned,broken hearted and completely devastated……It feels as if someone with a claw and just ripped out our hearts…..leaving nothing but a huge gaping wound…that is bleeding out.
I have never taken any drugs or opiates for anything…I am on two now….because I just cannot deal with the pain….My daughter who is like a twin to Andrew is trying to hold on…be strong…as I am….Honestly there are no words that could every explain the sense of utter loss….pain…..he horror of it all. Everything said is true….Years of fighting…all the battles…the sleepless night afraid to answer the phone….the heart ache of watching my child …morph into someone I did not know any longer. Knowing there was nothing I could do nothing I could say that would get to him….His last words over the phone were …..Mom….please ..I am an adult….I am having fun living my life……please just leave me alone…..then he would change the subject. Andrew was a sky diver….just pasted his 100 then some…he love it more than anything….the thing is he loved living…he loved extreme sports..loved to push everything to the max..to the edge….
With those words…something finally woke me up….I could see I had to let go..
He had to make his own choices….he was right on……I need to do as his councelor suggested to back away be unavailable….I believe this might have been wrong…all these kids…are different…..what works for one may not for another…..Andrew needed to be close to his family…I think being away from him ..well he just saw it ha another abandonment …so he got worse….pity we learn these things to late.
I am like everyone else….I think back…wish I could have done this or that…I should have brought him back home…my girls remind me he was a mess here ..I was afraid of my own son…I no longer knew him….so this is the reason I sent him off…

He had so many many opportunities and he blew every on….I didn’t just lose my son…I lost him many many years ago…..Now Christmas is on the way..his ashes are sitting on the mantle ….unbelievable…I really felt …sending him to phoenix was making the right choice ….who would have though t he would have thought he would come back in a box…..I have finally moved him to this beautiful..urn…an eagle has its wings wrapped around it..as if it is in flight…soring to the the heavens….He did like flying always said skydiving was the closest to it …He loved it sooo… We shall always miss his passion….his deep loud commanding voice….He had so many good wonderful qualities…I understand this is an on going adventure…..I shall always love him…miss him….he will be always and forever with me…The one thing I do not regret….I told him I loved him almost everyday….how I felt he good do anything…..I wanted to make sure no matter what else…he knew in his heart of hearts…that he was loved. Cherished beyond words…
There is a long hard rode ahead…..I love the still hear his laughter and remember his passion thru out my life….It is a day to day struggle right now…to stay up and positive….Christmas is hard…he loved Christmas…I still remember that Christmas morning he was six…he was standing in the middle of the living room in front of the fire place singing his heart out as he unwrapped his gift……..singing Jingle Bells ….Jingle Bells….I miss you Andrew…..with all my heart I do…

Its nice to be able to put this down…..thank you…God bless to all..

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays..

erica

Reply

Sherry

Posted on December 19, 2015 at 6:40 am

Erica,
I am so very sorry for the loss of your son. It is all too sad and common anymore. I belong to many websites, GRASP, Heroin Memorial, and others just to help me get through. My son died at age 18 of an overdose of heroin, cocaine and xanax, but the heroin is what killed him. He was attending college, had a small scholarship, worked tow part time jobs and was a gifted, kind young soul. I knew he smoked pot but nothing else. When I found him in his bed the morning of Sep. 28, 2013, I knew something was terribly wrong. He had not gone to work and of course, when I went to wake him, he was already gone. As you said, it feels as if someone has ripped out your heart. After two years, I can say the pain subtly subsides, but it is always, always there. How can it not be? I think I cry more now than I did last year, but nothing as bad as the first year. I miss him more than words can say. I just want you to know I understand your pain. This Christmas will be hard for you and your family, but know that you are not alone. Blessings,
Sherry

