What to Say When Your Teen Loses a Friend to Addiction or Suicide
Addiction is a fatal disease. Overdose death is common in addiction, with more people dying of opioid overdose last year than gun violence and car accidents. Overdose due to alcohol and other drugs have equally saddening high numbers. Addiction which is kept under wraps and hidden untreated for an undue amount of time can cause mental health turmoil and co-occurring mental health disorders which worsen over time. Young people who feel incapable of coping with their emotions or coming clean about their addictions can turn to suicide. Sadly, many of our sons and daughters will face death and the process of grieving early in their lives. When our children are in treatment for drug and alcohol addiction, the likelihood that they will know someone who dies due to addiction, alcoholism, or suicide is increased.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 72,000 young people die every year in the United States. Before their teenage years, many adolescents will experience the tragic loss of at least one of their peers. In addition to issues with drugs, alcohol, and mental health, adolescent death can be caused by car accidents, accidental poisoning, discharge of a firearm, cancer, and other causes of death.
Grieving the loss of a peer is difficult for any adolescent to face and for any parent to support their loved one through. When your child is in recovery from addiction and one of their peers dies of an addiction-related issue, the death is especially difficult to grieve because it is a harsh reminder of the reality of addiction. Facing their own mortality and deep gratitude for their life in recovery, it is frightening to see firsthand that death is possible due to addiction and recovery is critical for longevity.
Here are some of our top suggestions for supporting your child when they lose a friend to addiction or suicide:
- Overcome the silence by opening room for dialogue. Don’t force your child to talk, but make sure they know they are safe to express their feelings and emotions with you.
- Make sure all their needs and comforts are met. Times like these are the times to go the extra mile as a parent. Cook their favorite meals, care for them in the way they like, and treat them with the utmost tenderness and care.
- Don’t hush conversations about the recently departed by encourage revisiting positive memories and experiences. Help them find gratitude for the times they shared.
- Keep a focus on recovery and the importance of continuing to work every part of a program, particularly in times of emotional need.
- Continuously give your support and acknowledge the hard work they are doing in recovery to protect their lives.
- Remind them lifetime recovery is possible and they can achieve it one day at a time.
If you are or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.
Stonewater Adolescent Recovery Center is the premiere residential treatment center for adolescent addiction. Our programs help children build a foundation of faith and trust in recovery while pursuing their academic journey and clinical healing. For information, call us today at 662-598-4214