The Grief of an Overdose Death: Part 2

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

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On Wednesday we talked about the unique challenges of grieving an overdose death.  If you missed it, check it out before diving in to today’s post.

If you read the post and were one of those people screaming, “That is me and my family!!! What do I do???” have no fear –this is our follow up on some thoughts on integrating the grief of an overdose death.   First, let me remind you again: you are not alone, even if it feels like it.  This has been me and my family.  This has been thousands of other families.  One family every 14 minutes begins the process of enduring the terrible pain of an overdose death.   There is all the usual pain of grieving, and then there is the guilt, shame, blame, isolation, fear, and other unique and challenging emotions that come with this grief.   All of these will need to be faced and addressed in some way and it takes time.  It isn’t easy.  There is no one answer or one way to grieve an overdose death, so you will need to find what works for you.  I can give you suggestions and thoughts from my personal and professional experience, but I encourage you to share your own experience.  It is going to be a little different for us all, so the more suggestions and reflections the better!

Face the reality of the circumstances of the death.

Denying the role of substances in our loved ones’ deaths is not surprising, when can be so much stigma and blame.  Finding your own way to face the role of drugs in the loss, either to yourself and/or to others, is an important part of grieving an overdose lost.  Facing this reality is part of task #1 of Worden’s Tasks of Grief, phase #1 for Rando’s Processes of Mourning, and stage #1 of Kubler-Ross’s stages.   We often deny to ourselves and/or to other people the role of drug on the death because it feels easier that way.  In the long term we need to be honest with ourselves about circumstances of the loss in order to address any complicated feelings around those circumstances.

If you need a push, commit to accepting the circumstances of the death in honor of International Overdose Awareness Day on August 31st.  Decide what is right for you, but one possibility is to leave a tribute to the person you have lost to an overdose on the International Overdose Awareness Day website.   There are hundreds of thousands of incredible people whose lives have been lost to overdose.  Their addiction and their overdose do not change the fact that they were people we loved, people we remember, and people we grieve.  Share who they were and how they died; each voice begins to change the stigma, blame, isolation, and shame; each voice remembers someone loved and deeply missed.  The simple act of posting a tribute on the site is an acknowledgement of the circumstances of the loss and a step toward accepting the reality of the nature of the loss.  This is one of many small things you can do to begin the process of accepting and acknowledging the death as an overdose death.

internation overdose tributes

Speak up.

This doesn’t have to be verbally, but find some way that you will express the emotions that come with addiction and drug-related death.  Do you need to yell from the rooftops?  No.  You may not even be ready to talk about it at all.  Maybe you will find writing, art, music or photography are a better form of expression for you.  Maybe you will blog about it!  But one way or the other, start working toward a place where you can express your feelings about the addiction and overdose.  If you are looking for simple, subtle expression you can purchase a silver overdose awareness pin or simply wear something silver on the 31st.

Though finding a means of expression is about you, keep in mind that it will also help others.  It is our collective silence that keeps us in this vicious cycle of feeling alone and maintaining stigma.   I remember the first time someone told me they had someone in their family suffering from a heroin addiction.  It was a co-worker at a job I had many years ago.  She said it in passing, like she had no reason to be ashamed.  Up until that moment I thought everyone kept addiction in their family a secret.  More accurately, I actually just assumed that no one else I knew was experiencing addiction in their family!  I remember telling her my own story and feeling an indescribable sense of relief to know that I was not alone and my family was not alone.   I decided from that moment on that I would stop hiding and lying about addiction, because if I could bring one other person that same sense of relief and connection it was worth the shame and judgement I feared.  Will this kind of open discussion be right for everyone?  No way.  But it works for me and I am overwhelmed with the number of people I learn have been touched by addiction and overdose just by being open and honest about it.

Understand Addiction

Most of us will always have some feelings of guilt and self-blame for the overdose deaths, and that is okay.  Really. (if you want to know more about our thoughts on guilt, you can check out our post on guilt, grief, and why you shouldn’t tell a griever not to feel guilty here).   The difference in my feelings now from many years ago around overdose is that I have a far better understanding of addiction.  In the spirit of nar-anon, al-anon, and Melody Beattie I have accepted that I am powerless over someone else’s addiction.  Though I shudder at every celebrity overdose death, it reminds me that all the money and love in the world still cannot always beat addiction.  Does that belief dissolve all my guilt?  Nope.  Does it get rid of all the “what ifs”?  Absolutely not.   Does it change the fact that I believe that love and quality treatment can be life changing for someone suffering from addiction?  No way.  Grief and guilt are not rational, so we cannot reason them away.  But this deeper understanding of addiction does help to keep my guilt in a normal, manageable, range rather than spiraling, obsessing, or becoming consumed by anxiety.   It has helped me realize that much blame around addiction and overdose is misplaced.   It has helped me feel empowered when I talk to others and address the myths and misconceptions about addiction and overdose.  

Stand-up For Yourself

As Feigleman et al (2011) suggest, “openly challeng[ing] unhelpful but well-intentioned efforts among intimate associates may help these survivors to establish more supportive environments for their healing among their families and friends”.  We have this tendency to shy away from telling people when their well-intentioned comments are not helpful.  We let the comments slide, though we may ruminate about them later.  If you are not feeling supported by the comments of friends and family, tell them!  They may not realize that their well-intentioned words or actions are not helpful.

Avoid People Who Aren’t Helping

Some friends and family members will continue to be part of the problem, even after you talk to them about it.   They may imply an overdose death is some sort of lesser death, or that the life of someone suffering addiction is somehow less worthy of mourning.  If you give them feedback, stand-up for yourself, ask them for the kinds of support you need and they continue to cause your more harm that support, avoid them.  Seriously.  It is okay to give yourself permission to get some space from those people.  Depending on your relationship with that person you may want or need to reintroduce them into your life in the future, but for now you need to focus on being surrounded by people who are supporting you in your grief.  Want some help sorting out your support system and identifying who might help you the most?  Check out our support system superlative journal prompt.

Learn About Specific Resources

Though it may feel like you are all alone, there are resources specifically for people grieving substance deaths:

GRASP (Grief Recovery After Substance Passing) has groups that meet around the country and is specifically for those grieving an overdose death.

Broken No More has forums, articles, and resources for those grieving substance abuse deaths, and also works to change the stigma around addiction.

Mom’s Tell provides information regarding substance abuse treatment, recovery, education, prevention legislation and policy issues in memory of the many lives lost to substance abuse.  It was founded by group of mom’s who lost children to overdose and has been active for 15 years.

Al-anon and Nar-anon are family support groups for family members of those suffering from alcoholism or addiction.  Though they are not grief groups, many people find support in these groups following drug and alcohol deaths.  Though each group that meets will be different, my experience with these groups is that they are very open and supportive of those who lost someone to overdose.

Local Support Groups a google search in your area or calls around to some hospices may help you locate drug-related death support groups in your area, if there is no GRASP meeting in your area.  More and more of these groups are popping up around the country, as overdose deaths continue to increase.  If you know of one of these groups in any area across the county, please leave it in a comment to help others locate a group.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do All The Other Important Grief Stuff

Yes overdose grief has some unique challenges to face, but it is also grief.  Find ways to integrate your loss that work for you.  It may mean seeking professional help, it may mean journaling, using creative outlets, assessing your self-care, seeking help from your support system, or learning to better understand grief.  There are countless suggestions here on our blog, as well as around the web.  Keep reading, learning, and connecting.  Take it one day at a time.

What am I going to do for International Overdose Awareness Day?  To be honest, I have no idea.  But I have two weeks to plan and so do you.  No excuses – commit to do something.

Leave a comment to share your experience with overdose grief, a drug related support group in your area, or to share what you plan to do this August 31st

Subscribe to keep up with our latest posts – you wouldn’t want to miss out on whatever we end up doing in honor of International Overdose Awareness Day!

