Losing a Loved One to Addiction

There’s nothing worse than hearing the news of a loved one passing, especially one that struggled with addiction and lost the battle. I have included below the five stages of grief from therapist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, but it’s important to remember that no loss is the same and your feelings surrounding your loss can expand beyond these five stages.

The five stages of Grief from the Elizabeth Kubler-Ross method include:

  •     Denial is the first stage of grief and is a defensive mechanism to help you survive the first shocking moments of your loss.
  •     Anger is the second stage and one of the most necessary parts of your healing process as it can cover up the most pain underneath. By feeling your anger, you will eventually begin to process your pain surrounding your loss.
  •     Bargaining is the third stage and may be something you felt often when watching your loved one struggle with addiction. You may have offers up prayers or propositions to a higher power of, “I will never be angry at them again if you just let them live.” Or now that they are gone, “I’ll do anything to make this pain go away. Even for a few minutes.”
  •     Depression is the fourth stage and may come after all your bargaining was unanswered and now you begin to sink into the deepness sadness and fog of your grief. This is not a mental illness, but a step in processing your grief.  
  •     Acceptance is the last stage of the grieving process and is commonly confused with being “okay,” with the death of a loved one. While this stage of the process is actually about accepting the reality of the present in which your loved one is gone.

You may go through all five of these stages of grief in an hour or in and out of multiple stages over a course of months or years. The grieving process takes time and is different for everyone who suffers a loss.

Along with processing these stages of grief, there are added emotions that come with losing a loved one to addiction. There could be a feeling of shame attached to the fact that your loved one died from their addiction rather than a car accident or health concerns. You may feel judged by those around you or that your loved one’s passing could have been stopped by either themselves or yourself. This is not a time to place blame on yourself or others for not understanding your situation. You did all that you could for your loved one before they passed.

There are multiple ways to receive support during this time of grief and one of those ways is by having a strong support system. You can find support through therapy groups like AL-ANON or Grief Recovery After Substance Passing (GRASP). GRASP is a group therapy specifically created for support and understanding for those who have lost someone they love through addiction and overdose. By surrounding yourself with others who have suffered the same loss, you will be able to see how you can process this traumatic experience.

You have to remember that even if it doesn’t feel possible in the current moment, you will get through this. There is help available for you to process your trauma and grief after losing your loved one to addiction. Please reach out to one of our experts for more information.