August 1st is International Overdose Awareness Day; a day to raise awareness and commemorate loved ones who have died from a drug overdose. According to the CDC, over 70,000 Americans died from a drug-involved overdose in 2019 alone. That number reflects the fact our nation is currently suffering from a serious opioid epidemic.
Losing a loved one to a drug overdose is a terrible burden to carry. The loss changes you forever, and most people simply aren’t equipped to deal with the emotional turmoil that follows.
After years of counseling people grieving the loss of a loved one due to a drug overdose, I have learned they carry a lot of guilt. Guilt because they feel they should have seen the signs; should have done something more; should have somehow known their loved one was in trouble.
My clients also deal with the stigma that surrounds death from an overdose. People often judge others harshly. For instance, people immediately think the parents must have done something wrong or there was something “not right” with the addict in the first place to abuse drugs.
And finally, there is a real sense of isolation that can follow the death of a loved one from a drug overdose. Oftentimes, people have no idea what to say to the grieving, and so they choose to remain silent and keep their distance. As one client told me, “No one brings cake or a casserole when your son dies from a heroin overdose.”
Processing Your Grief
When a loved one suddenly and tragically dies, part of us dies, too. We spend our days going through the motions of life, but we’re not really in the land of the living. A sudden death strips us of our sense of security, and we’re left trying to pick up the pieces while dealing with anxiety and depression.
Sometimes, when things are so dark, you need a guiding hand to show you the way back to the light. While your life will never be the same after such a tragic and sudden loss, but you can heal from what feels like insurmountable grief. Many of my clients found by working with me through their stages of grief, they were able to accept their new reality. Many have told me they believe creating a happy life is the best way to honor their loved ones.
If you are struggling after the loss of your loved one, please know you are not alone. I can help you process and, more importantly perhaps, honor your grief, so that you may find light on the other side of darkness.
Chelsy A. Castro, JD, MA, AM, LCSW