March 28, 2017

77 responses on "The Grief of an Overdose Death: Part 2"

  1. Hello

    It’s been 4 years since my oldest son passed from heroin overdoes.
    I went through all the symptoms listed and still can’t coop with the loss.
    I remember at one point that I was scared that will be killed by my son because of his condition… Why would he? He is the sweet heart…
    I called the cops on him because I couldn’t convinced him and worried about loosing the house….
    What kind of the parent I am? He was seeking for help and I was worried about him influencing my life and the younger son…
    This is how I really feel.

  2. I lost my 26 yo son June 1, 2018. That’s the day my entire world completely collapsed, to NEVER be the same again. I raised my 2 children as a single parent, wo child support & no father. I worked my butt off to give my babies everything possible. I never missed one of his sport games when he was younger. He & his sister were extremely close, all 3 of us were. I have no idea how to get thru my day. The “what ifs” and “what could I have done to help” drive me crazy daily! I can’t get my son out of my thoughts. I am only half the person I used to be…every day from now on will be less sunny, less enjoyable (if at all). I am mad at my Dylan & at The Lord. How could this happen to a Godly faithed mommy! My son had heroine addiction for 4 yrs, he got clean & was doing so great for 3 yrs. Waiting for toxicology report. I have forgiven my son, as he had a disease – addiction is a disease. Very long-term care is one’s only hope for recovery. My son was smart, kind, caring, nonjudgemenal, easy going, helpful, respectful & would do anything for his loved ones. THAT is my son…not the few yrs of his life with drugs. I feel anguishing guilt EVERY SECOND of the day. As a mom, our instinct is to help our babies, n when we can’t it tears us apart. I pray a lot, I journal to my son, I have terrible depression, anxiety, panic attacks, eat too much, or not at all. Daily headache & 24/7 nervous stomach – like I have 100 ostriches fluttering around in there. I feel guilty that I’m so very sad & in pain, that I feel like a huge downer to my family; however, everyone has been very supportive. I feel like I’m floating around on a strange planet all alone. How can I go on? How can I ever feel happiness ever again? (Without feeling guilty?). My prayers to all. God Bless!

    • Hi Lisa, my name is Elaine, we are walking the same path in grief…my son Joseph was 27 and I lost him suddenly on May 29, 2018. He is my eldest of 3 children, and he was our only son . We were extremely close and everyday I feel the same pit of pain in my stomach. I don’t think I will ever fully grasp what has happened, it just can’t be I often tell myself. Not our son, not my family. I’m told one day the pain won’t hurt as bad, it never leaves but it won’t hurt as much. I have been hospitalized twice since losing my son. But, I woke up from being unconscious and my youngest daughter was crying and all I could think of was how much she still needs me. This pain of my son not being here is what I call “unthinkable” and will never get over this, it’s not possible. But, I also know every day I wake up breathing, trying to anyway, because of my other children. They give me strength, sibling loss is just as traumatic and I often remind myself they are suffering too, as well as my husband. Mothers, we grieve different. We carried our babies inside of us for 9 months, it’s a bond that never goes away. My son was my closest friend, we talked endlessly, and I cried in front of him telling him “I cannot lose you Joseph, I won’t make it!” and he would wrap his arms around me telling me Momma, I love you and I promise, I’m never going to leave you. Now, I sit here ….as you do, drowning in tears, sorrow, pain, guilt, blame, anger, all that comes with loss/grief. Then, I think of Joe, and what he would want, and even if it’s only for a few minutes I grab it! Strength thru Joe. It’s the only way I’m coping, and it’s been same length of time as you. It feels like forever already. Some days I lay here and cry, I let myself go thru it, we are allowed to do as we please one day at a time. Nothing I do or read, or join, or talk to, or write about, will ever take away this pain of never seeing my son again, but “coping” is a must because I have no other options. I hate this new world of living in grief, I didn’t sign up for it, neither did you, and I hate it. But, we did the best we could as living, nurturing Mothers. Your son knew how much you loved him, as mine did too. I get so mad when I think of that one moment, that one decision, ended everything. I tried, you tried, and it hurts like hell, but my son made a bad choice that day and my heart shatters every single day, but it was his choice and I know it was an accident. Fentanyl killed my son, he didn’t even know he was never going to wake up again,. One day at a time, it’s all we can do. ♥️

  3. My daughters father passed away June 30, 2018. Accidental overdose. We are still waiting on toxicology. My daughter is 15 and her father and I have been separated for years. He lives 2000 miles away. I didn’t let her spend the summer with him this year, he admitted to being on drugs. Now my daughter has resentment and I’m scared for her. Scared for our relationship, scared about everything really.

  4. My daughters father passed away June 30, 2018. Accidental overdose. We are still waiting on toxicology. My daughter is 15 and her father and I have been separated for years. He lives 2000 miles away. I didn’t let her spend the summer with him this year, he admitted to being on drugs. Now my daughter has resentment and I’m scared for her. Scared for our relationship, scared about everything really.

  5. Janice, I am not implying that you are embarrassed or feeling shame as to how your son died or how mine did- my personal shame tried to get the best of me while my son fought addiction and feeling like I didn’t do enough to help him. Some of that initial shame was also my son’s own shame because once he was an adult, he was ashamed of needed mental health care which kept him from seeing it as an adult. My son chose to try and self medicate which led to his addiction. I am by no means saying anyone is embarrassed or should be about a loved one dying from an overdose, feeling shame because we blame ourselves for it isn’t going to help although I am still fighting that uphill battle – surely I am not alone?

  6. Janice, I think think being embarrassed by how your son died is quite common unfortunately. Drug addiction has such a stigma around it that all most can picture is that person you might see at an intersection begging for money to feed their addiction or an addict on the news whose caught committing burglary to feed their addiction but it’s so much more than that and virtually no one is immune. The problem with feeling shame and embarrassment is that it’s far more destructive to your healing process than you might think. This opioid epidemic knows no social boundaries- it’s not the way we raised our children or the environment they were raised in. People are all human and as humans we are capable of making mistakes, following others, making bad choices, and sometimes we even seek out incorrect medical care under the premise that we are doing the right thing for our bodies to feel better but find out later we are entrapped in addiction. After the initial shock of what happened to my son wore off there was no room for me to feel any shame or embarrassment because I had made the choice to learn more about my son’s addiction and try to understand it so that I could better help him succeed at recovery but even the best laid plans can fail. If you were not aware of your son’s use of drugs this can be more difficult in trying to not only understand his addiction but also making it difficult to accept death- and be able to heal from it. Dont get wrong me wrong, I am still mad as hell that I lost my son and feeling angry often keeps me going, however, I have my fair share of dark days where I just cannot get out bed or cope with daily life because I can’t stop blaming myself for not “saving” him- I am still working on that. Once the coroner makes a final determination how what substances caused my son’s death I will know more of how I need to move forward- and I plan on taking this horrific experience and turning it into something positive for others. I can honestly say the waiting for those answers has been absolutely brutal and has made it difficult for me to even function since my son died. All I can do for now is try to hear others’ voices and hope they can hear mine as well while we muddle through our tragedies of losing someone we love to the terrible addiction.

