Coping with Death from Overdose

Tragically, drug overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death in the United States.[1] There is an ever-increasing demand for support as more and more people lose a loved one due to drug overdose. Addicted to Life 319 is dedicated to providing resources for effectively coping with this uniquely difficult type of loss. Please continue reading below for practical advice and suggestions for confronting the challenges of overdose loss (specific resources listed at bottom).

Common Reactions After an Overdose Death

It is important to understand that the following reactions in the wake of an overdose death are typical. You may feel:

  • Socially isolated.
  • That your loss is judged differently.
  • A sense of guilt.
  • That you could have done more to prevent the death.
  • That others are to blame for the addiction or death.
  • Helpless, angry, shocked, numb, anxious, depressed.
  • Physically sick with headaches, stomach aches, nausea, fast heartbeat, trouble concentrating.[2]
  • Shame about the loss.


In addition to the aforementioned feelings and experiences, you may also feel:

  • No desire to be reminded about the loss or to talk about the loss.
  • Trouble sleeping; difficulty falling asleep, frequent waking, nightmares.
  • Recurring upsetting memories of the death or of the addicted person’s behavior.


Suggestions for Coping with Grief

  • Acknowledge how your loved one died: It is normal to want to deny the role that drugs played in your loved one’s death. However, it is important to recognize that your loved one used drugs in order to admit the role that addiction played and to accept support from others who understand.
  • Share how you feel: Try to be as honest as possible, both with yourself and with others. If you have difficulty expressing yourself in words, try alternate means of expression such as painting, drawing, music, writing, or photography. You can also try keeping a journal.
  • Understand addiction: Do not blame yourself for your loved one’s addiction. You had no power over their addiction. For more information on understanding addiction, visit the National Institute on Drug Abuse:


Recommended Resources

Learning From Grief: Open Conversations About Death.




Books (available to purchase on Amazon):

  • When a Child Dies from Drugs: Practical Help for Parents in Bereavement by Pat & Russ Wittberger
  • I Wasn’t Ready to Say Goodbye: Surviving, Coping and Healing After the Sudden Death of a Loved One (A Compassionate Grief Recovery Book) by Brook Noel
  • Healing After Loss: Daily Meditations for Working Through Grief by Martha Whitmore Hickman


[1] “Death from Overdose.” Essentia Health, Accessed 29 August 2021.

[2] “Death from Overdose.” Essentia Health, Accessed 29 August 2021.