Dealing With Loss From Overdose

Are you currently experiencing grief over a loss from an overdose? People mourn in all sorts of ways when they lose people. There is a deep and heavy sadness when you lose someone due to a drug-related overdose. Thousands upon thousands of people die from drug overdoses every year. We spend so much time thinking about how to prevent these overdoses. Pushing for prevention is great. However, in doing so, we sometimes forget about the people mourning the loss of a loved one. 

If you are someone mourning a life lost to a drug-related overdose, know you are not alone. As thousands of people die from a drug overdose annually, millions are grieving. Dealing with loss from an overdose is never easy. However, prioritizing your mental health and well-being while navigating the complex feelings of this troubling time is vital. 

Prevalence of Overdose and Loss From Overdose

An overdose occurs when a person takes “more than the normal or recommended amount of something.” In most cases, this means drugs or alcohol. Overdose can cause severe damage to the body and even lead to death. Though some people may intentionally overdose, it often happens by accident. 

For example, a person in recovery is completely detoxed from substances, but a single lapse can be too much for their body to handle. Re-engaging with substances at a level anywhere near their previous usage habits can be enough for an overdose. This can seriously jeopardize the individual's life on many occasions.

Overdoses have always been common, but unfortunately, they seem to be more prevalent than ever before in recent years. Of course, the number of overdoses across the United States appears to have spiked in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. With excessive amounts of free time and without access to mental health treatment, support group meetings, or addiction treatment, individuals found themselves between a rock and a hard place. 

Many people are still trying to get their mental health back on track post-pandemic. Navigating sobriety and mental health during the pandemic was no walk in the park, but the numbers were high and rising even before that. If you examine research from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), you will see a continual increase in drug-related overdose deaths from 1999 to 2021. 

How Should You Respond to an Overdose?

Overdose-related deaths are not new, yet you may not know how to cope, especially when you lose a loved one. Many believe overdose to be preventable. The good news is, it is. However, an accidental overdose is not something you can predict.

Furthermore, intentional overdoses occur, and this fact should remind you to check in on your loved ones. You can never be sure what is happening in someone's head, but you can always show you care. 

When you can not prevent an overdose, you should know what to do when you face it. If you find yourself in a situation where it appears someone has overdosed, follow these steps:

  • Identify the signs of an overdose — pale face, limp body, purple or blue fingernails, impaired breathing, nausea, vomiting, or loss of consciousness. 
  • Call 911 and offer them as much information as possible, such as the substance and quantity taken. Give them your exact location and phone number. 
  • Administer naloxone if it is available. It can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose allowing the person to breathe and stay conscious until help arrives. 
  • Stay with the person. If naloxone is not available or it is not an opioid overdose, you can still help save their life. Move them onto their side to prevent choking, and if they stop breathing or lose a pulse, perform chest compressions. 

Speak to a professional to learn more about recognizing the signs of overdose and what you can do to help someone who has overdosed.

Can Loss From Overdoses Be Avoided?

Again, overdoes are preventable to some extent. For example, if you have a friend or family member in recovery, checking on them regularly can be a big help. We all have good and bad days. However, a bad day can push a recovering individual to consider relapsing. It only takes one lapse to put someone at risk for a drug-related overdose. 

Consider checking in on your recovering friend or family member every few days, planning activities together, or going to a support group meeting with them. These simple acts of love can motivate them to maintain sobriety which reduces the risks of relapse and overdose. 

How to Healthily Grieve Loss From Overdose

Despite efforts to prevent and avoid relapse, we must accept that they still happen. The loss of a loved one may cause you to self-isolate. You may feel guilty, shameful, anxious, and depressed, or you may feel completely numb from the shock. Unfortunately, there is no sure way to predict how you might react. 

Regardless of how you react, you can healthily cope with a loss from overdose by: 

  • Speaking up and not hiding your feelings: Bottling up complex emotions will make the healing process harder. 
  • Prioritizing your mental health: Consider going to therapy, journaling, finding a support group, and asking for help.
  • Focusing on your physical health: Ensure you sleep enough, eat well, drink plenty of water, and get your body moving. 

Admittedly, nobody wants to do these things during their grieving process, but they are necessary. Your loved one would want you to carry on. Even though it can be painful, you must find a way to do so. 

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