It is an unfortunate fact that deaths from drug abuse have steadily increased in the United States for over two decades, and are now the leading cause of injury and death in the United States. Losing a loved one is always difficult, but losing a close friend or family member to addiction can be even more so. In many ways, watching a loved one succumb to addiction can feel like a loss of life, so the grieving process may have started well before an addict’s passing.

Losing someone you love is always hard, but a death caused by addiction can cause powerful and intense emotions to come to the surface, making the process of grieving hard to navigate. While you may have positive memories of your loved one, the negative memories of their addiction may make your grief more difficult. You may even feel responsible for their death and the fact that they struggled with drug abuse so severely and regret being unable to help them.

Remember that grief is a highly individualized process, and everyone goes through it differently. There’s no right or wrong way to grieve a loss. Our initial reaction to the death of a loved one from addiction may be denial and isolation; to survive the pain and anguish of the loss, we may deny the reality of the situation. 

Finding or reconnecting with a support system is essential when dealing with grief, and particularly in dealing with the complicated emotions of losing a loved one to addiction. Accept the help of family members and friends who may offer their assistance to you during this difficult time. Engaging in your religious or spiritual traditions may help you. You may choose to join a grief recovery support group to gain resources and encouragement to deal with your grief. You may also choose to obtain one-on-one therapy to deal with your unresolved emotions after your loved one’s passing.

Don’t be ashamed of reaching out for help to deal with the loss of a loved one due to addiction. The Morton Center is now providing a group, to anyone who is experiencing grief or bereavement that has been caused by, or impacted by, substance abuse. It is far worse to avoid getting help and struggle with the grieving process, which could lead to unhealthy coping behaviors.

If you, or someone that you know, could benefit from this group please call our Resource Center at 502-451-1221, or email