I would want people to know that how you cope with a substance-related death will change, but slowly. That’s the part that can be discouraging when you are in agony. It’s more than simply time passing. You can change how you cope by finding what helps you.
Although grief following a substance-related death shares many common characteristics with other kinds of grief, it’s also different. Some of the reasons for this include:
- Complex and sometimes conflicting thoughts and feelings
- The person’s circumstances and experiences before their death
- Lack of understanding
- Stigma and isolation
- Lack of resources and support for the person who died and for you
- How the person died
- What you or others knew or didn’t know about the person’s life and substance use
- Changes and challenges in relationships with family members and friends
- Sense of injustice
- Possible traumatization
Remember that there’s no “one size fits all” approach to grieving. It may take some time to learn what works best for you. Take your time and be as patient and compassionate toward yourself as you can. In exploring and learning about your grief, some parts may be easier than others for you to live with, but all of your thoughts and feelings are important and valid.
Although your loss will never be gone, it is possible to find ways to live with it. Look for people who will listen to you as you share your experience, without judging or giving unwanted advice. If you find that you’re getting stuck on disturbing aspects of the death, or that your grief is not changing or easing as time goes on, seek help from a professional counsellor.