7 Stages of Addiction Grieving: Opioid and heroin death grieving

How can we handle the death of a loved one that has passed away from opioid or heroin or any drug addiction?

The truth is it’s almost impossible because unfortunately, we’ve been watching our loved one die repeatedly probably for years.

The 7 stages of grieving give us clarity on emotions we feel when a loved one passes. When my dad passed away from addiction, I found that I experienced different emotions that I wasn’t sure I should feel guilty about. Below are the steps of grieving I have taken after watching my dad struggle with addiction throughout his life.

7 Stages of Grieving an Addiction Death

surprised (1)

Anxiety | Initially, all the built-up fear in anticipation for a fatal overdose or accident is now a reality. An anxiety that has built up for years will take over. 

The first feeling is anxiety. All the built-up fear in anticipation for something to go wrong hits you like a ton of bricks. This is it. This is the time you’ve really feared the most and now you’re facing your fear. Everyone reacts differently to anxiety. I screamed in my tears, I was trembling, bent over at the waste looking out the window trying to catch my breath. I paced my little apartment and after 10 minutes, I put myself in an uber to the hospital.

Tip: Turn on auto-pilot. 

sad

Relief |¬†It’s common to feel relieved in weeks following the loss of a loved one. You are no longer constantly worrying about your loved one’s safety.

It’s not uncommon to secondly feel relieved. You never know when the next time will be the last time and suddenly that anxious feeling escapes you and is filled with a new feeling of disbelief that this is over. Maybe you’re used to your loved one in and out of jail or on the streets, and your mind may convince you that this is like one of these times and it will take a few months, even years, to realize this isn’t the case.

Tip: Don’t feel guilty. Your body and mind need the rest. Don’t fight it.

sad (1)

Trauma | The last moments with your loved one’s body are extremely traumatizing. TV shows, movies, or seeing addiction in person can cause strong emotions. 

The third feeling is experiencing sudden realizations of what happened. If you were the one to find your loved one unconscious or if you saw them in the hospital trying to revive, you’ll be brought back to that place. It’ll feel like free falling. A pit in your stomach that you can’t explain and a dark place that you’ll need to be careful not to stay in. The last moments with your loved one’s body are extremely traumatizing because you want to believe so badly that they could’ve or should’ve been revived one last time.

Tip: Breath in and breath out slowly. Remember your loved one is no longer in pain and that’s most important.¬†

sad (2)

Regret/Guilt | Regretting the weeks leading up before the death is common. We question whether we did the right thing and if our final decisions caused the death. We take the blame. 

Along with the third feeling comes a form of regret. We put addiction aside and wish that we should’ve been there more and we envision if we had just been their things would’ve been different. We take self-blame and ownership of the addiction. Confidence in all the decisions we made throughout our loved one’s life is key. These feelings will come but you can control if they stay.

Tip: Remember, our loved ones never wanted us to take on their problems as our own.

note from dad before he passed away

nervous

Misunderstanding |¬†We’ve mourned the loss of the soul before. Now we are connecting the loss of the soul with the loss of the physical person. It can be complicated to explain or experience.

Fifth is a feeling of others not understanding our grief. We’ve mourned the loss of the soul far before the passing of the body on and off and no one will ever understand that. Others may not understand that the soul was harder to grieve than the body and now the combination is nearly incomprehensible. We’ll feel that people just don’t get it and feel alone and a bit frustrated. When we say we miss our loved ones, we miss them in ever since of the word. While when our loved one was alive, we missed who their spirit made them. Now we’re experiencing the desire to have any form of our loved one back.

Tip: Talk with loved ones. Try to be vulnerable and open.

muted (1).png

Calmness |¬†We’re not used to feeling calm. Our bodies had become used to chaos. Now we’re adjusting to more predictability in our lives.

Six is the feeling of loneliness and a calm we weren’t ready for. Loving someone who is struggling with addiction makes us hyper-aware of everything. Every phone call, every time you hear an ambulance, you’re not sure if it’s for your loved one. Every time you walk in the door, you don’t know what version of your loved one you’ll get. Suddenly, you have to get used to not having those worries, and that makes us feel calm but at the same time lonely. Our bodies aren’t used to the chaos that addiction brings, but over time we adapt to the constant worrying.¬† Our bodies begin to function in chaos.

