How to Get Through the Loss of Someone to Addiction

Post Image

Of all the major life events you can experience, losing someone you love is one of the most painful events that you will endure. When you experience the death of a loved one or close friend, a multitude of powerful emotions come to the surface and the intensity of these emotions can be overwhelming. While these feelings are a normal part of the mourning and grieving process, this process can become more complicated if your loved one or friend died as a result of drug and alcohol addiction. Along with the positive memories that you may hold of that person, there can also be negative memories that you feel which can make the grieving process more difficult to navigate.

Unfortunately, death due to drug addiction has been steadily increasing in the United States for over two decades and has become the leading cause of injury and death. According to figures published by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 114 people die in the United States as a result of drug overdoses and nearly nine out of every ten poisoning deaths are attributed to drug abuse. If someone you love dies due to addiction, there are certain stages of grief that you will go through. While there is no right or wrong way to grieve, it is important to understand these stages and find ways to deal with your pain in a way that will allow you to move on.

The Stages of Grief When Losing Someone to Addiction


Grief is a highly individualized experience and everyone goes through the process differently. Whatever your experience may be, it is important to be patient with yourself and allow the process to occur naturally and for however long it takes. When we grieve the loss of a loved one, we go through several stages of the grieving process. When we work through these stages we feel different levels of emotional intensity. It is important to note the stages of grief that we experience do not necessarily go in order and there is no concrete timetable in regards to the length of each stage.

The first stage in the grieving process is denial and isolation. In this initial stage, we react to the news of a loved one that has died from addiction by denying the reality of the situation. The blocking of those overwhelming emotions is a defense mechanism that helps buffer the shock that we feel. While we understand the event has happened, we hide from the facts in order to carry us through the initial wave of pain and anguish.

This is a temporary response, and once it wears off the reality of the situation re-emerges and we enter the second stage of the grief which is anger. Our anger comes from the fact that we aren’t prepared to adequately deal with our vulnerability and emotions. Those emotions are redirected towards other people, friends, family and the addict. We feel resentment they have died and may feel anger towards family, friends and medical professionals who failed to help the loved one. We may even feel guilty for being angry, and in turn that makes us even angrier.

In order to overcome our feelings of helplessness in regards to the situation, we attempt to regain control by engaging in bargaining. During this stage of the grieving process, we may say things such as:

  • “If we were able to get through to them sooner…”
  • “If only we were able to get them help….”
  • “If only we had tried to listen…”

Bargaining is a weaker line of defense that temporarily protects from the reality of the loved one’s death and once that wears away we enter a stage where we feel overwhelming depression. In this stage, there are two different types of depression that we feel. The first type of depression we experience, we may worry about funeral arrangements and burial costs and the regret we may feel about not spending time with those who depend on us. The second form of depression we feel during this stage runs deeper and is more private. With this form of depression, we are preparing to say goodbye and learning how to let go of our loved one.

The last stage of the grieving process is acceptance where we experience feelings of calm and peace. When we accept the fact that our loved one is gone, we can begin the process of healing and moving forward with our lives. In this stage, we are no longer looking backward trying to relive what should have been done or what could have been done. Instead, we begin to understand that a new chapter in life is beginning.

Getting Support to Deal with Your Grief When Losing Someone to Addiction

depressed man

When you experience the grief associated with the death of a loved one due to addiction, it can feel like you are on an emotional roller coaster. While the feelings that you are going through may seem unbearable, it is important to seek the support of others so that you can heal. By turning to others in your time of need, you are able to work through those overwhelming emotions. To start the healing process, you need to lean on family members and friends and accept offers of assistance that may be offered to you.

If you follow a religious or spiritual tradition, you can embrace your faith and engage in prayer and meditation to find comfort. If you feel vulnerable in your faith, you can seek the support and encouragement of clergy or other religious leaders. You can also talk to an experienced therapist to help you work through the intense emotions that are associated with grief and mourning. Additionally, there are many support groups that are available to you where you can share your feelings of loss with others.

