Too Young to Die: How Should You Grieve an Overdose Death?

Losing a friend to a drug overdose brings up a gambit of emotions in young people.

During the second semester of her sophomore year, Kate lost her best friend. She didn’t lose her because of a guy or hurtful gossip; she lost her to a drug overdose.
She'd lost other friends to drugs, none of them compared to the heartache of losing Haley.

Kate tried to convince Haley to stop using. They’d been friends since first grade, but Kate’s influence turned out to be less powerful than the potency of substance abuse. After just a few weeks of using, Haley overdosed. And Kate’s friend was gone.

In the aftermath, everyone seemed to have their own way of grieving. And it seemed everyone wanted to tell Kate how she should grieve. Was there a “right” way to mourn? Was there some sort of a timeline? Did other people experience the same torment of sorrow, guilt, regret, anger, confusion and despair.

Two Grief Myths Debunked

Mourners in situations like Kate’s often face two myths about grief. Recognizing them can be very freeing and helpful, so let's take a look at both:

    Drug addicted young man sitting on a road

  • There is a right way to grieve.

    Everyone grieves differently - and that’s okay. You might be very expressive about your thoughts and feelings. You could be withdrawn. Just as we don’t expect everyone to celebrate the same way, speak the same way or dress the same way, we should realize that each person’s method of mourning looks different, as well.

  • Grief follows a pre-set timeline.

    There’s no set time limit on grief. Again, this is different for everyone and every situation. Notions of “I should be over this by now” or “I shouldn’t be happy yet” are unhealthy thoughts and simply untrue statements.

Honor Their Memory Through Healthy Living

Losing someone you love to substance abuse is a traumatic event. It’s not uncommon to experience physical, emotional and social fallout. But mourners often view these symptoms as “inappropriate,” fearing there’s something wrong with them or lacking the ability to recognize their struggles as a "natural" part of the grieving process. Though each person experiences grief differently, these false beliefs can be pretty easy to fall into.

Grief and heartache affects every aspect of your being. While knowing what to expect won’t bring your friend back or take away your pain, it can reassure you that others have experienced similar feelings. It is possible to work through the pain and mourn in healthy ways.

Image Source: iStock

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