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Five Tips to Help You Through the Grief of an Overdose Death

Marcel Gemme By Marcel Gemme | Last Updated: 30 April 2024
  • What You'll Learn

Quick Tips for the Future, How to Keep Going

  • Always turn to people who care about you the most. These are the individuals you know will be there when you need them to be. Close friends or family members. Do not push these people away. These are the people who will be there in the future.
  • Take care of yourself, no matter what. Plan ahead for what you could do to heal yourself physically and mentally. It could include physical activity, new hobbies, or even meeting new people.
  • Do not numb yourself with drugs and alcohol. If there were any way to destroy your future, it would be with drugs and alcohol—”Numb” your pain with positive things that bring joy and fulfillment.
  • Try to understand that it is a marathon and not a sprint. It takes time to heal, but keep at it, try new things, and do not give up. Tough times do not last.

Many families and friends have lost someone they love to addiction and overdose death. The untimely death of any kind always leaves people in shock and pain. Losing someone to overdose leaves the person struggling with an array of emotions.

Surviving the unbearable pain and grief following death may seem nearly impossible. The profound sorrow causes feelings that seem never to go away. Surviving this type of grief is painful but not impossible.

You can do some things to help you survive this overwhelming loss. Here are five crucial tips to help you through this.

Let Go of Resentments, Guilt, and Regret

No one knows what to do or say when a loved one dies unexpectedly. Getting this news is one of the worse experiences. The people close to you will offer you support and try to find the right words.

Most people do not understand addiction, and everyone is doing their best to offer condolences.

Consider the following:

  • Do not take what people say personally.
  • Avoid holding onto resentment.
  • Listen and avoid overreacting.
  • Know the people close to you love and support you.

Moreover, look internally to forgo feelings of guilt and regret. An addiction is only a tiny part of who the person is. Their actions were not meant to cause pain or hurt.

 Their overdose death was not aimed at hurting or punishing you. Addiction consumes every aspect of a person. Without proper detox and treatment, the outcome is often inevitable.

Allow Yourself to Feel and Grieve

No one knows how to move forward after a tragic death. Yet, when you are struggling with feelings of anger, shame, and guilt, allow yourself to feel those emotions, and here is why:

  • When you numb sadness, you also numb happiness and joy.
  • Not acknowledging your feelings leads to more suffering.
  • Process the experience, and your feelings are part of living.

Most importantly, let yourself grieve. Unfortunately, there is some stigma when someone dies of an overdose, which may prevent you from grieving. You do not have to make excuses or hide your grief. How someone dies does not change the pain and hurt you’re experiencing.

Forgive Yourself

It is not easy to forgive yourself when someone close dies unexpectedly. You may not have seen the death coming, or if you did, there may not have been much you could have done to prevent it.

Next to formal family intervention, very little can be done to stop a person from using drugs. In addition, overdose death tends to happen quickly when they least expect it, especially in the age of fentanyl.

Do not waste time going over what you should have done or that you should have been there. Yet, realize that self-forgiveness does not come quickly or easily. It takes an active effort to seek and ask forgiveness of yourself. 

Accept the Loss

There is nothing you could have done to prevent this from happening. A fatal overdose could happen to anyone who uses drugs or alcohol. Someone could die of an overdose the first time they even try drugs.

Consider the following:

  • Accept their death as an accident without looking for fault.
  • Practice self-compassion, which is treating yourself and responding to yourself the way you would someone else.
  • Allow yourself to feel the emotions of the loss.

Do not place any barriers in front of you, which could lead to isolating and withdrawing from others. Overall, the more obstacles you put in front of you, the longer it takes to move through the grief. Every individual has the right to find comfort, peace, and hope after the death of a loved one.

Seek Out Grief Support

Do not avoid finding someone to talk to or someone that can offer professional help. When looking for grief therapy or counseling, look for skilled and trained professionals.

When seeking support from others, you will need people who understand what you’ve just experienced. Grief support groups are available for families of loved ones who have died from a drug overdose. For example:

It is important to note that online support should never replace in-person grief counseling.

Overdose Prevention, What Can I Do?

Being aware and possibly preventing overdose takes knowledge, and there are resources available to help or even volunteer with:

Initially, the CDC provided various resources and valuable information through its Stop Overdose page. The website was created to educate people who use drugs about the dangers. In addition, create awareness of the increasing number of overdose deaths related to prescription pain medication and illicit drugs.

Help Prevent Overdose Deaths

International Overdose Awareness Day occurs on August 31st. It is the world’s annual campaign to end overdose, remember those who have died without stigma, and acknowledge the grief of the family and friends left behind.

National Prescription Drug Take Back Day aims to provide a safe, convenient, and responsible means of disposing of prescription drugs. In addition, it educates the general public about the potential for abuse of medications.




More Information

Marcel Gemme has been helping people struggling with addiction for over 19 years. He first started as an intake counselor for a drug rehabilitation center in 2000. During his 5 years as an intake counselor, he helped many addicts get the treatment they needed. He also dealt with the families and friends of those people; he saw first-hand how much strain addiction puts on a family and how it can tear relationships apart. With drug and alcohol problems constantly on the rise in the United States and Canada, he decided to use the Internet as a way to educate and help many more people in both those countries. This was 15 years ago. Since then, Marcel has built two of the largest websites in the U.S. and Canada which reach and help millions of people each year. He is an author and a leader in the field of drug and alcohol addiction. His main focus is threefold: education, prevention and rehabilitation. To this day, he still strives to be at the forefront of technology in order to help more and more people. He is a Licensed Drug and Alcohol Treatment Specialist graduate with Honours of Stratford Career Institute. Marcel has also received a certificate from Harvard for completing a course entitled The Opioid Crisis in America and a certificate from The University of Adelaide for completing a course entitled AddictionX: Managing Addiction: A Framework for Succesful Treatment.