Reply

erica

Posted on February 17, 2016 at 2:24 pm

Hi Sherry just now getting this….I lost Andrew September 2015…today is 2/17/2016….his death seems like just yesterday…his birthday will be March 7, missing him seems to be the call of the day now. The thing I understand is this pain will never go…the feeling of loss is here to stay. All we can do is learn to manage it as much as we can. He was my only son my baby….I have to remember I still have three children who need me…a life to life. I have seen too many people just give up..the whole family goes up in smoke…I have seen this within my own too many times. One of my biggest fears in life was to lose one of my children….I prayed to God to please whatever he did to me to please not take one of my children. I do not blame God. Although I was angry at first..I have learned we make choices in life…some are bad and there are horrible consequences….I have no answers why Andrew chose drugs over everything else. He had a big loving family that adored him. Perhaps it was just about having fun…Simple…no, I don’t think so…Its our society. Our doctors who have no idea of what they are doing pushing drugs that can create addictions that can kill. Its the big pharmaceuticals that want to keep up addicted and sick. Its about greed and money. We are all suffering for it…I do not want to get political..things have to change too many people are dying from this.
Sherry I feel for your sorrow…more than I can say. I have several friends who have lost their sons and daughters…the same way. One was a football player from a super home loving parents…they knocked on his door he didn’t answer…the dad walked in found him slumped over his computer gone..this was two years ago…this has taken such a devastating toll although he has another son…the dad has seemed to just given up…I really never thought anything would happen to Andrew….I thought he was too smart..had too much going in life….drugs and alcohol did and its like an epidemic ….its a horrible disease. More needs to be done about it…it leaves a path of sorrow and broken hearts and families. I am trying my best to keep my head above the water so to speak…trying not to blame myself..looking for answers …looking for comfort…trying to understand and find some kind of peace in my life. I really appreciate your comment….my heart goes out to you….everyday is a fight….Its very hard. I feel I have to keep strong…put on a happy face when all of the time my heart is breaking. I hear it gets better with time..but does it really..at the moment I thank God we had Andrew as long as we did….
Sherry I wish you well….please feel comfortable to contact me anytime…

peace love and happiness
erica

Reply

Carol

Posted on February 17, 2016 at 12:58 pm

Sorry for your loss…..I understand your grief….I lost my son August 2015 to a heroine overdose…Jimmy was 34…..He was my one and only……..Losing him was and is hard….but the “what if’s” and the “if I only did”…..are killing me…….I have to admit I was his biggest enabler….and also his biggest fan……I loved him like no tomorrow…..but in the end I tried tuff love and honestly it didn’t work…..now I have to live without him and not sure if I can.

Reply

erica

Posted on February 17, 2016 at 2:55 pm

Hi Carol,
Thank you soo much….I am so sorry for yours as well….it breaks my heart ..all these stories of loss. I am right there with you. Understand every word. I feel we all who have suffered this feel the same. As you I was Andrew’s enabler ….I have always felt love heals. I tried everything…towards the end I was soooo scared of losing him I followed the advice of touch love too…I even watched intervention to help me understand….I still do when I can stomach it …I am still looking for answers. So far I believe every person is different. Every situation is different. Even though I tried everything I knew to do bad or good….I never gave up on Andrew he had such a good heart…sensitive…gave the best hugs of all my girls.
My gut still says I should have brought him home…my girls still say no it didn’t work before etc. In my head I still feel perhaps just maybe after him being away from home for so long….it would have worked. Now I will never know. This is a heavy weight to carry. Believe me Carol..I understand the “what ifs” and the “only if I did” I am not sure if they will ever go away….I can’t say I am really sure of anything at this point but the pain I feel of the very thought of losing him. This is the worst thing that has ever happened in my life…in yours ….even so Carol you can live without him…his spirit will always be with you..you will always carry him in your heart…..I have been told it gets easier with time….I am not so sure…I feel we just learn to manage the pain..accept it live with it. Try as I do to concentrate on the living ..the loves of your life. Its ok to feel depressed down devastated this is normal. Just don’t stay in the darkness Carol…don’t do it. Its very difficult not to….but if you let yourself slip and stay there. It will only bring more pain more darkness. What I do is allow myself one pill a day..its a low dosage the lowest they had me on two medications but I stopped one because it was addictive and took me somewhere else..one seems just to take the edge off ..I still feel down …I still feel…I function sometimes the pain is sharper than others…but I just suffer thru it. I let myself feel the pain of losing my son…the doubts ..the fears….the loss and emptiness that hole that will never be filled. I just choose not to stay there..I have a wonderful beautiful family..grandchildren two that are only turning 2 in a few months…My family all miss Andrew he was my only son…we are coping. We talk about him a lot ..we laugh we joke at what a jerk he could be…how crazy he was..and how he seemed to love getting into trouble living on the edge…..its bitter sweet. What I am trying to say to you Carol count your blessings…stay in life….we cannot do anything about our sons they are gone..but they will always be with us….I honestly have to admit..sometimes I feel I don’t want to live without Andrew just as you do….but then I see my daughter smiling faces and my grand babies so full of life and giving those sweet sweet hugs….I feel life is good its a gift….it is to be cherished even though our hearts our breaking inside….please try and be strong…I wish I could say it will get better…I can’t I don’t know….I do know we must learn to live with it to manage our pain or loss…not to blame ourselves…believe me I am first in line on that one..bottom line is we did everything out of pure unconditional love Carol. The good and the bad of it…it all was done out of love. This is everything…so don’t beat yourself up…you loved your son as I loved and do love and will always love Andrew.
Take comfort in this. They knew that we loved them more than life….What a precious gift this is…no one can take this away…..the love goes on we take it with us…..

