What do you do if a person that you love and cherish dies of a drug overdose? What if you want to have a funeral, but you don't want to pretend that their death was anything other than the tragic result of a sadly misunderstood disease? Increasingly, people are using obituaries and funerals as a chance to spread awareness of the realities of drug addiction and send a message to others. If you're not sure whether or not it's a good idea, here are some things to consider:
It destigmatizes the condition.
Openly acknowledging addiction as a cause of death helps to destigmatize the condition. Many addicts suffer in secret even when they want help, for fear of being seen as immoral, at-fault, and generally untrustworthy or even dangerous. While not every addict is ready or willing to seek treatment, 11.8% of those who are, won't -- because they are worried about other people's reactions.
By admitting that addiction caused your loved one's death, you are spreading the message that it is okay to talk about it. You are also sending the message that addicts aren't necessarily nameless, faceless street people: they're people with husbands, wives, children, and parents. They're neighbors, friends, and co-workers. By helping gradually change perceptions, you can help people see addicts as ordinary people with a terrible disease. You can also help addicts and the families of addicts feel less alone and ashamed, which can encourage them to reach out to others for help.
It can help mourners separate the disease from the person.
Addiction changes people's personalities. Someone that you loved may not have been that loveable when they were on drugs. Openly acknowledging the addiction allows people to start to mentally separate the person that they loved from the disease that they hated.
There are common behaviors among addicts that are destructive to both the addict and the people around them. Their brains are convinced that they need the drugs to survive or make it through another day. Lying and manipulation are common among addicts who try to hide or justify their drug use. Some become willing to steal money or forge prescriptions in order to keep the drugs coming. The changes in their brains and the stress of their addiction itself can lead other addicts to abusive outbursts.
It's important to separate the symptoms of the disease of drug addiction from the person that you knew and loved. By acknowledging the addiction, you and other mourners can talk about what it did to the person and remember the person that you loved for who he or she was before the addiction took hold. That can make it easier to express and process both your sense of loss over the person and your anger at the disease at the same time.
Talk to the funeral director about how to tactfully but openly acknowledge the addiction in the service, through the eulogy or in another way. You may want to pass out literature about drug counseling and addiction at the service in order to silently encourage others to seek help if they need it.
Contact a business like Healey Funeral Home for more help.