Dear Drugs: A Message From Kids on Overdose Awareness Day

Types of Grief and Loss / Types of Grief and Loss : Litsa Williams

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We probably don't need to tell you about the impact of the opioid epidemic, or the deep and painful impact of substance use and overdose deaths have on individuals, families, friends, and communities. But, as a brief reminder:

An estimated 2.1 MILLION people in the United States are currently struggling with an opioid addiction (and that's just opioids).

In 2017, there were an estimated 72,000 overdose deaths in the U.S. For some reference, that is almost double the number of annual breast cancer deaths. With so many people struggling with addiction and losing their lives to overdose, millions of family members and friends are left to grieve.

Many of those experiencing grief related to addiction and overdose are children who have lost parents, siblings, grandparents, cousins, neighbors, and friends. At WYG, we are grateful everyday for the amazing grief centers, hospices, grief camps, and counselors serving these children. We get to see the amazing work that is being done to support these children, but we know that often times their voices go unheard.

Our grief-friends over at The Chesapeake Life Center do a simple activity they do with children who have lost a loved one to addiction or overdose, one that emphasizes their voice. They ask kids something like, "If you could say anything in the world to the drugs that your mom used, what would you want to say?". Kids can write, speak, or even draw their answers. Many of these responses start with the simple phrase: "Dear Drugs".

You may remember that, for Children's Grief Awareness Day a couple of years ago, we challenged children (along with their parents, caregivers, or other family members) to write a letter to grief that we called "Dear Grief". Today, in honor of Overdose Awareness Day, we again challenge children and their caregivers. This time, though, we are challenging children (and adults too!) who have been touched by substance use in their families to write a "Dear Drugs" letter.

For older kids, you may also ask something like, "What would you like others to know about drugs and how they have impacted your family?". This may be something you do privately, or it may be something your family decides to share. Should you decide to share any images, audio, video, or text of your family sharing your "Dear Drugs" letters or statements, we encourage you to use the hashtag #deardrugs (and please feel free to tag us, as we may compile some of these or at the very least reshare them!).

To get the "Dear Drugs" sharing started, here are a few letters that have been shared with us by the Chesapeake Life Center:

Dear Drugs Letter 1
Dear Drugs Letter 2

For more posts about coping with the grief of an overdose death, click here.

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After writing online articles for What’s Your Grief for over a decade, we finally wrote a tangible, real-life book!

What’s Your Grief? Lists to Help you Through Any Loss is for people experiencing any type of loss. This book discusses some of the most common grief experiences and breaks down psychological concepts to help you understand your thoughts and emotions. It also shares useful coping tools, and helps the reader reflect on their unique relationship with grief and loss.

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