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What you might be experiencing

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.

Some people are able to carry on as if nothing has happened while others feel very out of control, and experience mood swings or floods of emotions.

However you feel, there are going to be some difficult times ahead.

Take it one day, or even one hour, at a time. 

What to expect

What happens after someone dies from using drugs or alcohol will depend on the circumstances of the death.

These can be difficult, unpleasant or traumatic.

The police may be involved, and sometimes there may have to be an official investigation.

The case may be referred to the coroner’s court (England) or procturator fiscal (Scotland) and the coroner may request a post-mortem and an inquest. You can read more about what will happen here.

You should be prepared for these procedures to take some time – The average delay in registering drug related deaths is 170 days.

It can be very difficult coping with not knowing everything about what has happened.

Some things may become clearer with time, but you may never get answers to all of your questions. 

Getting help

You should call on as much help as you can to help get through the days and weeks after someone dies. 

Family and friends: It can be difficult when someone dies from drugs or alcohol to decide how much to tell people. At first, try and find one or two friends or family you can trust and talk to, and ask them for help.

Professionals: You may find it helpful to talk to a religious leader or funeral director. If you are worried about your health your GP may be able to help. Support is also is available from people and organisations like BEAD who will understand what it is like to lose someone to drugs and alcohol. 

It can take a few tries to find the best people to listen and help.

Don’t give up as there are people out there who will be understanding. 

You can read more about the experience of grief, and how others have coped here.

You can also find out more about practical issues or how to get support.

See also