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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Litsa

Posted on May 30, 2014 at 4:05 am

Dave’s widow, I am so glad you could relate to the post, though of course hate that anyone should have to relate to this post! In 1998 this was even more difficult to discuss than it is now. I commend you for your honesty – it is the one thing I hope will someday, slowly but surely, change the stigma.

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marilyn

Posted on June 12, 2014 at 12:41 pm

Tiffany, my husband died of an overdose exactly four months ago. I have four young adult children age 19-24. My husband struggled with drug addiction and alcoholism and PTSD from Afghanastan (contractor, not military) for many years. He was sober for a long time and life just got too hard for him, even with a strong faith . What has been important for my kids and even myself to understand that substance abuse is truly a disease. Addicts drugs are their medicine that allows them to survive, finally it destroys. When people are struggling with sobriety they are not bad people trying to get good but sick people trying to get better. Chances are these children carry a tendency toward substance addiction. Education is important but they need to understand that an addict or alcoholic’s body does not react normally to the substances they put in their body. I am so filled with anxiety and pain now that the numb has worn off but through friends and family I am functioning and moving foreword. Everyone, including the kids, will process this differently, be patient.

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Litsa

Posted on June 13, 2014 at 7:16 pm

I think Marilyn gave a great reply. I think with addiction, much like suicide/depression, it is important for kids to understand the person was sick. Like some people die from cancer or other illnesses, so people die from depression and addiction. It is important to focus on how much they loved the child and make sure the child knows they are in no way responsible for the illness or death.

This post may be helful also: http://whatsyourgrief.com/childhood-grief/ The age of the children is important when consider how to discuss death in general. That post looks at the influence of age on understanding.

Best of luck- you are clearly a good friend for looking for resources. They are lucky to have you!

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