Unanswered questions are common when someone dies from drugs or alcohol. If you did not know about their use beforehand then you will also have many questions about how and why they were using drugs and alcohol. They may have been living with addiction and keeping it from you, or they may have only just started experimenting. Sometimes it may have been the first time they used drugs or alcohol to dangerous levels.
If you have just found out that someone close to you has died through drug or alcohol use the news may come as a terrible shock. It will still be a shock if the death was expected or feared. Feeling numb or experiencing a flood of emotions are both common, and you will have some difficult practicalities to deal with. Make sure you get as much help as you can. What you may experience The shock of a bereavement affects people in different ways. You may feel numb, or you may feel confused and lost.
In the midst of grief many of us find that we think about our own death, or even wish we were dead. It can seem like a way out of coping with the problems and pain of a drug or alcohol related bereavement. Although it is common, it is important to find someone to talk to about these feelings. If you think you might act on your feelings, you can call Samaritans on 116 123. When someone who has been a central part of our life dies we can feel hopeless and despairing.
Every bereavement can be difficult and painful. But when someone we care for dies as a result of drug or alcohol use there are some common factors that can make it even harder. Shame and stigma: Those of us who have lost a loved one to drugs or alcohol often feel that society is judging us, leading to a sense of shame and disgrace. People may assume that an addict had a choice, or that their addiction and death were their own fault. Many people will be understanding, but not knowing who is thinking like this can lead to us avoiding others and feeling isolated.
I feel like I’ve lost them twice – once to the drugs/alcohol and now they have died When someone dies as a result of using alcohol or drugs it may be after a long period of addiction or time spent using drugs or alcohol. You may already be exhausted from years of coping. It is common to feel that the death is actually the second time you have lost the person. This can have an effect on how you grieve and cope following a death from drugs or alcohol - Living with drugs and alcohol
Living with a loved one’s drug or alcohol use can be exhausting and challenging. You may have had to cope with many of the following difficulties. Fear: You may have had to live with the fear of something awful happening. You may have been expecting or fearing your loved one’s death or they may have had previous overdoses. Living with fear places you under constant stress. A death can still be a horrible shock, even when it is expected.
Sometimes friends or relatives do not know before a death that their loved one was using drugs, or using alcohol to a dangerous level. If this happens the shock and trauma of an unexpected death is combined with the shock of finding out about an addiction or unknown drug or alcohol use. You will be faced with many questions. Feelings of guilt and regret are very common. Double trauma A sudden death is always traumatic.
Feeling guilty is very common after all drug and alcohol related deaths. When you did not know about your loved one’s use before they died, you may also feel very guilty that you missed signs that they were already using drugs or alcohol, or had problems and were using drugs or alcohol to cope. You may have spotted your loved one acting strangely, or had suspicions and decided to ignore them, or put off a confrontation. You may find yourself questioning your memories, and wondering what you could have done differently.
Sometimes someone dies after using drugs and alcohol when they had only recently started experimenting. A sudden death is always traumatic. It can also feel very unfair that they died, and that their future potential is lost. Feelings of guilt and regret are very common. Traumatic death The early days after a traumatic death [1.2] are very difficult. When you are unprepared for a death it takes a long time to take in what has happened.
Feelings of shame, and the sense that people are judging us can make it difficult to cope when someone dies from drug or alcohol use. This can also lead us to avoid other people and create feelings of isolation. Sadly some people can be judgmental, but others will be understanding. It is worth finding those who you can trust and talk to, even if it is just one or two people. Shame and stigma Those of us who have lost a loved one to drugs or alcohol often feel that society is judging us, leading to a sense of shame and disgrace.