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To anyone who has lost an important person to overdose:

Today, August 31st, is National Overdose Awareness Day. We look at anyone who has lost a loved one to overdose with awe and reverence. Grieving the loss of someone to overdose is an incredible exercise in making sense of the overwhelming, relinquishing control, and acknowledging one’s powerlessness. Due to forces outside of yourself, you have been pushed into a journey you did not want to take.

There is tremendous pain in not being able to save someone you love. Overdose deaths often leave loved ones with unanswerable questions:

“What if I had…?”

“Should I have said…?”

“Did I do enough?”

Please know that there are limits to your power – it is humbling, maybe even frightening, to admit this. But this acknowledgement may also be the first step toward some peace. The statement usually comes with a heavy sigh that encompasses more emotion than words can express.

Please also know that your loved one’s life is not defined by their death, by their addiction, or by the choices they made from a place of addiction. Your loved one’s life is defined in the way you tell their story. As with all our stories, they are nuanced and complex with moments of warm light and troubling darkness. Perhaps you are still trying to make sense of something that feels senseless…perhaps you have reached a place of radical acceptance of what has happened. The narrative you write about what happened to your person will likely continue to morph over time as you seek to understand it. You have permission to edit the story over and over again.

For anyone who has struggled with addiction – September is National Recovery Month. Choosing recovery takes an inner fortitude that many of us just do not have. You have chosen a path that takes a well of tremendous strength. Many people in your life may not understand the magnitude of what you are undertaking. Please seek the support of others who may be able to help you as you walk – some days striding, some days stumbling, and other days standing still.

Please also know that if you have lost someone to overdose, we may be able to walk beside you in the grieving process. We will approach you and your special person with non-judgment, seeking only to support and understand.

If you or someone you know would benefit from speaking with a grief counselor, please call our referral line at (540) 313-9214. We are here for you.