One of the most well-known grief support groups for those families who lost loved ones due to addiction is GRASP. GRASP (Grief Recovery After a Substance Passing) was founded to provide resources, assistance, and encouragement to those families who have had loved ones dies as a result of substance abuse addiction. Another well-known grief support group is GriefShare. This group meets weekly and engages in personal reflection and group study in order to work through the emotional challenges presented by grief and mourning.

If you need assistance in finding a grief support group in your area, you can start by contacting local hospitals and counseling centers, as well as your local funeral homes and local substance abuse advocacy groups.



Staff Writer

The Palm Beach Institute employs a diverse staff of writers that share a common passion for helping those who are struggling with substance abuse find the care they need. With years of experience in the substance abuse treatment industry and decades of experience in writing and research, our team of writers constantly strive to present accurate and helpful information that is easily digestible and encourages people to seek help.

Related Reading
  • What does it take to get into Ur rehab my husband. Committed suicide by moriphine which lead me into a herion addition. I’ve lost my house cars and my children to DSS because of the addition please help me what does it take. Please I want I need my life back. Help me and my children. Put me on intervention I don’t care. I’ll do whatever it takes please.

  • I lost my son Jan 26,2016 from a long battle of drugs. His house burnt down in October,then he got sick. We thought he was detoxing but he got an infection from using iv drugs. He had 2 heart valves replaced and 4 surgeries. He was in icu 31 days. His kidneys shut down, his left lung gone and we think his brain got the embolism to. He was suppose to go to rehab the day he went in the hospital. I tried to get him to go even a court order. My heart is broke and my family is falling apart. I love my kids even.when it’s tough love. I need help I cry everyday 3-4 times a day. My family don’t understand. I loved him so much, me and him went through a lot. He promised me nothing to come between us. I miss him so much

  • I just lost my sister (Lora, 48 years old) to alcohol. I have been sounding the alarm to family for about 18 months that she was severely addicted. I made 2 trips to AZ from MN and in November confronted Lora with her husband. I told them both the problem was bigger than they could handle and she needed in patient treatment ASAP. My entire family bought into all the excuses (menopause, Hashimoto’s, thyroid, allergies, migraines.) It was BS, I could clearly see she was and addict. 2 days after my Nov 2015 visit, her husband called and said he was going to get her some counseling and it was best for me to not be involved anymore. She was hospitalized twice after that for seizures and failing liver.

    A week ago she was hospitalized for the last time and did not survive. All but one member of my family (my brother) including my sisters husband are still trying to live the lie that she had other issues that contributed to her death.

    I specifically walked through all of the things Lora was going through right before she passed with the ICU doctors. She had a failing liver, kidneys, profuse bleeding and blood that would not coagulate, pneumonia, anemia, etc. I specifically asked those doctors (in front of my brother-in-law) if all of the failing health was due to her liver. They said yes, she was in the final stages of cirrhosis. Despite that, Lora’s husband and several of my family insist on the “cover up.”

    I am angry. They did not listen to me when I was sounding the alarm and now they are choosing to live a lie because they failed to help Lora when it was still possible to save her life. Further, I am now the outcast for telling the truth.

    Lora’s husband was married to my sister for 5 years. He now gets to make all the decisions on her remains, her personal items, and has cut me out of communications. My relationship with my sister is a half century longer than that of her husband. I was robbed of my sister and now further experiencing distress over the way all is being handled.

    How do I deal with this garbage? This is devastating!

    1. Debra,

      We are very sorry to hear about the loss of your sister and hope that you can find strength and support in our community.

  • My son passed on,June 15 2016
    They found him unresponsive with no pulse and did CPR for so long he was brain dead. we were contacted by the police basically to say good by and they unhooked the machines,less than 24 hours,later
    He passed away in 30,seconds
    No one seems to,understand. Please,pray

  • I lost an ex boyfriend to heroin. We’ve been separated for over a decade but it feels like he’s gona all over again. Yes we used to get high together and I wish I was stronger for him. I wish I tried harder. I wish I didn’t love myself more than him bc maybe he’d still be here. He was my soul mate but heroin aka “our cancer” drove us apart. Now 5 people, including him, have overdosed on heroin. Why do the ppl who get clean have to watch their frinds die? People I love! I can’t deal with it. I miss him so much. He will forever hold the key to my heart. I cry multiple times a day. He had the biggest heart and everyone loved him. He was so charasmatic, and I honestly can’t even find a word that is wonderful enough to fit the kind of man he was. He was just sick with addiction. I just miss him and I wish I had a freaking magic wand to rewind time and change shit. I’ll always love him and I hope he knows that.