  7. My 29 year son was killed by fentanyl on New Years Eve, 2017.
    I am not ashamed of how he died….why would I be?

  8. I lost my eldest son April 17th 2018 to an apparent overdose of substance or substances although my son’s death is still under investigation. My son had just turned 25 in December. It’s no secret that my son battled addiction for several years which started out with prescription drugs (pain killing opioids) then escalated to heroin. Before this horrible addiction and during periods of sobriety, my son was always a loving and nurturing person with a big heart, however, my son also struggled with depression brought on by untreated ADHD. I did not push my pediatrician hard enough to get the much needed referral for his ADHD, something I will always regret. My son and I were very close and I knew some of hisdeepest, darkest secrets- especially when it came to his addiction vices. I am only writing this because I want to spare others from enduring what I have endured (and I am still enduring) with my son. Don’t ostracize your loved one because they are not perfect or fall into the addiction trap. If you are fortunate enough to spend time with your loved one while they are in recovery, talk to them with an open mind and open heart- give them opportunity to tell you their side of their story in their own words- and listen, I mean REALLY listen to them. I was fortunate enough to have had that opportunity to talk to and listen to my son and all he had to tell me about when he started using and why he started using while he was in inpatient treatment in 2016. I learned a lot of valuable information and even helped him devise a plan if he should relapse- like calling me or another trusted person if he felt like he was going to “go off the reservation” and to seek out prescription opiates for use in moderation if he was not able to fight the urge. Although deep down I was not feeling good about my suggestions to seek out prescription drugs first before going right for the heroin, I was fearful that he would die if he didn’t handle it this way. I feel like I failed in the execution of trying to talk him down off of the ledge once he was headed for relapse and I was not able to connect my son with many resources that were necessary in helping him avoid relapse. The stigma around opioid addiction and misconceptions that meetings where addicts in recovery could talk about their addiction were a must were not a good option for my son. Many times my son confided in me that the meetings actually made him want to use- especially when others would describe how they missed getting high. What my son really needed was one on one therapy and treatment for his ADHD and depression. Quite frankly, there are not enough resources out there to assist with the mental illness that often goes hand in hand with drug addiction and this is really frustrating.
    My son would relapse 2 more times after these plans were put in place and the plan was followed during both relapses-and both relapses landed him back in jail. My son also feared that he would die from his addiction and did not want to die from it, hence the reason for the plan that I secretly hated but kept that hatred from him in order to keep him alive. Sadly, the plan failed after his most recent 4+ month stent in jail, he would die only 6 days after being released. There are still a lot of unanswered questions as the investigation is still ongoing, however, I know now I cannot stay silent about my son’s struggles with depression and ADHD that went untreated and I feel this was a big contributing factor in his addiction and subsequent death. My heart hurts every waking moment and even during the hours I actually do sleep. I want to raise awareness of the lack of resources that are needed so desperately- resources that can save others- and the families who love them from the same fate my son met with. I also want to challenge the families of these souls tortured by addiction to face the issue head on without fear, shame, or guilt because I can personally attest that feelings of fear, shame, and guilt associated with the reality of a family member who is struggling with addiction and/or mental illness are far less painful than when these feelings arise from losing that loved one to an overdose. Life is to short- it will be there tomorrow, and tomorrow will worry about itself. Take care of your family members or whatever you need to today as no one is ever promised tomorrow and God doesn’t grant do-overs. I only pray that my son is in God’s loving arms and that my son has forgiven me for not doing more to help him although it’s not likely that I will ever forgive myself.

  9. I lost my boyfriend in January. We were long distance and I had planned to visit him in late February for my birthday. His brother called me while I was at work, I still reply what he said in my mind, “he overdosed and passed away earlier today”. I miss him every day. He was clean, he would have times when he felt like he was going to use and we would talk about it and get through it together. That morning he had just sent me a picture of him on a walk, told me he loved me before I went to work. I don’t know what happened and I wish I could get answers. Why? I know I never will but I miss him.

  10. I lost my fiance on November 3rd. He promised me he only smoked marijuana and drank beer which is all I ever seen him do. Many times his behavior would seem erratic, irritated, obnoxious and what I would call extra but I really thought he was bipolar. He told me when he was younger that he messed with coke and that it was a party drug,, but he said that was his past. HE PROMISED ME! It was a normal day. I got up got ready to work, he was grumpy because the light was in his face (he would stay up watching TV all night) he got the kids ready for school, saw my oldest leave for work…….I came home and saw my kids walking from the bus stop by themselves and asked them where their step dad was. He ALWAYS walked them from the bus stop. I got home and found him in our bedroom on the floor…Vomit was on our bed and coming from his mouth. As the days are turning NOW people are saying oh he messed with coke….WHERE WERE THEY WHEN HE WAS DOING IT? Why didnt they tell him NO dont do that? Why didnt they tell me??? As I have been reviewing and learning about OD all of the symptoms are there and there is a rash of cocaine/fentanyl overdoses happening because people think they have cocaine. His sister told me yesterday that she OD’d the day after he died from the cocaine/fentanyl mix. But her boyfriend got her to the hospital. Had he not been there she would be dead too. We are waiting for the toxicology report to confirm-the autopsy ruled out natural causes…….Ihave my answer already. All people keep saying is that you made him a better person….BUT HOW IF HE WAS USING DRUGS??????? Why wouldnt he tell me? GOD this hurts!

  11. My son Jerry died nine days ago from a heroin overdose. He had struggled with addiction for over ten years. He tried rehab four times. He was once clean for a year. I am completely devastated. He was found in his car by the side of a road. He was on his way to visit us. They took my boy to the morgue and performed an autopsy. I can’t believe they needed to mutilate my son when heroin and a needle were found. I don’t know what to do. I can’t fathom that he is gone. He was 32 years old and so smart, loving and funny. How do people continue to live when they have buried their child. I love you Jerry. I am so sorry I couldn’t fix this.

  12. I am going to be brief my son 35 passed 8 months ago tomorrow…today is a bad day more than most because I had 2 vivid dreams of him last night,I believe since he never used a needle ,he would be spared from tainted Cocaine w/ the devil fentanyl. .I had no idea of him using,I spent alot of time w/ him,since he was unmarried we shared sports events, music venues etc.I feel so guilty for that reason. .Miss my beloved Keith as your many adult friends speak so highly of you. .

  13. My beautiful son who was 40 years old died from an overdose 10 weeks ago. He was just out of a drug treatment centre 6 weeks and was doing very well “so I thought” . On the night he overdosed we got a call from the police to say he was in hospital. When I went to see him I knew he was already brain dead and he died 3 days later. My son was a very sensitive person I never for a moment thought that his addiction would be fatal. I loved him so much my heart is broken. I feel if I had said the right things to him he may be still alive. I do know that he was suffering badly and I hope he is at peace now. I think of him every minute of every day

  14. I lost my number 1 Son, my boy, my Ryan, 16 June 2016 – he was 35.
    I died that day too.
    I love you my Son and I miss you.

    OD – I had no idea he was even using drugs.

    • Natalie, I just read your comment and burst into tears. Because you said he was your #1 son, because you said you died that day, and because you said you didn’t know… AND then I read it was posted on August 11, 2017. That’s the day my 36 yr old son was found dead of a fentanyl overdose in a hotel room, 3 states and 900 miles away. I had no clue whatsoever, and yes, I totally died with him… If you’re willing, I would love to talk to you sometime. You can friend me on Facebook – Brenda Zedella. Thank you so much and God bless….

    • I also felt I died 11/4/2013 when the center of my universe passed on, a nightmare, he was almost 33. I still just exist, what can I say. Sending love to all of them and us.

    • My heart crys for you. I lost my wife to a drug overdose we were separated for 5 months and her doctor had her on a lot of anxiety meds…I feel if I’d been with her it wouldn’t have happened…I hope you make it though this…

  15. God bless you I have not lost my son yet but he is pushing the edge everyday and nothing you can do. I have already done all I can think of. Much love so sorry for your deep pain

  16. i lost my only child, my son Andre to a accidental herion overoe 14 months ago. He relasped after two years of soberity, one night, one bad choice and my world felt apart. My son was funny, smart, loving & kind not just a addict as some people view people with addictions. My child died alone in someone’s backyard at the young age of 27. He tried so hard to overcome his addiction, but lost his life to this disease, He was all I had in this world, I pray everyday he’s at peace and feels the joy he couldn’t find here on earth. Losing a child tears your soul apart it’s a pain that never goes away, the “what ifs & why’s” are always there. I wait for the day I can see him again, I miss his kind spirit so much

    • On March 24th I lost my husband and the father of our 2 year old son to a “heroin” overdose that turns out was 3 kinds of fentynal and not one bit of heroin in the one shot that killed him after being sober almost 7 months and getting to know the happiest and healthiest I had ever been blessed to see my soulmate who I planned the next 70 years with “bc 60 just wasn’t enough” we’d always say. He was 26 years old, found dead in his car in a parking lot while I was at work trying to make money for us to both move out of our sober living houses. I understand the “what ifs and maybe I could haves” it has only been a little over 3 months for me.. I still think about Mitch 24/7. I don’t understand how I am ever supposed to be normal again after losing my counterpoint and love of my life. It hurts so bad when I see our son and how he is an absolute twin of his father, I just wish he was here to see his son bc Grayson and I were the main reason Mitch was trying to get his life together. I hate that one moment of weakness took my husband’s life. I would give anything just to hold and kiss him again. I survive each day on the faith that God will reunite us again in Heaven where we can both be eternally happy together like we always planned. #RIPMITCH

