Bereavement through drugs or alcohol can often be a very confusing and distressing experience. It can include accidental or intentional deaths (through overdose), or a death that has come about through long term drug or alcohol use. There are many specific issues that someone who is bereaved in this way may face during their grief:
- The legal processes surrounding a death by drugs or alcohol can be complex, lengthy and something about which the bereaved person will have had no previous experience, all of which can be extremely overwhelming at such a distressing time.
- People who experience drug and alcohol related bereavement often face social stigma and isolation. Many feel that the death is not ‘worthy’ in the eyes of society, and that their grief and bereavement cannot be manifest publically with the same legitimacy afforded those who lose a loved one to a long-standing health issue or old age.
- Additional difficulties may stem from the behaviour of the person before their death which may have lead to strained relationships, and leave the bereaved person with ambivalent feelings towards the death.
- Sometimes the bereaved person will not have known that the deceased was taking drugs, so the death will be entirely unexpected.
Family members who have experienced this bereavement say: "I was made to feel ashamed, but he was my son and I loved him", “no-one had told us about the inquest; it was horrific", and “I'm in despair, I'm angry and sad: I have a friend whose son died of cancer and it's totally different; she can just be sad".
If you have been bereaved through drugs or alcohol and would like to become involved in the Bereaved through Drugs and Alcohol project, please visit the Drugs and Alcohol project pages.