  • My 15 month old daughter’s father died from a benzo overdose. I’m having such a hard time coping with his loss. Sometimes I feel like it’s my fault although I remember having so many conversations with him telling him to just be careful that I knew he had this addiction but to still be careful and go easy and to try to take it easy but he just wouldn’t listen and he would always overdose this past Thur. July 14 it took his life and I don’t know how to deal with it.
    I’m trying to learn coping skills and the grieving process is and it’s just so hard to even think about that I will never see my soulmate ever until it’s my time. I just wish I knew of a better way to cope..

  • My husband hung himself on July 18th and I’m left with our baby boy. He was in ICU but passed on July 22nd, he was brain dead and we had to take him off life support. There was no hope for him to come back. All his organs shit down. He was addicted to heroin and hated himself for relapsing. He wanted to be a good father and husband but the drug had a strong hold on him he couldn’t shake. He was in pain and suffering from his addiction. Now he rests and his demons don’t haunt him anymore. Where do I go from here? I’m lost and miss him so much I want my baby back. He was only 32. We had our whole life ahead of us and it was all taken away in an instant.

  • To all families,
    I’m so sorry for the struggle and loss you have all experienced. My very bestfriend (more like a sister) just loss her son on 7/26/16. Joey was 20 years old with so much to live for. He had been struggling with drugs since his early teens. Joey’s mom is now strugglinag so bad with the passing of her son and everyone around her seem to have gone on with their lives and its only been two weeks. i’m not even Joey’s real Aunt and its hard. How can his sister and brother, step dad, biological dad all move on after two weeks like he was just in another rehab and will be home in a few months. I don’t understand this is her child. How do I help her through the process to give herself permission to grieve. All of these families are going through so much, but only all of you understand what shelly is going through. My husband had three funerals just this week because of this drug epidemic. The same day Joey died another one of my friends son died of the same thing. Same day. Literally twelve hours apart. IF anyone can help and explain how to help my friend i would greatly appreciate it. Thank you.

  • I just lost an ex boyfriend/ best friend. He struggled with addiction.. he took my 8 yr old son in… we were a happy family. So many pictures and memories..he hid it for so long. Then I started noticing the sweats..the with drawals. I literally cried at his feet one night begging him not to go out with friends. I knew that he would do drugs… I left him after trying so hard.. I kicked him out… which made him realize what he had. We never were negative towards each other. I coukdnt stand living in the house that we shared. It broke my son’s heart when I made him leave. He went to rehab in may.. we spent the night with him at his families the night before.. the. I moved far away. It felt right…. he got out after s month and was heart broken that I moved away. We stayed in touch. He told us he loved us and he was found dead on August 10. He seemed happy.. he had been clean. How did this happen. I feel guilty for leaving… like I should of been there when he got out of rehab. But my last few messaged from him were that he loved us very much and just wanted us happy. He was always positive. I miss you Dakota ray

  • My fiance passed from a heroin overdose. She was part of the fentanyl tragedy in the south. Her last message to me was that she was on her way home and that she loved me.

  • My brother just died of heroin/fentanyl overdose at age 48. His wife dies last December of similar drugs–not sure but he lied and said she had a heart attack (43). Admitted later it was an overdose. Left behind 17 year old daughter and 19 year old son. He would get high with the kids…smoking pot…and they knew there were problems but didn’t reach out to anyone. The misery and lies and dysfunction are overwhelming. My brother was a sweet kind person. We don’t know why…does anyone ? The kids are so messed up and don’t know how to cope with the deaths much less with life. They are resistant to help…my brother always shunned away from that and didn’t want “charity”. We feel helpless.

