Coping with the Loss of an Addict

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Coping with the death of a loved one is a profound and devastating life experience. We all go through it at some point or another, but dealing with the loss of an addict has unique challenges. Families often feel that they don’t get the support or understanding that they should – almost like their loved one “chose” this path or “asked” for this to happen. Society is more compassionate to cancer or illness than they are an addiction.

If you’ve recently lost a loved one to addiction, you will go through the same stages as anyone dealing with grief. However, there may be other feelings to work through, such as guilt and shame. Talking with your therapist and attending support groups can help you manage these emotions so that you can move forward in your healing.

Stages of Grief

When a loved one dies, it’s normal to go through stages of grief. There’s no right way to grieve. Some people move through the stages slower than others, and some stages take longer to get through. What we now call the five stages of grief – first developed in 1969 by Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross – are:

  • Denial

  • Anger

  • Bargaining

  • Depression

  • Acceptance

Other Symptoms of Grief

Because your loved one succumbed to addiction, you may have other feelings outside the five stages of grief.

  • Guilt. If your loved one passed away from an overdose, you might be feeling guilty that you didn’t intervene to save them. You may also be feeling guilty because you have a sense of relief, which is common in families that have been struggling with addiction for a long time.

  • Shame. Shame sometimes looks like guilt, but it’s different. Guilt is how we perceive ourselves, while shame has to do with how others perceive us. For example, you may be ashamed that your family has been affected by addiction.

  • Fear. If one person in your family has died from addiction, it’s normal to worry about others. Could you lose another child to this disease? What about those who are in recovery – could they relapse?

Where to Find Support

The most important thing right now is that you don’t isolate yourself. Develop a support system that offers the comfort and encouragement you need. Your support system will be unique to you and include people such as friends, family, neighbors, club members, doctors, counselors and clergy members.

Having a support system is necessary, but you also need people who understand what you’re going through. This is where your support groups have a place. In fact, you may feel more comfortable opening up to these members rather than your friends and family. That’s okay. You will appreciate the supportive, non-judgemental environment and also learn from others which strategies are effective for dealing with your emotions.

Call The River Source if you are concerned about a loved one. We have been successful with severe cases of addiction thanks to our holistic approach and naturopathic therapies. We also have support for families.