Losing a Loved One to Addiction

It's tragic to lose a loved one to addiction. Not only are we devastated, we can also feel like it's our fault or that we didn't do enough to help them. Now is the time to understand your grief and to focus on healing.
One of the most painful experiences a person can face is losing a loved one to addiction. Too often, friends and family members spent so much time, energy, and money trying to help their loved one recover from the painful effects of addiction. Devastatingly, sometimes a person is too far into their addiction to seek treatment. When they pass on because of it, it's enough to break a person's heart – or an entire family.

Previous studies have found that nearly 72,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2017. It's incredibly hard for our country to get over these types of statistics because it involves facing the cold, hard truth: that addiction kills. For many Americans, it's hard enough even to identify addiction. It's even harder to know when a person needs to seek help.


Defining Grief

Grief is a natural process that involves feeling a pang of deep sadness for a loss. When we lose someone we love, someone we have memories with, and someone whom we tried to help, it can feel as if the world has ended. If you've lost a loved one to addiction, there are several thoughts, emotions, and feelings that you may be experiencing:


●   Sadness due to not being able to say goodbye

● Anger at oneself or their loved one for what happened because of addiction

● Guilt, as a person wishes they could've done something different to change the outcome

● Shame, especially at having loved a person with addiction

● Isolation and loneliness – which could stem from any of these gut-wrenching emotions

● Relief – it's possible that the death of a loved one now opens more chances to breathe, and a person no longer has to worry about hearing the bad news that they'd anticipated

● Frustration if a person feels they didn't "do enough" to help the person they love

● Blaming oneself for not having done or said something different

● Fear and anxiety, mainly because the future may feel entirely unknown without their loved one in it


These emotions are normal reactions to losing someone we love – but it doesn't make the grieving process any less painful. Many years ago, psychiatrists worked together to explain the grieving process. Their findings provide us with a sense of normalization for what we feel after events like this:

Stage 1: Denial – in helping us survive the loss, denial may cause us to feel numb. This is when we first start to grieve, but denial helps us pace our emotions.

Stage 2: Anger – as we start to explore the reality of losing our loved one, we may become outraged. We may blame God or another Higher Power, others, or ourselves. 

Stage 3: Bargaining – by this stage, we're willing to do just about anything to bring our loved one back. We may promise to devote ourselves to volunteering for a good cause, and we may replay different "what if" scenarios in our head, wishing that we could change the outcome.

Stage 4: Depression – we may start to surface back to the present reality, and this is when genuine sorrow sinks in. We feel confused, and we may even wonder if we'll be able to carry on with our lives.

Stage 5: Acceptance – this stage doesn't mean that we're happy about the outcome of our loved one, but it does mean that we're beginning to understand that we can't change what's happened.



Mourning the loss of a loved one is incredibly difficult. It can feel as if someone was just ripped away from us without warning. As you're grieving the death of your loved one, it's essential to be gentle with yourself. Allow yourself plenty of time to come to terms with this tragedy. Continue to surround yourself with social support, whether it's through therapy, Al-Anon programs, volunteerism, church-related activities, or something similar. Find healthy ways to take each day one step at a time. Try listening to healing music, reading healthy books, relaxing, or practicing art therapy.


One of the most important tips for healing in recovery is to remind yourself – and your loved ones – not to criticize yourselves for how you're mourning. Everyone has a different way of dealing with grief. You each must take your time working through this upsetting news in ways that best support your mental, physical, and spiritual healing. Grief is never an easy process to go through. Still, there are millions of people who are battling this exact same situation all across the world. By remembering that you're not alone, you can move forward as you explore what's best for you personally.


The Bridge NYC is a boutique luxury sober living facility for men seeking a concierge experience to balance outpatient programs, school, or work-life resulting in a sustainable, lasting recovery. Call (646) 928 0085 today for more information about admissions or The Clean Fun Network.

Start the journey today.

We’re looking forward to having you at The Bridge NYC.

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