Carol…thank you for your comment I hope I have helped and given you some comfort…I can only speak from my experience..please feel free to contact me anytime…
blessings,peace and love

erica

Reply

Carol Nida

Posted on March 3, 2016 at 12:11 pm

Thank you for responding to my post. It helps so much to talk w/someone who has lost a child to addiction. I went to a support group Compassionate Friends and it helped but this for me is better because the stories I read are so familiar I know that so many understand what I’m feeling. Andrew sounds a lot like my son Jimmy, he was happy go lucky…..a dare devil…..as a kid he was the first one outside to play and the last one coming in for the evening. It’s been six months now and it seems like forever since I’ve seen him………As you….I miss my son so much when I think of him the tears flow and the pain is so intense……I know that sadly life goes on and I’m trying everyday to move forward….I have two grandchildren (boys) that remind me so much of Jimmy……the other day I took both of them for a hair cut the “13” year old was getting a lot of his hair cut off….and when I looked at him the tears started flowing…because he looked so much like his dad…..they were good tears. I hope our pain lessens as time goes on and that when I see a picture of Jimmy and talked about him, I will be able to do so without any tears…….I hope you find comfort also.

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Ashley Brewer

Posted on February 25, 2016 at 3:00 pm

I just wanted to thank you for this incredible article. I am writing one myself on substance abuse overdose avoidance, which prompted me to find your article while researching. I also found your article posted word for word on another site and I didn’t see you credited. Thought you should know. http://realtimerecovery.net/the-grief-of-an-overdose-death/

Reply

Eleanor

Posted on February 26, 2016 at 12:17 pm

Hey, thanks for the heads up Ashley!

Reply

karen

Posted on February 25, 2016 at 8:10 pm

So sorry for everyone on here. I lost my partner a couple of months ago. It said on his death certificate heroin intoxication. I have all the feelings related to grief like guilt.. being rhe main one. I have read that if you see them within a few hours of the overdose you can save them… This haunts me. Is this true? Does it take this long for someone to die from an overdose? Does anyone know why a pathologist does not give an approximate time of death? The time on his certificate was the time he was found. We suspect he passed away the previous day. Loosing the man I loved so very very deeply leaves me with so many mixed emotions. I’m hurt that he left me and I feel guilty for nit being with him but most of all I feel so sad for him I feel so sad that he could not place the same value on himself that I placed on him. He was worth so much more. Every day is a struggle. Every day I wake up to the banging heart wrenching truth that yes he is gone. I struggle with the fear that it was intentional, it didn’t say this in fact it states on the full report that the findings suggest a accidental overdose. How can they tell? It doesn’t bring him back to know but it would have served as some comfort to know he didn’t want to leave me and that it was just a silly mistake. I feel like I hqve let him down. I did love him deeply but I would get angry and disappointed that he continued to use a drug that he knew could kill him. I struggled with him promising me all the time he would stop then I get angry at myself for having such unrealistic expectations of him. I should have been more attentive I should have noticed more and I should have showed him I loved him more. I just hope he knew in his heart the love I had and still have for him. I really hope that he is in a better place and I live in the hope that I will see him again and that when my time comes he will be waiting to take my hand.
It’s so comforting to read all the other posts but at rhe same time just so sad that we have all lost someone whom we loved very much.