    • Dear Joyce
      and Andre’s Mama

      I’m somewhat new to this this heartbreaking world we live in. Im still totally reeling from my only daughter’s heroin overdose 12/3/16. (Joy was 42) and really tried in those dreadful 10 years). I haven’t reached out much yet.. I really have nothing to offer. But after reading your story, I wanted just to write a note to say I am SO SORRY- I’m pretty sure I understand, and here we are ..two Mothers with broken hearts

  17. My husband passed 14 days ago, he came back from one month rehab, they kicked him out….he was clean for a month, we were separated because of his addiction and he was living with his parents. I was still seeing him and I really thought this time he was willing to be clean for good, one day before he left we had dinner and he looked amazing, he was staring at my face so much, like memorizing me….I always got lost in his eyes…. that nite I left and the next day we spoke on the phone a couple times, he sounded sleepy but I had a lot of school work to do and told him we would speak again next day….. next day his mommy found him lifeless in his room. I can’t overcome this, I think I should stayed that nite, all the what ifs I have thought of are uncountable. I have thought I should look for him, I have talked to him, I don’t know what to do…

    • Oh Carolina, I am so sorry. I know the guilt can feel so consuming. I am not sure if you have read it yet, but you may want to read some of our posts on guilt and regret. They can be such hard emotions to cope with after an overdose death. This link goes to a podcast on the topic of guilt and regret, along with links to many of our other posts of guilt. http://www.whatsyourgrief.com/twenty-two/

  18. I lost my older brother tonight to an overdose. I have cried all day and thought about him more today than I ever have. I feel so guilty about that. My brother has battled addiction for probably more than ten years, and I’ve called him worthless when he stole from me, I’ve called him a loser and terrible things .. I sounded like I didn’t love him, because I was so angry at his addiction. But I did love him, and I do love him. And I wish I could tell him that. It sickens me to think that my brother died without having felt loved in a really long time … We are a family of addicts. My parents functioning alcoholics, myself I used to abuse alcohol and cocaine until a DUI 9 years ago. We were raised in a dysfunctional home with substance abuse everywhere … Why did I make it out alive and he didn’t. I’m so sorry Greg. I should have come back for you. I should have tried harder, I should have told you you were worth more than what your addiction made us see … I’m so sorry. I don’t know how to live with this guilt and regret.

    • Oh Kay, I am so sorry for Greg’s death and the immense guilt and regret that you feel. There no easy answers and, as it sounds like you well know, addiction is a complex and devastating disease. I am sorry for the delay in my reply, but I hope you find some support on our site. This link is to a podcast we did on guilt, but it also includes links to a number of other posts we have written on the topic. http://www.whatsyourgrief.com/twenty-two/

  19. My name is Samantha. I have been looking for a place to just tell my story to people that can relate. My fiancé passed away March 3rd, 2016 of an accidental overdose. We had been together three and a half years but we have known each other since we were ten years old. We had a daughter together. We had just moved into a new apartment with our baby girl. Matt normally worked out of town and usually wasn’t home but he had taken this week off to spend time with us. He was going to stay home with our daughter and I was going to work that morning. Everything was fine. We kissed and hugged like any other day. Later that day I called him on break. He sounded like he was messed up on something, and I started getting anxiety knowing he was with our baby girl. The last words he said to me was “I love you baby” and suddenly dropped the phone and I heard nothing. I panicked and raced home because I knew something was wrong. When I walked in he was hunched over completely purple. Our daughter was asleep on the floor right by his head. I tried saving him so bad as go it was coming up into my mouth as I have him CPR. When paramedics got here they pronounced him dead. They searched my house and everything. I got to lay next to him and cry in pain as I thought of everything he was going to miss with our daughter. Toxicology came back and it was a xanex that was laced with fentanyl. Matt only took a half and it killed him. They found the person who sold it to him and he is in prison but not for his death because Matt took it willingly. Completely devastated and confused as to how I am supposed to explain this to our daughter.

  20. We need to gather all of this suffering together and use it as a force for good. Here is a way to allow God to use our grief for a higher purpose and to make our loved one who has passed away happy that something good can come from our suffering: SPIRITUAL WARFARE: THE LIVING WATER OF REDEMPTIVE SUFFERING: To me the waves of grief can wash over me like a tidal wave and can literally feel like I am drowning and the water feels like the Dead Sea if I don’t know what to do with them. When I offer each wave of grief, as it comes, to the Lord as my sacrifice it changes them into Living Water because he takes each one I give him, unites it with his sacrifice on the cross (and his victory over death and suffering) and uses it as a channel of grace for others. He allows us to see some of what he uses it for here and now but most of what he does with our offering will be seen in heaven. It can be helpful to make a prayer list that includes all of the people and situations that our heavy on our heart, and as each wave comes, take out your list and pray: “I offer this suffering for….” As Catholics this is what we are doing at Mass – If you think about the words of the “morning offering” (https://www.ewtn.com/Devotionals/prayers/morning2.htm) that we prayed as children. We are at Mass to offer ourselves with Jesus to the Father for the salvation of the world and because we are members of His Body on earth (Cf. 1 Cor 12:12-31; Col 1:18; 2:18-20; Eph. 1:22-23; 3:19; 4:13) and he lives in us (Galatians 2:20), our offering has merit – eternal value. What a high calling we have! If all bereaved people knew this, what a difference it could make in finding meaning and a mission in their suffering! Think about how powerful of a force for good it would be if we could gather all of the suffering that bereaved people are enduring from overdose related deaths and offer it for a specific intention (e.g. that the drug dealers would be caught and converted; that all families suffering from this would be healed and find peace and meaning in their suffering; that future deaths would be prevented; etc.)! We would see mountains moved and miracles happen!

  21. My 25 year old son died of a fentanyl overdose on Jan 30, 2015. Shortly after his passing, I connected with a group of local grieving moms in Montgomery County , MD to meet weekly for support. Since then our group has grown to almost 20 moms and each month we welcome more members to the club nobody wants to belong to. I am not sure I would still be here had it not been for this support group. We are now organizing a Ceremony of Remembrance for Aug 31 Overdose Awareness Day. Our group is called SOUL – Surviving Our Ultimate Loss and we are here to help other survivors survive the devastation we are all living. You can find us on FB if you’d like to connect send an email to [email protected]. Blessings and healing hugs to this community.

  22. My eyes are swimming as I type this because my boyfriend–my soulmate I feel–died several weeks ago under circumstances pointing towards overdose. The definitive cause is still not known–the toxicology work up is so slow. My emotions have circled round and round. At times I feel disbelief (I keep having a vague surprised sensation, though I’m fully aware that he’s gone); sadness (I love him and miss him so much. I want to talk to him and be close to him.); anger (Towards him and myself. I warned him (some)! I pleaded (a little)!); guilt (I may have warned and pleaded, but it wasn’t enough and it wasn’t with the right words. I feel I also enabled him. I feel I was also in denial a good bit of the time.); fear (It’s a complex case with ramifications outside the death itself); shame (People keep asking me how he died, he was so young in his 30s. I don’t myself abuse substances and I work in a field in which reputation is highly valued. I feel ashamed of the public admission of what happened. I feel ashamed that I feel ashamed.); and compassion (He was suffering in the grips of something he couldn’t control. I was helpless to stop it.). That last emotion is something that has just recently dawned; the other emotions I have visited over and over every day since the beginning. I cry a lot less now, but I still think about it throughout the day.

    A visitor in the days after his death recommended the grief book “When Bad Things Happen to Good People” by rabbi Harold S. Kushner. Her recommendation was born out of a long search for understanding after the loss of her teenage son. She said she had read all the grief books that had ever been published and that this was the one that had really spoken to her. I’m part way through, and I recommend it too.

