Chapter 2: Why your grief may be different

How the person died

I've been there
Margo speaks about the impact of a sudden, accident death. (3:22)Video transcript
Sarah shares how it felt freeing to speak openly about how her husband Kevin died. (3:22)Video transcript
Jennifer shares about how she reached out to her doctor to learn more about her son Robby's death. (3:22)

I couldn’t comprehend what had happened. I was in shock for a really long time. Eventually, I switched from shock to devastation.

You’re always waiting for the call, and then when it comes, it hits you like a ton of bricks. No one understands what that’s like. You live on a tightrope for years and then you get a call that your child is dead. It’s an impossible way to live.

The circumstances and details around the person’s death have an impact on you, your family, friends, and others. You might be feeling shocked and struggling to believe this is how they died. Other factors related to the person’s death may have no clear answers. Click on each of the examples below to read more.

If the person died from their first or an early substance use, you may feel angry, shocked, or confused. The person may not have immediately felt the effects of the substance and used more without realizing it would be too much or without knowing what was in the substance. They may have had two or more substances together for the first time, and this combination might have caused their death. If the person hadn’t used substances for some time, they may have died because they were no longer able to tolerate an amount taken in the past.

What may help

  • If certain aspects of the death are a source of distressing flashbacks, nightmares, or repetitive or intrusive thoughts, seek help from a professional trained in grief and trauma.
  • Unanswered questions can be very difficult to accept. Some may never be answered, and you’ll need to give yourself time to find ways to live with them.
  • If you receive new information about the death, you may feel “knocked back” in your grieving. Treat yourself with kindness and patience, and reach out to supportive people.