Sad mother sitting in front of a grave site

Lorelie Rozzano is a guest blogger for Vertava Health.

These Parents Lost Their Child To Overdose. They Want You To Know This…

It’s described as a national emergency. Parents are losing their children. Children are losing their parents. Lovers are losing their partners. Sisters are losing their brothers. Grandparents are losing their grandchildren. No one is immune.

144 people die each day from an overdose. These numbers are more than stats or headlines on the evening news. These numbers represent loss and devastation. These numbers are someone’s precious child.

As a recovery advocate, I hear from grieving parents on a daily basis. Over the years, the message has changed. What once was, “how can I help my addicted child?” is now more often than not, “my child just died from an overdose.”

Saying “I’m sorry for your loss” doesn’t cover the pain I feel when thinking about losing my own children. When I hear of another death, I get quiet. I awkwardly try to find words of comfort, knowing the enormity of the sadness is unfathomable and my words won’t make any difference at all. I wonder if others stumble like I do.

What should you say when someone loses a child to overdose? What do grieving parents want you to know?

I asked grieving parents these questions and here’s what they had to say:

Lorraine says: When I tell you my daughter died of a drug overdose please don’t say “oh,” and change the subject. It takes a lot for me to talk about my daughter and the way she died. I’m already feeling guilt and shame that I couldn’t do more for her.

Friends and family know the situation, but seem to be afraid that I’ll break if we talk about her. We don’t need to remember the devastating day I found her on the bathroom floor. But please know, I won’t break and I want to talk about her.

Give me a hug. I need one.

Angela says: Many families have lost someone they love to drugs. Even if they’re not dead, just by using, they’re gone. Don’t pry, don’t ask for the details. Simply offer your love and support. Cook a meal for the family.

Don’t ignore them just because their child’s death was due to drugs. Using drugs is a choice that leads to a deadly disease. The parents and family are grieving just the same as anyone else who loses someone they love.

Andrea says: I desperately want the world to know that addiction is as much a disease as any other. I wish the medical community would treat it as an illness and give the addicted person the same care as a cancer or diabetes patient.

I’d like people to realize that sitting with us, silently in love, is all we really need. Just listen if we talk and love us even if we don’t talk. Please don’t give us advice. Don’t ask us to move on, or get on with our lives. It doesn’t work that way.

Charlie says: On behalf of every parent who has lost a child, I would like to thank you for thinking of us and wanting to understand how we feel. Just know whenever I talk about our son, Michael, I will break down and cry.

Katie says: My son, Daniel, was a beautiful baby. He had piercing blue eyes and a sweet disposition. He was easy going, excelled in school and had many friends. He loved spending time with his family. When he wasn’t at home, you could find him tossing around a football.

Those are the memories I would like to share because Daniel was more than his addiction.

Pati says: As parents, we did everything we could possibly do. Unless a person is ready to help themselves, no amount of love will save them. I’ve worked 23 years trying to help people like my son, but I couldn’t help him. So maybe my story will help someone else.

Barb says: My daughter didn’t die from an overdose, but alcoholism. She was only 25-years-old. She had chronic liver disease and pancreatitis. Her autopsy report says ‘chronic ethanolism.’

We were not supported. We felt judged. Hardly anyone came to the funeral. We didn’t get any casseroles like we did at other deaths. It tore our family apart. We were blamed for setting boundaries or abandoning her. We blamed the rest of our family for enabling her.

Not only did we lose a daughter, we lost an entire family and we grieved all alone. It feels like multiple losses and traumas.

Cheryl says: When I found out my 20-year-old son was shooting heroin I talked to him about it. The needle tracks up and down his arms broke my heart. We both cried. I asked him why. He said, “I can’t help it, Mom.”

I called his probation officer and his lawyer begging them to put him in jail. They wouldn’t do anything. I took it upon myself and called our commonwealth attorney and told him everything.

Within four days my son was in jail. I turned him in. I thought he was safer there than on his own. He was in jail for 11 months. He was home for three weeks and a day when we got the call I had been dreading.

I feel guilty every day that I couldn’t save him. My son was a loving, beautiful, bright young man. He had a goofy smile that would melt your heart. His life mattered- the heroin did not define him.

Barbara says: I want everyone to know that my son was not defined by his disease. As a matter of fact, only during his memorial service did I realize how many people he actually helped.

As far as what to say? You will NEVER hurt someone who has lost a child. They already hurt more than anyone else ever could imagine. Even if you say, “I don’t know what you’re feeling, but I would love to learn about your son,” it’s never going to hurt as much as losing your child.

The saddest part is the stigma attached to this disease. It made my son feel unworthy of being helped. If every one of us reached out to one person who is suffering from addiction, we can make a difference. You might be the only one who seems to care. It’s amazing what a little loving kindness can do.

Sandra says: When someone dies, don’t tell their loved ones it will get better with time, or that God has a plan. Grief doesn’t get better with time, it just changes. You will always miss them.

Alexis says: My son died from an overdose at 24-year-old. Before that he spent 12 years struggling with mental health issues that were never treated. Two attempted suicides and hundreds of self-harm scars weren’t enough for the professionals to take it seriously.

Near the end, I applied for a mental health warrant, which was granted. However, they couldn’t keep him. Because he always wore a smile and never made his troubles outwardly known, so they kept releasing him… until he was no more.

Mare says: My son didn’t die from an overdose, but suicide during unsupervised withdrawal.

To other parents, get the entire family into family therapy before it’s too late. If you think it’s difficult getting everyone to attend, be aware that you will all need professional help if your child dies.

Be proactive. It’s not just the addict’s problem; rather a symptom of something much bigger, usually deep within family roots.

If you know someone who has lost a loved to addiction, stay close. Let them know you are there for them. Death is never easy to talk about. It’s devastating when it happens to your child. These parents helped me understand, they do want to talk. More importantly, they need to talk.

If you’re worried about a loved one, don’t wait. Pick up the phone now. Vertava Health will help you and your family move beyond addiction into your best years yet.

If you or someone you know needs help, please call this confidential support line for assistance, 1-888-614- 2379.

Call Vertava Health now!