  23. My youngest son died 2 weeks ago from an accidental overdose, Tyler was only 26 years old, my best freind and supporter. I was diagnosed with Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer almost 2 years ago, and am still in the fight mostly with the help and support of my son Tyler. He was always there for me.
    He has struggled with anxiety for many years, then after losing his grandfather this last year from cancer, me being diagnosed, his father finding some small cancerous nodes in his colon ( which were removed), he was sinking. Drinking a lot, and I was hiding my pills from him, cause that’s the only thing that gave him relief.
    He ended up ordering some pills online, even though I tried and tried to talk him out of it. 2 weeks later he left our family heartbroken.
    The thing that hurts me most is that I knew he was struggling, I guess I was in denial. He was always so smart, I thought he had it under control….. Apparently he didn’t.
    I had treatment that morning and when I came back, I was very tired and not feeling well. He wanted to talk about moving out and living with his grandma and going to treatment. He had an appointment to talk about treatment the following day. I was not very receptive to having this conversation at this time and told him that I needed to take a nap and we would talk later. He agreed.
    3 hours later I went into his room and found him passed out in his computer chair, though he wasn’t passed out, he was gone. I called 911 and tried to help him until the ambulance got there but had a feeling that it was too late. He was cool to the tough, his nails turning blue, eyes open. My beautiful, wonderful loving son gone.
    I feel I failed him. My strongest supporter and I did nothing to help him.
    I don’t want to stope feeling horrible, I never will. I feel as though I deserve it. Everybody tells me to not blame myself, but I feel that is just a justification to not take responsibility. I was his mother, I should have been there for him.

    • Sonya
      I can so relate to the gut wrenching guilt we as moms feel
      My son was In rehab again and I had already enrolled in a pharmacy tech program
      I talked and texted but told him I’d visit after my course was complete
      I knew I couldn’t take on his addiction anymore and wanted to focus on me
      Well he stayed clean for 3 months but left rehab one day and relapsed
      Died from an overdose
      Well now I have my whole life to focus on me but I’m blinded by guilt regret and grief
      I pray we all can move forward however slowly

      • Sonya and Suzy, thinking so much of you both. We have a number of posts on guilt, regret, and self-forgiveness that you may find of some small support. If you put any of those terms in the search bar of the site it will bring the posts right up!

  24. It’s been 15 mos since my daughter , 25 at the time overdosed and died. There are days that instill can’t believe it and ask her why , why did you ever get into drugs! This girl was not the type you would expect, she was a cheerleader in HS , loved by many, she never even kissed a boy until after HS..it all went down hill after h.s…she left behind a 2 yr old son, and an abusive husband who was part of the problem..I’m surprised at 15 months later, I still have moments of anger at her, moments of disbelief?i mean shouldn’t it be getting better?

    • Mary if you have not, find a grief share group at a nearby church they are all over the country
      and/or a grief counselor through your local hospice…talking will help you process and get over the anger
      my son died January 22, 2016 heroin overdose

  25. Just three days ago, on March 5, 2016, I was called by my wife to tell me that our 21 year old son, Josh, was at his best friends’ house and wasn’t breathing. I rushed there and all I heard from the police was “I’m sorry for your loss”. They wouldn’t let us see him, we waited for hours, an eternity, for the coroner to arrive and finally they brought up his cold lifeless body on a gurney to take to the morgue. I am Josh’s step-dad although I’ve never used the word “step.” He was my son too, and I had been a part of his life since he was 3. My wife, his Mom, is inconsolable, we’re all in shock, I cry constantly. It was his Dad’s 52nd birthday on March 5th, the day he passed. Now we are planning his visitation and funeral services – no parent should have to do this. Josh was a light, a beacon, incredible charisma, made us all laugh all the time. I don’t know of anyone who didn’t like him, didn’t love him. I love you Josh, so so so much. I couldn’t love a son more. I don’t know how to go on.
    Apparently his friend is an addict, heroine? We don’t know yet and won’t for 4-6 weeks. Now all I know is that our hearts are broken and we lost a piece of us. Every day is a personal nightmare and we can’t seem to wake up.
    If you suspect anything with your child or their friends, do something before it’s too late. It’s better to have them be around to be mad at you rather than the alternative.
    I’ll love you forever Josh, I’ll miss you every day.

  26. I lost my daughter (22yr old) to a heroin overdose on November 15,2015
    I can’t handle the grief and don’t know where to turn for professional counseling, what kind of grief counselor is out there ? All I see is marriage and family counseling

  27. I’m confused… Just listened to “Part two” and it isjust a REPLAY OF PART ONE…. what a misleading title and a waste of time… Though it is very valuable material, grateful to have listened to it, expected additional material covered in part two…

    • Hi Pamela, the post itself (the text) is Part II and is entirely different information. The link to the podcast is just our overdose podcast. We only have one podcast on this topic and we include the link to play the podcast in both the Part I and Part II of this post because some people find the post via google, etc and only ever look at one or the other. Sorry it was confusing that the text was different but audio was a link to the same podcast. I will see if we can clarify that for others in the futurez

  28. Hi,
    My name is Walt. I am grieving the loss of my 35 year old son to an accidental drug over dose.
    I am writing this letter not in the hope of garnering pity but to simply try and overcome my emotional concealment. This is, in a word, a catharsis.

    In the last year of my sons life he came to live with me in the hope that he would be able to maintain a nearly three year clean and sober life style. I bare the burden however of having been an absentee father and with that comes a great deal of guilt.
    The year we spent together was, in some respect, a form of reconciliation between us . . .
    I am thankful for that time we had together.

    As is in so many cases such as this our relationship was complicated. Over the past year since his death I have tried not to dwell on the circumstances with friends and family in the fear they would pull away.
    I put up a pretty good front but inside I am filled with despair and an almost overwhelming sense of loneliness that I fear will drive me mad.

    The circumstances of my sons death was particularly difficult in that I found the body. I attended a short grief counseling session(s) soon after the death but find that after a year I am far from the person I once was.

    As a young infantryman serving in a line unit in Vietnam death was an almost daily occurrence. The way we coped with the losses was to suck it up and say “ fuck it it don’t mean noth’in” . . . This of-course has lade to, in so many cases, an emotional disconnect among so many vets today. That experience profoundly effected my relationship with my wife and children in ways I just now am beginning to understand.

    At this stage in my grieving process I find that anger seem to be the predominate emotion.
    When I am with friends enjoying a camping trip or a hike in the mountains I feel a
    short respite from the pain but it is short lived. People tell me “ time heals all wounds” . . . there is no healing from something like this . . . I just try and find ways to cope with the pain.

    My friends and family have been, and continue to be, a great source of comfort in this most trying time. I love you all. Walt.

  29. I lost my best friend preston exactly five months ago he was one of the few people that came to my 28th birthday gathering at the river my wife and his ex girlfriend were best friends just like us and the four of us were always together until the split of them well after the party he decided he wanted me him and my wife to go visit her it was bittersweet one of them days where everything seems perfect well it ended tragically as we watched the emt try to save one of the most amazing people I have ever met I am at complete loss of motivation with anything in life I haven’t talked about it much and I feel I need to because I have alot of bad images stuck in my head as I waited for the ambulance I had to hold my friends hand and tell him u gonna be alright man im here for ya its just the hardest thing ive ever had to do I agree 100% with eeverything in this article and it has helped knowing im not alone because ive surely been isolated and my own battle with the same addiction that killed my friend is even harder as we used together I would like to hear from someone who could help me because honestly I am not getting any better mentally and physically my addiction is killing me you would think a normal person would take it as a sign to stop but if you have ever been an addict u know that normal is never the way most go I feel like opening up like this will help me but I fear the opposite as people these days are judgmental and will see me as a loser but I dont care im finally being honest and not hiding it anymore…..Rest In Peace “P” I Love You Brother

    • Blake, I have not suffered addiction myself, but there are a few things I can tell you: you are not a loser and there is no judgement here. It is totally normal that you would be struggling with all the painful images. If you don’t have a counselor you may want to consider one. For difficult images there is a type of therapy called EMDR that many people who have struggled with trauma and addiction find helpful, expecially in dealing with difficult images. Though there are many others, so keep an open mind!

