We lose friends in many ways. People walk into our lives and take on pivotal roles in our hearts and minds. Then, all of a sudden someone takes a different path in life and we lose connection. Of course, this can hurt and cause feelings of grief, but we know they are still around. We have hope that they are leading happy lives. However, when we lose a loved one to something tragic and they pass away, we feel a different kind of loss.
It’s the kind of loss that hits you hard and takes your breath away. It’s the kind of loss that feels like a dream. The grief is more intense because we don’t understand why they have passed on so suddenly. The shock lasts longer because we weren’t expecting to lose this person so soon.
Experiencing a loved one passing away causes a pain that is hard to put into words or describe.It leaves an after-effect of grief and an empty feeling that is hard to vocalize. Loss is something that is completely out of human control, which is why I believe it is so hard to cope when we lose someone we care about. When I lost one of my closest friends in recovery to an overdose, I was in shock. I truly didn’t believe that he had passed away when I was told. I honestly don’t think it really hit me until I went to his funeral.
Coming to Terms with Reality
I hadn’t cried once about the passing of my friend until I sat down at his funeral. It felt like 1,000 tons of bricks hit my chest as I finally came to the realization that he would never be here again. He wouldn’t be able to take his daughters to the beach anymore. We wouldn’t be able to go get coffee with our group of friends and listen to his ridiculous jokes and infectious laugh. I couldn’t catch up with him on Facebook or congratulate him on another year sober. He was gone and he wasn’t coming back.
Everyone thought that he was doing so good, he had just come back to town from visiting his family. This is a prime example of how insidious the disease of addiction really is. Sometimes people are struggling internally while performing as if everything in their life is going well.
After the initial blow of grief had lessened up a bit, I began to question if there was something I should have done. I started to think that maybe if I had paid more attention, I would have noticed the signs of his relapse and been able to stop him. My mind ran incessantly because surely there was something I could have done.
I blamed myself and repeatedly obsessed over how I could have saved his life until I finally opened up to a member of my sober support group about it. She reminded me that I don’t have the power to save anyone else’s life and also reassured me that I did everything I could have. I was there for him, laughed with him, and experienced part of his life with him. When someone is unhappy, only they have the power to change that.
Grief is an odd thing. One day you’re in shock, the next you are hysterically crying in a fetal position, and then all of a sudden you feel somewhat okay. You begin to laugh with your mutual friends about the good times. You start to celebrate your loved one’s life because you know that’s what he would have wanted. He would have liked people to laugh while remembering the good times. He never liked people who were brooding with negativity, anyway.
Personally, I had only experienced one death of a loved one prior to getting sober so I was ill-equipped to deal with my friend’s death. I wasn’t aware that I needed to surround myself with people who loved me and vocalize how I was feeling. I suffered more than I needed to, but that was my grieving process. Everyone’s grieving process is unique – and that’s okay.
When you lose a friend to something tragic, it hits you so hard. Especially overdose, not only because it is preventable, but because that could have been me. Every time I overdosed and was brought back to life – that could have been me. It could have been my family hurting. It could have been my friends grieving. That so easily could have been me.
It’s hard to grasp the concept that one day you were laughing and having a good time with someone and then just a week later you’re attending their funeral. What has allowed me to begin to heal is reminding myself of the fact that my friend would want everyone to remember and cherish the good times. So, I surrounded myself with love and laughter – even when I didn’t feel like it. Some days I would make great progress and feel happy, while others I would begin to feel down and want to isolate myself.
The best thing that I did for myself during my grieving process was not to allow myself to spend too much time alone. For me, as a recovering addict, during tough times I need to make sure that I am not allowing myself to be in my head. This means going to meetings or hanging out with friends when I’d rather sit and wallow in my bedroom. There is no real answer or formula that you can follow to heal from the passing of a friend. All you can do is take things one day at a time. Sometimes, it’s one hour at a time. Others, it’s one feeling at a time.
Unfortunately, this wouldn’t be the first friend I lost to addiction. When you get sober and get involved in the recovery community, you meet a lot of people. You lose a lot, too. After a couple years sober, you stop counting. I had to. Counting is too painful. However, the loss does keep me going in a sense. It reminds me that nobody is immune to this disease. It also reminds me of how important it is to love and to love hard. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but if I can fill today with love, that’s enough for me.