  • I lost my Sister/Best Friend on June 6th, 2015. I miss her and loved her so much, The holidays are the worst. I blame myself for not doing more to have done something to have helped her. I tried many times and thought she was doing better , others saw different than I did. So much I don’t understand about Why,What, When and how did you cover it up as well as you did? It all happened so fast, so much hurt, shock,don’t know what happened. She was 59 yrs. old , 2 &1/2 months from her Birthday. She was going to get to come home within a couple of days , we all thought she was going to make it through it all. I left her at 1am Sat. Morning to come home ,bathe,sleep a little then work from 8am to 3pm. I planned to go from work and spend the night ,brought my night clothes and change of clothes , got her smell goods for her was going to help her bathe, wash her hair. I got a call from the Doctor around 3:20 pm , I was driving to go see her and was told that they were moving her to ICU and that her kidneys were shutting down, lungs,etc. call family in but they were going to monitor her don’t worry, we’re going to do everything we can But….. She signed a No Recessisation form.
    That was so hard to watch my sister go , I just want to forget that moment.
    My story is I am the youngest of 5 kids, My Brother died at 21 yrs. old ( I was 11). We shared the same Birthday but 10 yrs. different. I watched my mom grieve to her death, I watched my dads legs get amputated just below his knees. All that happened within 3 yrs.
    my oldest brother had also married and moved 3 hrs. Away. My sis married, We had moved 3 1/2 hrs. Away .
    My brother that was 2 yrs older than I was at home but went wild, rebel type ended up joining the marines.
    I felt abandoned, lost My dad wasn’t doing good, his legs kept getting infected, he still worked but was tired and he hurt.
    Later in a few yrs. even though I struggled I graduated High School, Married then 7 yrs. later had a girl.
    Divorced, Ended up moving closer to my Sister, She was like my mom and 8 yrs. older than I . My Dad passed in 93
    So many memories that I have, some good some bad.
    After 23 yrs.away my brother ( Marine) and his family moved back home. They stayed 6 yrs. here and up and moved back to where they had lived this past June 2017. I had not seen him nor his family for the last 2 yrs. they were here and after the loss of my sister.
    They never called, they ignored our calls. He wrote me a text that if written out would have been 3 pages long. He told me bye in that text 2 1/2 yrs. ago. I wanted to talk to him because somehow I have been blamed for a lot of stuff I am not even aware . Oh I did forget my Sister’s husband passed 3 yrs. before her. I am trying to let go so hard but it is not easy this time. So much more I could write but I will stop for now.

  • Doctors told us my Sister was and had been on meth. Hepatitis B
    My brother and his family stayed with her due to a tree falling through their house. After 2 days of realizing something was wrong with her he called an ambulance for her. They didn’t go to the hospital with her, he called her daughter whom called my husband whom called me.

  • I lost who I thought I would grow old with to an overdose Oct 20, 2017. My life is shattered. I prayer I will find peace. There are days I can barely breathe. I loved him so much, I want to believe he loved me and wanted to protect me from his demons, but I am angry. I don’t want to be angry at the person who brought me such joy. The guilt I feel is overwhelming, sometimes I feel like I’m going to die of a broken heart…please pray for me…as I try to grasp why my 34 year old boyfriend is gone…a beautiful soul…gone….

  • Our first born Bobby died ( was poisoned) by laced heroine on March 18 20117. He was in Fla. trying to recover. He was 28 just outside our insurance coverage and working his recovery on his own. He was clean for a whole year at one point, we were so proud for him. Without our family and friends my wife and I would not have survived the depression stage. Our friends took us everywhere, called us, came over often to hang out. Our church has a mens group and they were by our side all the way. We attend GRASP meetings and feel god about helping others. We attend our Parents Support Group at Carrier Hospital where we get a chance to support others trapped in addition. We are now spending quality time with our second and only son. It feels good to be with him and see his success and speak of Bobby. We visit Bobby’s grave and cry and get angry at him for leaving us. We do things as a couple and love each other. Its never over, but you need to accept others as they try to help you. They need you and you need them.. let it happen.

    1. I also lost my first born son Brandon on March 18th, 2018 he was 23 and I am so broken and devastated. I have another son but I don’t know how to move on and don’t think I want to live through years of pain and devastation. It’s hard to see everyone’s life moving on and can’t get past the could of been, would of been and should have been. He had such a great future ahead of him and I can’t get past what his future was supposed to be.

  • Leave a Comment