      As for the complicated feelings of struggling with the same addictiom that killed your friend, I wish there was an easy answer, but there isn’t. All I can say is, just as you know that your addiction is not rational and you can’t just stop despite this unimaginable tragedy, your friend was likely in a similar place and you couldn’t have changed that. As Naranon and Alanon would tell you, you are powerless over another person and their addiction. All you have control over is you, and when you are dealing with addiction I am sure even that doesn’t feel entirely true.

      I wish I had the right words, but I know all too well there is no such thing as the right words. All I can say is that you deserve to be clean and, as impossible as it feels to get there, it is not impossible. There are people and places and programs to help you, and who want to help. Honor your friend, remember him, talk about him, carry on in the memory of the amazing person he was. And, perhaps most importantly, consider how you can live the life he would want for you and the life he can no longer live for himself. Cheesy, I know. But it is what I believe. Sending all my good thoughts your way.

  30. I am a survivor of overdose from addiction this first time ive came public since it happened in april 2015 i suffered two massive heart attacks life support and coma for ten days had four surgeries on leg i was on for the ten hours i was unconscious before being found heart failure organ failure 3 months of intensive physical therapy cuz drs had to amputate my right leg above knee or i wouldnt have lived ive been through a pretty severe recovery and i receive my prosthetic leg on next monday and go back in hospital for aggressive 5 day therapy to learn to walk if u have any question i will answer them im currently writing a book bout what addiction to prescription methadone does to u and ur loved ones want to make a difference and make some good come out of something bad i wanna save lives by publishing my story so thats y im posting on here as well i lost some memory but what i didnt remember my mom and ex husband filled me in my husband found out bout my condition and called ambulance if it was five minutes later i wouldnt be sitting in this wheelchaor posting this right now the girls i was doing pills with allowed me to lay unconscious for ten hours before telling my husband as soon as paramedics arrived and got me into ambulance my heart failed and then failed again as we entered er of the closest hospital slowly remembering things but not remembering much more but my mpm was very honest with me when i woke from third surgery right before last surgery which was amputation i have 3 girls to live for so rather be alive with one leg then to make my daughters motherless and ive came a long way and this was definitely my wake up call u couldnt pay me to take nonprescribed medication now days ots not worth it i realize that now and hope by book and making speeches i can make ppl realize that before they have to go down the road i went down before being willing to quit, so if u have any facts bout addiction or grievi.g that will benefit my story would defi.itely add it to my book thats all for now email me at [email protected] with ir comments and/or questions bout me or my accidental overdose that changed me into a better person everything happens fpr a reason and being as close to death as it gets did it for me i wont touch legal pr illegal drugs for rest of my life and i vow to become a successful drug addict counselor/social worker before all is said and done just gotta learn to walk before i can accomplish some of my goals and dreams, ive nvr in my life had urge or dream to write a book until this traumatic accident i wont give up until im able to male a difference/save some lives but for some ppl it may take a shock like i endured to tell themselves to wake the f*** up if not for urself then for ur kids at least my mother lost her mother.at early age and wouldnt wish it on anyone so rest of my life is aimed at recovery/walking with the prosthetic and saving someone from my traumatic experience hope that my story helps those of u on here that lost someone to addiction o.d. cuz ur not to blame when someone is addicted to drugs or pills they will find a way to get it no matter what like for example the pills i overdosed on was my mothers prescription bottle. Of 40 10 mg tablets my first immediate symptom was respitory and heart failure i stole the methadone from her and its something that she can not do with out thats the short version hope to get emails soon

  31. I recently lost my fiance just two weeks ago due to a drug overdose. I knew he struggled with addiction but I never thought in a million years that this would happen to him I just love him to much to even think it. I feel tremendous guilt because I pressured him to get himself together for ours sons and I not knowing exactly what to do always feeling like it was an almost impossible task to get him clean because he had been relapsing for so long. His parents moved to get him in a new environment but he was always back and forth as me and our boys still loved in the area. I blame myself because deep down I didn’t want to be away from him and I was afriad I would lose him to another woman and he would no longer be there for our family but I should have known that if he kept coming back and forth that this would eventually happen.he was doing better in the new city new environment and his old friends weren’t around to do his drugs with. I wish I would have tried to encourage him to stay there and I did but not quite hard enough because again I figured if he really wanted to come back deep down inside I didn’t want to be away from him. I told him the boys and I could move next summer when the school year was over but he didn’t want to be away from us for that long. It was his addiction talking and in a way deep down inside I knew that. I tried to talk him into getting treatment but he never wanted to stay past detox. His parents blame me because they know I wanted to be with him as much as possible and he had contacts for drugs in this area. I feel like I shouldn’t and don’t want to go on living. I wish it wouldve been me. I never wanted to lose him. I just knew if we could get through this last year we could move with him for good and he would have no reason to come back to this area. Now I am stuck dealing with the fact of his sons and me never being able to see him again and it is because of me because I couldn’t see a way out for him because I couldn’t stand to be away from him. Now I am permanently away from him. It eats away at me inside. Every morning I can barely get out of bed to face the day. Even his mom blames me. I don’t know of his other family does but I hope not but if his mom does they probably do too. I never did cocaine or heroin but I feel guilty because I smoked weed and had occasional drinks which didn’t help his situation any. I tried to help him but he wouldn’t listen. He never wanted to stay in treatment past detox really and when he went out of town he missed us and always wanted to come back. I wish I would have just broke things off with him and maybe he would never have come back to this area. This area has a place for a lot of addiction (Chicago suburbs) I don’t know if I will ever get past this tremendous guilt and it hurts that his mom blames me even though I didn’t do heroin with him. I knew of his struggles. I love and miss him so much. I could never imagine my life without him and now he is gone and its partially my fault a huge part of it is my fault and now I want to go and die every day. I am trying to stay strong for my boys but its hard. Very very hard. I love him.

  32. A week ago my best friend died of an alcohol and prescription drug overdose. This has been an ongoing battle for many years. Deb was in treatment many times but not a lot of success mostly short term. Her Mom and I had her committed multiple times because the self harm was life threatening to herself. It helped with court ordered treatment and probation until that timeframe ceased. It was always a quick nose dive back to addiction. We have spent a lot of time in emergency rooms and ICU and in therapy and different treatment facilities. Her siblings and friends could no longer deal with all the damage control that happens when life gets out of control. So little by little support weakens and then you feel the isolation of being all alone in the end zone. Not a good feeling kind of like being at sea by yourself with no rescue in sight. I saw the hurt and anguish Deb felt from the separation in the family and friends walking away. It’s not easy and I have had to
    Do that at times myself to keep my own sanity and health in check. I am a cancer survivor and struggle with me doing my best to stay on this earth and her leaving it.
    I always came back and we picked up where we left off. It takes a long time to
    grow old friends as we would say to each other. 45 years is quite a long dance
    I miss my friend and my heart is breaking I will continue to be a support to my other mom as we need each other and her family. Am so thankful I found this website it’s exactly what I needed today.
    Education and kindness will make this world a better place. Life happens no exceptions so do the best you can to care for yourself and others. Learn to forgive yourself and others too. And don’t forget to find the love and joy and hope and healing that is there also. One day at a time ….

  33. Thanks for talking about GRASP. I’m going to look for one in my area. My brother’s death shocked me. I will never know if it was intentional or unintentional. It leaves me dismayed. It was horrible to “claim his body” and sign a death certificate. Along with reading overdose on the autopsy. It is altogether more than one person can take.

