How to Grieve After Losing a Loved One to Overdose

1 min read · 2 sections

Anytime a person loses a loved one, it hurts. Death is an inevitable part of life, and yet we all tend to be caught off guard when it happens to someone we care about. A car accident. Old age. Cancer. It all hurts just the same.

Nevertheless, losing someone to an overdose presents a unique set of circumstances. Your personal reactions and feelings are normal in what more than likely feels like an abnormal situation.


What is an Overdose?

An overdose is when an individual takes more than the recommended amount of something, usually a drug. Doing so can result in harmful symptoms or even death. Intentionally taking too much of something is called an intentional overdose, whereas mistakenly taking too much of something, is called an accidental overdose.

Overdose statistics:

  • Over 80% of overdose deaths include opioids.
  • More than 3 in 5 overdose deaths involved people who were linked to potential opportunities of care or life-saving actions.
  • Almost 85% of overdose deaths include illicitly manufactured cocaine, heroin, fentanyl, or methamphetamines.


Grieving a Loved One

There isn’t a right or wrong way to grieve for another individual. People feel the way they do and react based upon those feelings. As long as you’re not causing harm to yourself or others or damage to property, your reaction is what works for you. If it gets to be too overwhelming, seek out a licensed therapist or counselor who specializes in substance abuse.

Common emotions after a substance abuse/overdose death:

  • Fear and anxiety. These feelings may stem from having other family members or friends who may be battling with substance abuse, creating fear within you that they may die in the same way that your loved one has.
  • Anger. This emotion may be directed to yourself, the loved one who overdosed, or others who you feel enabled your loved one.
  • Frustration. This may come from the lack of belief in the healthcare system, paramedics, or rehabilitation industry.
  • Stigma. The concern over judgement by society, family, and friends towards you and/or your loved one due to their lack of understanding of what addiction actually is.
  • Shame. This feeling causes people to not want to share their feelings, perhaps because of the stigma associated with substance abuse.
  • Relief. You may feel relieved to no longer anticipate getting bad news as it relates to your loved one and their substance use.
  • Guilt. This feeling may bring up thoughts of how you or your loved one could’ve handled things differently.
  • Blame. You may feel the need to place blame on your loved one, or even yourself, for not being able to help your loved one.
  • Sadness. This feeling could stem from things that were left unsaid.

If your loved one is struggling with addiction, you’re not alone. We’re here. There are resources available to help them to achieve long-term sobriety and to live a healthy and productive life.

American Addiction Centers is the nationwide leader in addiction treatment, and we provide medical detox, outpatient and residential treatment, and help with aftercare planning. If your loved one is battling an alcohol use disorder or a substance use disorder, please reach out to get the help that they need.

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