Reply

Michelle

Posted on March 29, 2016 at 8:27 am

In September 2008 I lost my little brother to an overdose. He was the only boy in our family, I have three sisters. Michael was 23 years old and like so many of the stories here, his was a struggle that we all dealt with. Something that I felt resonate throughout this site, is that the loved ones that are spoken of are beautiful, kind, smart, talented and loving human beings. For some reason, they are commonly treated as subhuman, in life and in death. Michael was 14 yrs younger than me, but he showed me how to love unconditionally. I was aggravated with him a lot and always thought he would grow up and overcome his behavior. My mom called again(this had gotten to be weekly) and told me he was breathing strange, I told her to call 911. I never dreamed I would never see his smile again, I never wanted to watch my father fall to the ground screaming, I cant forget my sisters and mother around his lifeless body crying and begging for him. After his death my cousin died, o/d and it began to seem endless. children were dying all over, I thought I was just an epidemic in my home town ,I know realize its everywhere and no one wants to talk about it. I want to thank everyone for sharing their stories, I realize it is very personal, to share sadness, I will never recover from his loss, just like I will always be different from having him for 14 yrs. Time has eased things, and faith

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Vicki

Posted on April 4, 2016 at 11:17 pm

I lost my daughter to what we believe is a heroin overdose on February 12 2016. Just 7 weeks ago. She was only 26! I am so angry at her, her boyfriend who was with her, myself, my husband, her friends and so on! I blame all the same! We are still waiting on the autopsy and the boyfriend of 9 years won’t talk. My husband and I had no clue our daughter had an issue until 6 weeks before her passing, when she came to us to let us know she had a problem with addiction but would not tell us what drug, she led us to believe it was pain pills. And come to find out it started with that and then turned into heroin. She started down the road to get help with Suboxin and seemed to be doing it. We thought we had time to get her into rehab! We thought she was doing ok! I had no clue she was in this bad! Again feeling guilty and anger! Not sure what to do to help with the pain of losing our MY daughter! I need to get involved to help others! So many people are dying from this epidemic!!!

Reply

Suzy

Posted on April 14, 2016 at 4:31 pm

Vicki and anyone else that is struggling…please try a grief counselor in your area (call hospice) and a grief group called Grief Share (at churches all over the country)

Reply

Laura Sanders

Posted on April 27, 2016 at 7:29 pm

Vicki,
I feel your pain. Our stories are similar. My son was 25. He had been doing well and then relapsed and died. I think they try to do the same amount and their bodies aren’t used to that much. We, like you had no idea it was so bad. I am sorry for your loss.

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Kelly

Posted on April 27, 2016 at 11:42 pm

I found my boyfriend after an overdose about a year and a half ago. I had done a really good job at distracting myself from the pain and trauma of that but any suppressed emotions and thoughts have risen ten fold recently. My therapist was the one who told me about this site and this pod cast in particular. I am on the verge of tears just typing about how much I related to the podcast. Its a small thing to hold on to but I am so glad that one of the last things we said to each other was I love you. A big thing for me with his death (and any over dose) was that it didn’t have to happen. I frequently catch myself day dreaming about what our future together would have been like.

As someone who is in recovery myself I know that no external force (from the love of the people around you to the very real threat of jail or death) can deter and addict. An internal switch of sorts needs to be flipped within them. This I believe and is why I would be the first person to tell someone struggling with a loss like the one we share that it is not their fault. It also good to type that out and see it for myself because I am dealing with self blame, guilt, should haves and could haves and need to remind myself that his death was not my fault. I am sure I will still be playing our past conversations and scenarios out in my mind, thinking of how things could have gone differently but logically I know that it wont make a difference. I also don’t think that he would want me to carry the burden of that much blame. And like Karen said I hope he knows the love I had and still have for him.

I have experienced a few different losses in my life but have never experienced anything quite like this. Thank god that there are people that understand. Needless to say, I don’t wish this on anyone but it finding people who are dealing with similar emotions is incredibly beneficial. In the podcast they mentioned the group GRASP. When I found one near me I was amazed that something like that existed and so grateful that it does!

Sending lots of love to anyone who is dealing with this!

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