  34. I have never been able to openly talk about this because i feel so much shame and guilt. I still don’t understand why i wasn’t fired or arrested or punished in some way… but on the other hand i don’t go a single day without feeling so guilty and its affected my life in so many ways that i just struggle to get by each day. I worked for a harm reduction model Homeless Shelter for 5 years. The last 2 years i was promoted to management and then to project coordinator for a special project that was to suppose to be an outreach to bring intoxicated individuals in from the cold to prevent people from dying outside while under the influence. Our city doesn’t have many resources for addiction – the detox is always full, the jail cells are at capacity with public intoxication and there is no where for these people to go. Therefore, we opened a room specifically to bring people inside if under the influence and monitor them while they slept it off. We provided them with a safe place to sleep or just lay for a while, food and water while they sobered up. It was suppose to be a social response to public intoxication that freed up our emergency services to respond to calls of a more emergency basis and to help de-criminalize addition. I spent months on months researching detox facility procedures, monitoring procedures and intervals, intoxication scales and so many more risk factors that could potentially jeopardize the health and safety of my staff and clients. For a while, everything was great, clients appreciated the warm safe space to sleep it off and the police were happy they could just bring them to us instead of throwing them in jail or using up a free bed at Emerg which is constantly under grid-lock. Then one fateful day, i was managing… and i had become pretty confident in my role and with the nature of these clients. This one client. This one time. I did not do my 100% due diligence. When the front line staff came to me regarding an intoxicated male laying in our vestibule. I said put him in the room. I didn’t get off my butt to go and assess this individual, rate his intoxication… or anything. I just trusted that this was like every other intoxicated (alcohol) individual. It was then my job to monitor that room and to check on that person every 20-30 minutes. Well, the day got busy and i got called into a meeting. It was the end of the working day and i was doing shift change with another manager… i then left without checking the room. I received a call a few hours later that i needed to come back and identify who was in that room… they sounded frantic. I return to see emergency services everywhere… i was then brought inside to identify the body of the young man who was laying dead on the mat. We went a long time without knowing the cause of death and while my boss kept saying it was no ones fault… i couldn’t help but feel responsible obviously. It destroyed me… i couldn’t sleep or eat and i started drinking just to block everything out. i ended up going on leave because i couldn’t even do my job anymore… i couldn’t trust my decisions or my ability as a manager or coordinator. The results later came back that the person had taken another persons methadone and had overdosed. Despite the fact that people say, it was bound to happen regardless and that at least he was inside in a safe place rather than out in a snow bank.. i still can’t help but think that if i had gotten off my ass and assessed him i would have been able to tell this was not intoxication by means of alcohol. Sure, I’m not a medical professional, but i have still had training on what alcohol intoxication looks like and what drug intoxication looks like. I should have known this was different. If i had checked i could have called EMS right away and this could have been prevented. The guilt my front line staff felt was my fault as it was never suppose to be their responsibility anyways. Here i am now a year later, unable to write tests because i don’t trust my responses or go a day without this dreaded guilt that i do not deserve my opportunities in life because it is my fault that someone else lost their opportunities in life. I have tried therapy… but their is really nothing anyone can say or re-phrase or put in perspective that can take away the feelings of responsibility and guilt of this. Its almost like i would rather someone just say, yes you messed up and are now charged.. or put in jail… or something that could acknowledge what I’ve done. Its almost like that would be closure for me, to actually pay for what I’ve done in quantifiable means instead of letting this eat me up inside. But here i am constantly researching things in search of something…

    • Guilt-ridden, I am so incredibly sorry for what you have gone through. In my mind the goal is not eliminating guilt and regret, it isn’t trying to ‘reframe it’ away or minimize it or have people tell us we shouldn’t feel guilty. The goal for me has always been to do something with my guilt. I was a social worker, a professional working in the field, when my sister’s boyfriend died of an overdose. There are a million moments I have relived over and over imagining the things I could have done to prevent that death. I won’t rehash them here, but they are many. The guilt was debilitating. There are moments it still is. But for me the bottom line is this: you can’t change the past. You can choose to wallow in your guilt and regret, or you can use it to do something. Everything I do around substance abuse – the work I do in a substance abuse clinic, the articles I write on this blog about grief and overdose and substance use – every bit of that is work I do in his memory. I can’t bring him back. He can’t live the amazing life he had the potential to live as the brilliant, caring, and hilarious person that he was. I would trade anything to change that, but I can’t. But I can take all the mistakes I made and I can turn them into somethimg meaningful in his memory. I can put good in the world because of him. That is how I choose to make amends – I try to make the world a better place because he isn’t here to do it, and because I have learned lessons – painful, tragic, and debilitating lessons – that may help someone else if I use them to DO something productive and positive. My guilt and regret have not gone away, I don’t want the to per se, because I have learned to live with them and let them drive me to action and to be a better person. There is a post here you can check out on the tiny ways I try to ‘do’ something with my guilt and grief every year on Overdose Awareness Day: http://www.whatsyourgrief.com/putting-good-world-overdose-awareness-day-memorial/

      There are some other posts we have on guilt that you may find more useful than the overdose posts:

      http://www.whatsyourgrief.com/guilt-and-grief-2/ (this one is on dealing with all the coulda, woulda, shouldas)
      http://www.whatsyourgrief.com/guilt-and-grief/ (this one is on why you should never tell a griever not to feel guilty)
      http://www.whatsyourgrief.com/journaling-about-regret/ (this on is on regret)

      You also must must check out this post. http://lovelightlaughterandchocolate.blogspot.com/2012/12/be-with-me-just-for-today.html If you think I am the only one who believes that it is okay to feel guilty forever, as long as you do something productive with that guilt, then Kim’s post will prove otherwise. I messed up, Kim messed up, you messed up. People mess up and sometimes it has absolutely horrific and unimaginable consequences. What we can do to ‘pay’ for what we have done is own it and DO something. At least that is what I do, that is what Kim does, and I hope you’ll join us 🙂 Ultimately, I believe this is a path to finding some self-forgiveness. Take care and I do hope you find support on our site.

  35. I unexpectedly lost my wife 4 months ago. After the autopsy showed no known cause they had to do toxicology testing because she was on prescription pills for pain and anxiety. I just found out a week ago that the cause of her death was accidental overdose of 2 prescription medications. I was also dealt another blow, she was on 2 other medications that she hid from me! I have so many emotions going on at once and the stress of the holidays. Some days I don’t feel like I can take life and want to give up. I am alone! We moved to a location that was far from everyone to take of her mother and now I have no one. I don’t know where I fit! I am gay and she died of an overdose, both are diffucult to admit.

  36. Thank you for your kind words Eleanor

  37. Litsa, thank you very much for this article. I lost my 19 year old daughter in 2010 to an overdose. I thought I didn’t feel the shame and guilt but after reading this it gave me many answered. Of course I feel these feelings I just denied them till now. I went into total denile of these feelings. My mission was to let the world know there was much more to her than this. Her addiction was less than two years, it wasn’t going to define her as far as I was concerned. When she entered rehab, I entered AlAnon. I’m so thankful I did. We got to do some recovery together and talk. I went to the schools and wanted to educate kids on the dangers of pills. Last year my dream came true. Through an organization called Narcotic Overdose Prevention and Education we reached over 9000 students and 700 parents. Teaching them about addiction and overdose. Nopetaskforce.org. I was full steam ahead never dealing with my grief. Being in the fifth year of grief, l’m now worse. In reading your words I know now what I’ve been doing. I can’t let her go, I never will. I know I’m obsessed. This is how I remain her mom and still protect her. By telling her story as much as I can is double edged. I’m constantly reliving the pain. I suppose that’s how I’m punishing myself. I know I did all I could. I know she loved me and she knew I loved her. I have peace in that. I can not accept she’s gone. I will continue to educate the kids and pray it helps stop the insanity of addiction in some way. I also have accepted the isolation that comes with this. My life changed. I will never be the same. People stay away. I hope articles like yours show people that we need comfort and carrying just like any other “acceptable” death. God Bless

    • Tricia,

      First of all, thank you so much for the important work you do. I understand that in many ways telling your daughter’s story brings you closer to her, but in many other ways it keeps you focused on the part of your story together that was the most painful. I hope you find a balance between being able to do this advocacy work and being able to focus on taking care of yourself and the relationship you continue to have with your daughters memory and legacy. My heart goes out to you and I can tell by your words you’ve been a great mother to your daughter and I’m sure no matter how hard you tried you could never explain all the many ways your daughter was unique and beautiful.