Now, we suddenly don’t have to worry about the ambulance on its way to give Narcan to your loved one. Now you walk in the door and it’s more predictable of what you’ll see. At the same time, this creates an unsettling feeling of emptiness and your body and mind are searching for something to fill the void. For a while, you may be extremely high strung, emotional, and feel out of place in a normal setting.

Tip: Let out your chaotic energy with a hobby, exercise, or something that is transcendent.

happy

Letting go | In time, letting go of pain and remembering the good memories and the spirit of our loved one is possible. 

Seven is the most wonderful feeling of them all. Letting go of your role as a constant worrier for your loved one. The feeling that your loved one is no longer in pain and that there is hope. Whether you’re religious or not, we all hope that our loved one is drug-free looking out for us. Now is the time to realize our strength and theirs throughout the years. Letting go of pain and remembering the good memories and the spirit of our loved one (without the all the memories of the disease clouding judgment) is relieving. We tell friends, family, and acquaintances stories about our loved one that show who they were as a person and not how the disease of addiction made them appear. It’s not easy to get to this step and it may take time. This is healing.

Tip: Keep a journal for when you remember memories.


The best thing to do is tell stories of your loved one often and keep their spirit alive. Cry when you need to. Get angry when you need to. Feel regret when you need to. But only as long as you remind yourself that you’re strong. You experienced pain that no one else can ever understand. It’s an excruciating pain to watch someones spirit leave and come back multiple times before actually dying. You made it through and that makes you one of the strongest people I know. If you’re alive, focusing on your health, and improving your life for yourself and others, you have no reason to have any regrets. We do all we can for our loved ones struggling with addiction, all in different ways.

Our loved ones want and need us to move on because the greatest feeling they feel is guilt. Wake up and tell your loved one out loud:

“You didn’t fail me. Your disease taught me strength. I go on today to make my life and other lives better because of you. You shaped me and I accept you for all that you were in my life. I will remember you always, NAME”¬†

7 stages of grief: addiction grieving

In memory of¬†Steven Olbinsky, my best friend, my dad, my everything. March 23, 1964 – October 26th, 2017. As the years go by, there will be less time spent with you. Your spirit will continue to thrive because I’ll share the memory of you with others that never got the pleasure. Addiction is a disease that deserves more love and understanding. I believe that if you, dad, were able to love so deeply despite your disease, others can too. I have hope that together you and I will give a chance for healthy relationships, forgiveness, and love despite the disease of addiction. To learn more visit my website www.lolbinsky.com.¬†

Demi Lovato’s Addiction

IrDemi Lovato released “Sober” on June 21st, 2018 which was an apology for relapsing. On July 24th Demi was hospitalized for an overdose. She was sober for 6 years. There’s not a word strong enough that can describe the shame of a relapse.

 

After my dad would overdose, all I wanted to do was call him and act like it never happened and that’s what I did. You just can’t ask why. No matter how badly we want to know the reason why- to be in the head of someone struggling with addiction and control the impulse like a joystick- we just can’t.

Owned by Getty Images demi lovato
Owned by Getty Images

I wouldn’t let him know that I knew he overdosed or relapsed. He’d call and I’d tell him I loved him. I’d repeat it. I’d ask how he was mentally and skip over the fact that I knew he was hanging by a thread of hope that it’d be okay.

I saw my dad struggle more with depression and guilt than with the addiction itself. To hear that he felt like a failure to me. No matter how many times you tell him he’s your hero he denied that it could ever be a possibility to be a hero from the pain he caused me.

Demi Lovato is a hero to a lot of people who are struggling with addiction. Like her song said she is only human. And what she is going through is in the public eye. Her song, Sober, reminded me of that pain in the most vulnerable and caring way.

It’s hard to accept love, forgiveness, and hope after a relapse.¬†

My hope is that she see’s the side of addiction she is shedding light on and that it gives her the strength to get sober. But even more so than getting sober again, I hope that her and people struggling just like her, and like my dad, find peace in not being perfect. I hope that she and people like her find a way to continue to say I’m sorry like she bravely did and continues to forgive herself.

Even when I forgave my dad, he never forgave himself. People that understand Demi Lovato’s struggle forgive her. Life is not meant to be living in guilt and shame.

If I could have one moment back with my dad I’d tell him one last time that he is my hero and my inspiration and life and for him to hear it, accept it and feel it.

