Thousands of families around the world lose loved ones to overdose deaths each year. Many in the U.S. either know someone or of someone who has died of a fatal drug overdose. When it happens to someone you love and care for, you can be in complete shock and despair. You’ll hear the news but won’t be able to process or understand when you learn that your friend has died.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Things You Can Do to Help You Grieve After Losing a Friend to Overdose
- Things You Can Do to Honor Your Friend After Losing Them to Overdose
You may experience initial reactions of rage, anger, and grief. It’s easy to misdirect blame toward yourself, or others who you may think are responsible for your friend’s death. How you work yourself from this type of grief toward healing will depend in part on how you view addiction and drug overdose.
Things You Can Do to Help You Grieve After Losing a Friend to Overdose
Losing a friend to an overdose is painful and confusing. You may not understand how this could have happened when this type of death is preventable. You’ll start to question society, the availability and ease of obtaining drugs, and why your friend had to die of an overdose.
There are things you can do to help you in coping with your grief when this happens. The road to healing may not be easy for you, but the more you question the why’s and how this tragic death occurred to someone so close to you, the more apparent things will become.
Here are some ways to learn to cope with the pain and grief of having lost your friend.
1. Allow yourself to grieve
One of the first things you may want to do after the initial shock wears off is to keep your emotions bottled up. It’s not uncommon to remain stoic and unwavering in your anger when someone you love has died of an overdose. Grief is not a competition for who can resist breaking down the longest. You don’t have to stay strong for anyone when it comes to grieving your loss.
When you keep emotions bottled up, you can run the risk of them resurfacing later when you least expect. You may start to vent and complain to your loved ones over the little things in life. This misdirected anger is a byproduct of unresolved grief. Give yourself the time and availability to grieve over your friend’s death.
2. Let go of your shame and guilt
Shame, guilt, and regret are all unavoidable emotions when dealing with a friend’s death from a drug overdose. You may start shifting the blame toward yourself, feeling shameful that you didn’t do more to help your friend. Then the guilt follows closely. Finally, you regret not having forced your friend to give up their drug use or maybe for not getting them the help they needed.
Now that you’re left with what to do after your best friend died, take a moment to learn about drug addiction. You’ll find that there wasn’t much at all that you could’ve done regardless of how much effort, time, and money you put into helping them out of their situation.
Drug addiction latches onto a person, and no matter how much will-power they have, they may fall back into the trap of using or relapsing because of the chemical reactions going on in their brain.
3. Understand your feelings
Feeling anger towards someone or something makes you feel powerful in an otherwise powerless situation. You may be inclined to try to find someone to blame for helping or enabling your friend or loved one to get access to drugs. You may beat yourself up for not having done more to intervene or forcing your friend into rehab.
It’s perfectly normal to feel a broad spectrum of emotions as you begin to process your grief. When you learn more details surrounding your friend’s death, your feelings may shift from anger and blame to understanding more fully what were the causes behind the overdose.
4. Honor your friend’s memory
Understand addiction and what it does to a person’s ability to lead an otherwise ordinary and productive life. Addiction is a chronic disease that makes a person compulsively seek out drugs or alcohol. It’s also difficult to control and not a matter of choice, good intentions, or a strong will.
A creative way to honor someone who’s died of an overdose can be to highlight the effects of addiction. No one knows exactly why a person becomes addicted to drugs, while others don’t. Consider spreading a message of hope by writing a eulogy for a friend who died suddenly from a drug overdose that gives some basic facts about struggling with addiction. Being addicted to substances does not make someone a bad person, and there shouldn’t be any shame in honoring their life publicly.
5. Get professional help
Many people tend to feel fear and anxiety after suffering the death of their friend succumbing to a drug overdose. It may be that they were, in a way, responsible for getting the drugs to them or for enabling their addiction. You may be feeling some of those fears, or perhaps you weren’t a part of the problem at all, but fear what lies ahead for you without your friend.
Many things may cause you to feel anxious in these situations. You may also know that you have anxiety but may not know where it’s stemming from. Consider getting professional help to sort through your thoughts and feelings.
6. Reach out for support
There are certain stigmas and some isolation that comes with death by drug overdose. It happens to many families whose loved ones have died like this. The stigmas sometimes are related to having somehow failed the person who died by not being a better parent, friend, brother, or sister.
The isolation can occur because you’re too embarrassed to face the world and you fear people’s judgment. If you’re not comfortable getting professional help, consider reaching out to your friend’s family or your own for the support that you need to get you through this tough time.
Things You Can Do to Honor Your Friend After Losing Them to Overdose
You will suffer through different types of grief following your friend’s death. You can help yourself get through your pain and suffering by doing things that honor your friend’s life, which may help others along the way. Some ways include:
7. Sharing their story
Most people have heard the rally cries of the “say no to drugs” campaigns. Sometimes the lessons don’t hit home until it’s too late, and addiction has affected someone you know and love.
A great way of honoring your friend after losing them is by sharing their story with whoever will listen. Consider talking to youth groups in your community, sharing this story online with others, or working with local rehab centers around town.
8. Getting educated
Learning about drug addiction is a good step in understanding what a person goes through when they cannot shake off the urge to do drugs. Many interesting facts are backed by medical science when it comes to understanding how drugs can change your brain chemistry.
You’ll learn that it’s not a matter of being strong enough and saying no to drugs just because someone urges you to. A chemical and biological stronghold takes over a person, making it harder for them to resist drugs — even when they know it’s harmful to them.
9. Seeking help
If you’ve also been personally affected by drug use or abuse, you can honor your friend’s life by seeking the help you may need to overcome your personal addictions.
Admitting to having a problem and seeking help can be two of the best ways to get started on your path to healing and recovery. If this doesn’t apply to you, help someone else you know who struggles with substance abuse. It may help save their life.
10. Starting an online campaign
Online campaigns are a quick, easy, and relatively inexpensive way to get the word out about substance abuse and its adverse effects.
You can use GoogleAds, Facebook Ads, or the likes to pay for inexpensive public service announcements targeting specific age groups and demographics who are most susceptible to drug use.
11. Helping out financially
Your friend’s family may not have the resources needed to help with the burial and final expenses following your friend’s death.
Consider setting up a crowd-sourcing fundraiser or memorial fund to help meet these expenses. Not everyone is open to asking strangers for money, so check with the family before doing so.
12. Donating to a cause
Other ways to help honor your friend’s memory is to donate your time or money to a cause that’s closely related to overcoming drug addiction. Perhaps you can mentor someone who needs some extra support.
Consider other ways in which you can make an impact on someone’s life. There are prison and county jails that may need volunteers to talk to the inmate population regularly. You can encourage them in their sobriety and support them as they try to make a better life for themselves.
Coping With the Death of a Friend by Drug Overdose
Drug addiction is a chronic disease, characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use that’s difficult to control. Your friend may have been fully aware of the harmful consequences of their drug use but may not have been able to control their urges.
These characteristics don’t make their death any less painful, but they may help you understand that there may not have been anything you could do to prevent their death.