How to support someone through loss
People who have lost their person (or people) to addiction learn how to talk about grief and loss and death as they go; it’s certainly not something that comes with an instruction manual. The first step might be a journal, might be therapy, might be a support group. Eventually the acute pang of grief dulls into a new normal as you learn more, talk more, connect more with others who have been through the same shitty experience.
If you haven’t been directly affected by overdose, you probably know someone who has, and you might not know what to say to that someone. As we’ve said before, there’s enormous stigma around the disease of addiction that must be eradicated. Would you hesitate to talk to a friend who lost their brother to, say, cancer? Heart disease? No, because we already have those words.
It shouldn’t surprise you that you should approach discussions about loss as a result of addiction similarly. Grief is grief. But do revisit our language of addiction blog post for pointers, because the exact words you use matter. Beyond that, here are some great resources for talking to others about death caused by overdose:
- Last Day host Steph wrote a wonderful post about how to best help people who are grieving.
- Another great post from Center on Addiction written by someone who has been through a lot of loss, including her son to opioids.
- A guide to supporting someone who has lost a loved one to substance abuse.
- What not to say to someone who is experiencing this loss. No one wants to be told that it’s time to get over it and move on. You’d think that wouldn’t need to be said, but it definitely needs to be said.
- Another guide to supporting someone through grief.
There’s a lot of great information in these links but what unites them is not avoiding the issue. Think carefully about your language, do some reading and maybe have a plan, but don’t let that stop you from entering a difficult conversation with someone who is grieving and needs to talk about it. Your thoughtfulness and empathy will mean the world to someone who is struggling with the loss of their person.
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