Q: My cousin overdosed and died. My aunt told me I’m responsible and should have done something to help him. I knew my cousin was using drugs and I told him it wasn’t good for him. He said he was fine and didn’t want me bugging him about drugs. Is it my fault he overdosed? Was I supposed to help him?
A: Experiencing both the loss of your cousin and the weight of being told it was your fault is a double whammy of pain! My heart goes out to you for the loss of your cousin. Dealing with the death of a loved one is excruciating. Be sure you have support around you and allow yourself to process through the grief. Work with a counselor or get into a grief group to help.
Regarding your aunt’s statement about your responsibility, you are not responsible for your cousin’s choices. You told him your thoughts about his drug use and that’s all you could do since he didn’t want your help. No one can make another person stop using drugs. Sometimes people are court ordered to attend rehab but that rarely ends with the person getting free from their addiction. A person has to want to be free before any recovery approaches will work. Remind yourself of this every time you start to feel responsible for your cousin’s death. Over time you will begin to accept the truth and the guilt will ease. Just like grieving, it will be a process so be patient with yourself.
Note: The information on this blog is opinion only and not intended to replace therapy. If you are running into blocks you can’t get past, can’t understand your thoughts and emotions, are overwhelmed by your emotions…anything that is causing you emotional distress, please seek the help of a professional counselor. If you are suicidal, please call 911. If you are desperate to talk with someone call the National Suicide Hotline at 800-273-8255. For help finding treatment options for mental health or addictions contact SAMHSA at 800-662-4357. Links to thousands of therapists throughout the United States can be found at PsychologyToday.com or Theravive.com