According to statistics, up to three people are adversely affected by one person’s substance misuse. But I know it is far more. It’s been over fifteen years since I lost my father to alcoholism, and it still affects me to this day.
It is especially hard when I hear about another person, someone I know who has passed either as a direct result of misusing substances or due to fragile mental health as a consequence of substance misuse. Yesterday, i heard the sad news that someone else I met, who’d successfully completed rehab, who when the last time I’d seen him, he seemed so positive, but has now passed away.
That’s five people now this year who have died this year alone. After overcoming the shock, my thoughts and heart always go out to their families and the loved ones left behind. We cannot ever underestimate the trauma that the families and friends are still left with after a loved one has passed. Hence my motivation to write this blog.
Often it can feel like a double bereavement.
It isn’t uncommon for families and loved ones to go through the grieving process whilst their loved one is still alive. I lived with the anticipation of death way before Dad finally passed. He wasn’t the Dad that I recognised; He’d changed so much it was hard to remember what he was like before. I’d grieved over lost hopes and expectations that he would never truly appreciate what it would be like to have a peaceful mind or get to see his grandkids grow into adults. The missed opportunities were endless.
Coming to terms with the way someone died
Somehow it can be easier to accept death when someone has passed after a long or fulfilled life. However, the stigma associated with addiction can make coming to terms with the circumstances of death even harder, than say losing a loved one to cancer or in a tragic accident. The additional fear of judgement can often leave families, loved ones feeling isolated, stigmatised or that somehow your situation is less valid than that of other bereaved people.
I vividly remember being given the option by the GP who was preparing Dads death certificate whether or not I wanted the cause of death being pneumonia or alcohol. Given a choice, I wouldn’t have chosen either, but I had insisted on the latter. Whilst I didn’t want my Dad to become a statistic, I didn’t want his death caused by alcohol to be in vain. His death wasn’t a peaceful one, far from it, it was slow and painful. He endured both physical and mental torture, and as I have mentioned in previous blogs if he’d have had the chance to end his days differently or sooner i suspect he would have.
Whilst there may be similarities, substance misuse impacts/affects both the users and families and loved ones differently. Addiction isn’t like treating a fracture, where the break can be located and fixed by a cast. Some families live with the uncertainly of never knowing how who or where the rupture took place, and if they did, they would have moved heaven and earth to help fix it. The feeling of powerlessness can be overwhelming at times and is even harder to bear with so many unanswered questions.
Fifteen years ago, there wasn’t as much support for families like me. Through writing this book, I have come across some excellent resources that I wanted to share with you, in the hope that if you know someone who has lost a loved one either directly or indirectly to substance misuse that you could guide them in the right direction (see below)
In the mean time RIP to all those lost souls and to the loved ones left behind.
Love Fordy x
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Sources of support
Adfam was founded in 1984 by the parent of a heroin addict who could not find the support they needed. Overt the past 34 years they have evolved from a small support group into the national infrastructure body working to improve life for families affected by drugs and alcohol use.
Bereavement Through Addiction Provides support groups, a helpline and an annual memorial service in Bristol.
Drugfam offers a telephone bereavement helpline and other sources of support
Survivors Of Bereavement by Suicide (formerly SOBS) Exists to meet the needs and break the isolation of those bereaved by the suicide of a close relative or friend National Helpline: 0844 561 6855, 9am to 9pm every day
Grandparents Plus is the national charity which champions the vital role of grandparents and the wider family in children’s lives – especially when they take on the caring role in difficult family circumstances.