When a couple make the decision to have a child, a natural plan begins to fall into place. With great anticipation they wait for that happy plan to become reality — birthdays, elementary school, high school, college, marriage and eventually grandchildren. Never does that plan include the devastating loss of a child due to addiction.
Day after day we hear about opiate-related deaths in our region and across the country. Children are dying outside of the “natural order,” and when it occurs it sends people into a tailspin. We’re just not supposed to outlive our children.
While there is really no “getting over” such a loss, you can begin to integrate it into your life. It’s important to understand that grief is a long journey and finding normalcy takes time. You don’t wake up one day and everything’s good again.
When engaging with those left behind, I often use the phrase “working through our grief.” Helpful activities can include advocating for change (and we are seeing more parents do that now), talking with a counselor, being part of a grief group, and/or taking part in a remembrance event. All can be helpful and therapeutic, but discovering what’s best is left to the individual.
Addiction takes thousands of lives each year and is on track to take 570 in Erie County alone in 2016. For families of those addicted, the greatest fear is that they’ll lose their child to the battle with their addiction. For some families this becomes their new reality.
Please know that help is available.
Monica A. Farrar, LMHC