If you’re struggling with addiction… you’re meant to be an inspiration. You’re as deserving of happiness and love as anyone else. There’s hope and we want you to forgive yourself. I accept you for who you are.

 

 

 

Bruno Mars Concert Tickets

My dads last wish before he passed was to go to the Bruno Mars concert.

Now I have a chance to give the experience to another family and I want to make it happen for the Bruno Mars September 27th, 2018 Boston 24k Magic World Tour. I’ll be giving away tickets to a deserving family.

Screen-Shot-2018-06-05-at-6.05.56-PM.png

 

My dad called me on October 6th. “It’s my bucket list!” It was the first time I had heard my dad happy in a really, really long time.

 

Screen-Shot-2018-06-05-at-6.06.43-PM.png

 

I never knew that it’d be the last memory I ever had with my dad, but I’m so happy we left off on an experience of a lifetime.

 

Screen Shot 2018-06-05 at 6.09.05 PM.png

 

 

My dad suffered from addiction and severe depression and most of our talks were sad.

 

 

Screen Shot 2018-06-05 at 6.11.11 PM.png

 

But when we talked about Bruno Mars, my dad lit up. Especially when I told him we were actually going to the concert!

 

 

Interested in winning Bruno Mars tickets for you and a family member? Click Here

Screen Shot 2018-06-05 at 6.13.05 PM.png

 

Although I didn’t know, my mom tells me how he knew that it’d be the last time we’d probably see each other.

 

img_3659.jpg

 

It was the best night. I sang and danced with my dad for the last time.

 

I want to give this experience to a family who needs memories like this

Enter to Win Free Bruno Mars Tickets

All you have to do is tell me what this concert would mean for you and your family member to go.

 

Family Problems Affect Confidence

As a lady with a broken family, I really understand feeling fragile and broken and like you’re starting from a broken foundation. Confidence can feel extremely distant when you’re support system is either not present or harming who you are trying to be.

Family problems can result in a confusion of who you really are, what your purpose and place in life are, and the fears of not being strong enough or deserving enough to shine.

When my dad first relapsed I was 12 years old. My mom was addicted to alcohol and suddenly my best friend, my dad, was no longer there either. It was traumatic because I didn’t feel safe telling my friends or teachers, but I also didn’t feel safe in my own home.

I had no one to talk to and if you’re trying to be a superhero and hold it all together like I did, it’ll physically affect your well being. Being confident while you’re also experiencing bodily dysfunctions¬†is nearly impossible for any human to handle.

Personally, I physically could not eat. I had a hole in my stomach and when I put food into my mouth my stomach would reject it and I would spit up before even starting to chew. I was under 80 pounds and people called me anorexic.

I had real anxiety attacks. I once went to the coffee shop and tried handing the cashier money and my body froze. I couldn’t lift my arm and my head felt so light I lost my words. I felt like I was in a spell.

I felt like I didn’t deserve my parents love and that I was a burden to the world and that’s why I was in my situation. I wrote about suicide.

So how did I overcome these anxieties, physical ailments, and serious life doubts? It came from within. It was a process of learning about myself and being reflective of my situation.

The greatest part of our story is that while we can’t control the events in them, we can control the way we shape our narrative around them and that’s where confidence lives. We can take control of our voice.

People that are affected by family problems are in every way deserving of confidence. If you’ve been struggling with confidence like I was I hope that I can help you.

Handling Negativity

The only negativity we have in our lives we create.

I can say that for certain because I have been positive for my whole life. Optimistic, with the ability to take any advice, insult, or negativity and overpower it with a smile and a genuine desire to see past the bad and look for the good.

But for the past year, I’ve seen the other side.

I began shifting towards feeding my insecurities instead of feeding my ambitions.

Two+wolves_6100f3_6353435.jpg

It didn’t happen overnight. It isn’t as simple as heartbreak that makes you wake up the next day angry, or a miracle that makes us wake up happy. It’s a slow change in behavior that creeps into your life that without our permission we feed.

Owning our negativity should humble us and open us up to vulnerability. Sometimes we’re just not ready to open up. Maybe deep down we think people are against us but even deeper down we are prepared for a battle that isn’t coming.

In order to handle negativity, we have to see where it comes from.

Asking what we’re lacking in our lives will answer a lot of questions but takes a lot of looking in the mirror. Whats missing from the holes that we’re filling with negativity? Once we see what’s missing, are we ready to fill them again?

