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 US are currently struggling with an opioid addiction (and that is just opioids).
In 2017 there were an estimated 72,000 overdose deaths in the US. 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 every day 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 or speak or even draw their answers. Many of these responses start with the simple phrase “Dear Drugs”.
You may remember a couple of years ago, for Children’s Grief Awareness Day, when 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 Overdose Awareness Day.
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 – we may compile some of these, or at the very least re-share them!).
To get the ball rolling, one of the wonderful girls from The Chesapeake Life Center (with permission from her family) volunteered to share her letter to drugs. Even if you haven’t been touched directly by the substance use epidemic, or don’t want to share your own “Dear Drugs”, you can still raise awareness by sharing this video.
And to get the “Dear Drugs” sharing started, here are a few letters that have been shared with us by the Chesapeake Life Center:
(Oh, and while you’re checking out that video, you should hop on over to YouTube and subscribe to our YouTube Channel). For more posts about coping with the grief of an overdose death, click here.