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How to be there for someone who’s lost a loved one to addiction

In a 5 month span, I lost 3 precious cousins to addiction. For 8 years, my brother struggled with a drug addiction that made life for my parents and myself a frightening, living hell.

Because I know what this deep grief feels like, I’m often approached with this question, “I know you are really involved in this work and have been through this tragedy. Anything in particular out there you know of for grieving families? Something that has helped you through the grieving process?”

Below are a few ways you can show support and love to someone grieving a loss from addiction:

  1. Do something. Anything is better than nothing. Someone grieving will need you now, weeks from now, years from now. Don’t let them be — or feel — alone. Remember their loved one with them. Don’t be afraid to talk about their deceased loved one. Family members grieving welcome hearing about the memories of their loved one.
  2. Get involved in the fight. This epidemic needs all hands on deck. Being around other people who are in the fight against addiction and those who sadly have experienced such loss has been healing for me and for our families.
  3. Don’t discount prayer. It was one of the only things that pulled me through and I believe God is one of the only answers to healing from this epidemic. Speaking from experience, someone grieving such a loss will need people to pray for them and their family when they can’t.
  4. During my deep grief, I read the book “A Grace Disguised” by Jerry Sittser. It was so, so, so helpful. A tragic story unrelated to addiction, but filled with so much hope.
  5. Rob Brandt with Robby’s Voice and his family lost their son to an accidental overdose in 2011. Rob helped me cope with our losses and runs a family support group. Recently, the family opened Robby’s on the square in Medina, Ohio. It’s a community rehab facility for addicts, a place they can come to learn skills and turn their life around.
  6. For some, gifts may be what you want to give. The website www.bryananthonys.com has beautiful necklaces with encouraging sayings. I had a friend make necklaces for my aunts that said “a piece of my heart is in Heaven.” They wear them every day. It shows them you remember and it will mean so much.
  7. Cornerstone of Hope in Independence has been instrumental in helping my family and many others cope and heal from loss. They offer group sessions and so much more. They are amazing!
  8. I purchased a beautiful notebook and pens for my aunts to write – when they were ready – memories of their children in.

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These are just suggestions that helped myself and my family. Everyone grieves differently. Please share anything that has lifted you or someone you love through grief so we can add it to this list. I can be reached via email at: tkaufmann17@aol.com.

The Wadsworth Drug-Free Community Coalition exists to prevent, educate and support youth, adults and families on substance/drug abuse by providing resources and raising awareness in our community.


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