  38. I love my son November 25 2013 of a heroin over does. Years of struggling. Miss him every minuet of every day. Now I’m the one taking one day at a time. A broken hearted mom for life. Now my fears are different. Is he cold,lonely,hungry, crying, homesick, broken hearted. Tears flow daily till I see him again rest in peace Nick your finally free from yr drug struggles fly son use those wings

  39. I lost my beautiful boy, James, just four weeks ago to a drug overdose. My heart is broken. I do not know how I am going to continue, knowing that I will never see him again in this lifetime.

  40. My sister died in 2002 from a heroin overdose. It destroyed my family and in 2012 my mom gave up and committed suicide. I’m angry at my sister’s ex who introduced her to heroin. He then used her, abused her, and was overall a terrible person. He’s now clean and sober and everything is seemingly great for him. It makes me angry that he started her on such a bad path and is now high and mighty. I know he didn’t force her to take it, and he was out of her life when she died. It just feels unfair, that’s all. I see all her friends now who are married, have children, homes, their lives. I get so sad and bitter. It didn’t have to be this way.

    • Oh Mary, I am so sorry – that is a tremendous amount of loss for you and your family. It is understandable the bitterness and resentment you have toward him. It does seem unfair, and in the world of overdose and addiction there are so many things that feel unfair. Though you may not see it, many addicts who used with frieds who died of overdose live with a tremendous ‘survivors guilt’. Their guilt can often increase when they get clean, finally feeling the pain and reality of their actions and losses. I know this does not change how unfair it is, or his role in the death of your sister, but it just seemed at least worth mentioning. As our ‘part one’ of this post explains, the anger and blame are such common feelings after an overdose death. They are as valid as any other feeling, and they are important feelings to explore. This post on anger (the good and the bad!) may be of interest: http://www.whatsyourgrief.com/all-about-anger/. Take care and thank you for taking the time to comment.

  41. Thanks for sharing your contact, Margie, and for the great work you are doing. There need to be more groups like yours!

  42. Thank you for this post. I am always looking for information on this topic. I lost my son, Mitch almost four years ago to a heroin overdose. We are forever changed.

    I co-founded a support group in South Orange County, Ca in the city of Mission Viejo. We are called SOLACE Orange County. It is a group for those that have lost a loved one to substance as well as for those that currently are struggling with a loved one’s addiction.

    Please contact us at: (949) 874-1047 for more information.

    Thank you.

  43. Hi Litsa,

    Came across your site randomly and I’m so glad I did. Death is never easy but dealing with a loved ones passing from substance leaves a lot of questions unanswered. You’ve cleared a lot up for me, so thank you 🙂

    Just over four years since we lost my younger brother Matthew and still picture the day like it was yesterday. Not a day passes where he pops in my mind or I find myself thinking about old memories, mostly good which helps. But the guilt and ‘what ifs’ are always close to follow, leaving me feeling more upset. I’ve even become addicted to watching Intervention because of him!

    I’ve started feeling guilty as I’ve hit life milestones (30th birthday this year, engagement) as i think he’ll never get to experience these so why should I enjoy them? But now I’ll actively try not to.

    Thank you for your post!

    Alana

  44. Lauren,
    I made comment on the “disenfranchised grief” posting about this type of thing. When one of a couple who had a “stormy relationship” dies and the friends and family of the deceased then ignore the surviving partner.

    I was in a “stormy relationship” with my late husband. But as much as we “stormed” sometimes, we also loved each other dearly. I guess there was something his family didn’t like about me all along. After he died, I never heard another word from any of them after the day of his funeral.

    That was four years ago…..

    We were only married for three years, but had been “together” for years before we made it legal. His adult son looked me in the eye at the funeral home and said “Well, I guess you’re going to get everything.” (Everything being a not-very-large insurance policy, half of his pension money eventually, and his car) I was so shocked I could not even answer him. But that told me a lot.

    As for my husband’s three siblings, I have no idea what their problem was or is. In the overall I was good to him and they knew it. They also knew he was not an easy person to live with. Thus the relationship had its ups and downs.

    You have my sincere condolences for your loss. Hold your head up high. These kind of people are not helpful in life. I know it can hurt at first, cut you will come to understand they are not even worth your thoughts.

    • Hi Dina, my son died a few years ago, the woman who had his child, pregnant within 2 months, quickly disposed of all of my sons family, us, and gave us nothing but left a lot of his oldest clothing under my carport with a lot of her junk thrown in. She was a nightmare, havent seen my grandchil and in the days following my son, was continually harrassed by her teenage ‘mob’ cousins and co, pretending to be other people, prank calls. Any mention of a request to her family from my sons has been, no its all Rubys, my grand daughter. make sure this hasnt happened, and you have respected hi family are blood, they need to be recognised.

  45. My boyfriend of 2 years who was also a best friend of mine since middle school died in our home 6 months ago due to an overdose. We went out with some friends and he was participating in drugs although I wasnt ok with it. The next morning I went to wake him up and it was too late. I tried everything to bring him back. I try to remember he went in his sleep and it was peaceful. I am open about his passing and the reason behind it. All of his friends and family dont speak to me anymore as they think I was part of the problem. We were having troubles a few months before and we had decided on him moving back in and working things out. It has been the most heartbreaking experience. Im not sure if anything can take away the pain until I see him again. I wait for him every day to come home with that huge smile and silly stories and jokes.
    Gone but never forgotten.
    Dane M Rebochak
    12/24/85-05/02/13

  46. Melissa was my beautiful, wonderful, full of life neice. She had great giggles and was very smart. She graduated 1 in her class and spoke mutiple lanquages. She died last night on 9/19 /2013 of an overdose. We are all so sad of a life not lived. I am now looking up every web site she visted. She overdosed before but my sister always found her just in time and called an ambulence. This time it was too late. I am so scared and worried about my sister since parents are suppose to die before their children. Our mother Melissa grandmother died just a few months ago and left us all sad now we have more sadness. We hope Melissa is in peace and with her grandmother who loved her very much. Please pray for my sister Kathy Melissa’s mother . Bearing this pain may be too great for her. God help everyone – life on earth is not easy- Melissa was a shinning light that now is not there for us but we truely hope that she is in peace. Patricia Slutzky (Melissa Aunt)

  47. Lauren, I am so sorry. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to be coping with the loss of your fiance, your own recovery, and raising your daughter. Guilt is a normal part of grief, especially when someone dies from an overdose or suicide. Many times guilt never goes away completely, but it changes, becomes less painful,and somehow we learn to incorporate it into our lives and use it to make us better people. One thing that has helped me more than anything else over the years, that I mentioned in the post, is finding acceptance that I cannot control someone else’s recovery. Just like the first step in AA/NA is admitting we were powerless over our addiction, we also have to admit that we are powerless over someone else’s addiction. Though I know it may not make it any easier, it sounds like you are living a life he would be proud of – taking care of yourself and your little girl. A huge part of grief is facing our emotions, and it is also making meaning out of a loss in the way it transforms how we live our own lives — doing things in their memory and that we learned from them. One step at a time . . .

  48. My fiance died of an overdose nearly two years ago. I cannot get over the guilt I feel because we used together. I am now in recovery, and am raising our beautiful little girl together. I hate when people ask how he died. I hate trying to come to terms with how he died. but it does bring me peace knowing that he died doing something that he loved. something that made him feel great. Since I have gotten clean I struggle with grieving over him. and trying to make it through each day clean. I miss him more and more each day. Hopefully one day there will be no stigma associated with accidental overdose. He was a great man. Loved me & loved our little girl. He was taken too soon

  49. Thanks so much for sharing that resource Debbie — and thanks for starting that sub-group!! It is so important and I think many places have little going on around this type of loss. So glad you have found our site too and that you are enjoying it!

  50. I am co-facilitating a sub-group of TCF (The Compassionate Friends) that is specific to the loss of a child due to substance related causes.
    We are located in SE Portland, OR, and our meetings are on the 2nd Wed of every month at 7:00.
    Details at TCFPortland.org

    We have found so very little going on in our state around this complicated grief.

    Thank you for this web-site! So happy to have found it!

  51. Just outstanding, Litsa. Thank you so much for this important series. ?

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