2. Impact of Substance Use Problems on Families

Grieving the losses associated with substance use


Grieving because of a relative’s substance use is difficult for many reasons.

    You may not experience closure because the problem is ongoing.
    You may keep your grief private, feeling unable to share the experience with others because of possible shame and stigma (i.e., a strong feeling of disapproval from society in general).
    You often must carry on with your own and sometimes your relative’s responsibilities, and so have little time to reflect and grieve.
    Society does not recognize and validate these losses and has no common rituals that you can use to cope with your grief.
I feel like I lost my son. It is devastating. He is not the same person as he used to be. I feel like I am mourning him even though he is standing right in front of me, but he is a different person. It’s a huge sense of loss and I have an immense sense of sadness. upset mother talks to her son

—Gina, 50 years old, who has a 24-year-old son with severe substance use problems.

Remember that feeling grief and worry about the future is natural. When a relative has a substance use problem, it is normal to have concerns about what will happen in the future.