Our negativity doesn’t define who we are. Let’s prove our negativity wrong and feed the good wolf.

When you find yourself being negative, check yourself. No one person or thing will change you unless you fully understand you need to change yourself. Your mind will justify the anger so watch out for that. It can result in permanent residence in your head.

What brings you joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy, and truth? Can you do a better job of feeding the right wolf?

 

Collateral Beauty | The Void

When visiting my dad at the cemetery, I got lost. I had been there for 20 minutes, trecking through the snow in sneakers, frantically searching for my dad. It felt horrible. A parallel for the past two years.

I asked someone who was going for a run. After giving instructions, I began sobbing out of nowhere. The kind man asked who I was visiting. I explained it was my dads birthday. He pointed to the top of the hill and said, my daughter was only 32, she is buried over there. He said it fleetingly. As he tried to walk away, I took out my dads book.

Eager to share, I showed him how much I loved my dad. He looked at me, “I want to give you the best advice anyone has ever given me. When someone you love leaves this earth,” He began to cry. “It creates a huge hole inside of us. The key is not to fill the void. The key is to find your¬†way around it.” He held his head high and I could see the straining in his neck to stop himself from sobbing.

It seemed to be the first time he had cried in a long time about his daughter. He lost her at such a young age. Before I could react, he wished me luck and continued his run. I wanted to talk more. He was hurting and so was I. I’m grateful for his advice.

Nothing will take the place of a loved one. Isn’t it amazing how different we all are? Our quirks, our voices, our reactions, our expressions. How I’ll always miss the way my dad would snarl in the cutest way when I said something crazy, “ohhh….¬†Ohhh..¬†Liiiinky!” How he would¬†get excited and there’d be a chuckle, kind of like Goofy, in his voice. Especially if it was about something positive for my future. How he always made dirty jokes very loudly, and how he repeated himself in a high pitch voice insistently in stores.

Of course, I’ll never fill that void. What I’d like to explain to my friend at the cemetery, is, that hole that is there within us is room for vulnerability. It’s the space that makes collateral beauty. For the moments like we had. Where out of nowhere¬†I¬† felt the urge to take out my dads letters, even if I was told he didn’t care.

 

 

 

Collateral Beauty | California Friend

 

I called a Lyft to pick me up at my apartment on March 23rd. We started chatting and he told me that he was here from California. As any New Englander would do, we joked about why anyone would move here from California with¬†this kind of weather (even though we all know why… we’re the best.) My Lyft driver said quietly, “My sister has cancer.”

Suddenly my vulnerable heart and his connected in silence.

We talked about his fears for his sister, how the two of them were adopted by Jewish parents, and how tough of a year it’s been.

It felt like fate that of all days and all the Lyft drivers I could’ve gotten I was in the car with someone who needed to be open as intensely as I did.

Finally, I explained, I’m going to celebrate my dads birthday for the first time at a cemetery¬†today.

Again the beautiful silence.

Then he says, “I lost my mom in October too. Cancer. She didn’t want treatment.”

The pain my new friend was going through but the strength he showed, it was admirable. It made me feel like everything was okay, and I think it made him feel the same.

I learned a lot from my friend. His sister is extremely strong and optimistic. He is here in Massachusetts, just the two of them, supporting one another. His mom was amazing. Very strong but also very stubborn.

I showed my¬†friend the book that I am writing for my dad. As tears welled and my throat clenched, he suddenly said, “I feel stupid. I didn’t save or record any of the memories I had with my mom.”

Wiping tears from his eyes, I explained, “the best thing you can do is to keep her spirit alive because that is what’ll always carry on. Opening up to me and allowing me to open up, too, is what makes your mom look down on you and smile with pride.”

It’s hard to open up to strangers, especially about losing a loved one, but when you do, sometimes, beautiful things can happen. Strangers have parallels in their lives that you wouldn’t believe. When two people who are going through struggle¬†connect, they become connected.

My friend made my¬†visit to my dad a lot easier. When I sat down with my dad I had a full heart. Inspired, and happy that we could be vulnerable and open. People who are struggling don’t want sympathy or advice. They want to feel a human connection, hope, and understanding.

Sharing your story will be inspiring. Feel great about sharing memories of someone who is no longer with you. It may be tough, but do it for their soul. Do it for the person who’s listening who might be losing their loved one.