Deaths from opioid use or substance abuse are prevalent here in Buffalo as well as other places. We know that no two people grieve exactly the same. However, an overdose death creates barricades for healing to take place thereby adding complications to the grief process. This type of grief can become disenfranchised because added emotional stressors such as guilt, resentment and shame can become suppressed because one does not have an outlet to express them. It is important that those who have lost a loved one from an overdose be comforted in a compassionate, non-judgmental way.
For some, the brain tells them that they would not experience the grief of a drug-related overdose because they had been dealing with the self-destructive behavior of the individual for some time. Believing that they should have been prepared for their loved one's death because of all the close calls, the reality of loss is not something one can imagine.
When a loved one dies due to substance abuse, there are several factors that can compound and intensify their grief making it more difficult to come to terms with the loss. Therefore there is an even greater need for grief support especially for those who have lost a loved one to substance abuse. Those left behind may experience anger. They may feel that they did not do enough to help their loved one, thereby putting the blame on themselves. They may resent the person for not being able to overcome their addiction.
They may also feel shame because the loved one's addiction overpowered them. One must remember that the loved one that died from an overdose was a victim of a disease known as addiction.
Upon the death of a loved one due to an overdose, it is important that friends and co-workers reach out to the surviving parents, spouse or children. When supporting someone who has lost a loved one to a drug overdose death, giving compassionate support can take on many forms. One can be physically present. Just being physically present will help alleviate the feeling of isolation. Spending time with them and listening with full attention and no interruption is so very important. One needs to allow the grieving person to speak freely about their feelings and what they are experiencing. It doesn't matter what they express as long as you listen supportively and non-judgmentally so they can process it. One may also, send cards, notes, emails and telephone calls that let them know they are not alone.
Expressing sincere sympathy is also very important. With the death of a loved one, comes varied experiences and relationships that are most likely quite different and unique to their own situation.
Therefore, acknowledging that you are sorry that they are going through the ordeal is more realistic and honest than telling them you understand what they are going through, because in fact, no one can understand what another person is going through even if one may have had a similar experience. One should also express true empathy with a focus on normal emotions such as anger, regret, disappointment and sadness, and offer support that will allow the bereaved to come to terms with their feelings and accept how they handled their relationship with the deceased loved one. Being supportive and refraining from making a judgment about the person who has died from an opioid overdose will help the bereaved come to terms with their own feelings about their loved one and their relationship with that loved one.
Finally, encouraging the bereaved to take care of their personal needs and keep their medical appointments is important. Helping with everyday tasks such as cleaning, babysitting, cooking and accompanying the bereaved to legal and medical appointments is very helpful. By helping the bereaved of a drug overdose go through the grief process in their own way and own time, hopefully they will eventually find peace.
Through good friends, prayer and God, a person may begin the healing process of having lost a loved one to an opioid overdose or other situation. That is why Catholic Cemeteries offer a comprehensive grief support program where participants can come and share their experiences and discuss their conflicting emotions in a safe, Christ-centered, compassionate, non-judgmental environment while experiencing techniques that can assist them through their grieving process.