September 4, 2022

Special Guest Blog - "How to Help Your Teen Deal with the Loss of a Friend Due to Overdose" by Don Lipstein

I'm one of the fortunate ones, although many may disagree with this sentiment.  I was able to find healing from my traumatic grief after the loss of my son who was addicted to opioids.  I know what it feels like to have lost one, and be utterly terrified of losing another of my surviving teenagers.  The 3 of them were very tight ,and leaned on each other when the world appeared to be unkind to them.  Their mother, my ex-wife, died from cancer a month before Joshua died by suicide. 

 I imagine it is not much different for those of us who have teens who have lost a dear friend to an overdose or suicide.  How in the world do we offer them support when we are petrified of the same thing happening to them?  For the first several months after his death, I was full of anxiety when they were not in my vision.  What were they doing, and would they come home, or would I be receiving another call?  Reality strikes when it hits so close to home.

 I immediately sought grief counseling for myself and wanted my children to follow suit.  I brought them to my counselor and thought for sure they would want to get the same support I was receiving but that is not at all what happened.  Neither one of them wanted to go again after the initial visit.  I looked at my counselor and asked "what am I supposed to do? I don't want to lose either of them and if they don't get help, I will for sure lose them too."

My counselor tried to convince me they will come when they are ready.  She shared how important it was for me to place the oxygen mask on myself before I try to apply it to those I love.  She persuaded me to find healing for myself so that my children will have a role model and eventually follow my lead.  This was the most difficult part of my grief journey, and I had to look to my higher power in order to surrender, and allow them the space to grieve their own way.  

 As I found healing for myself, my children seemed to be finding healing in their own ways.  They acknowledged that I was not hovering over everything they were doing, and not asking them to text me every hour on the hour. We began to talk openly about our grief, about life, and about death. and I was able to listen to them.  Teenagers have a different perspective on life, and they welcome it when adults take the time to "really" listen to them.  

 I'm one of the fortunate ones, because through the tragic loss of life, I learned a new way to be there for others who I deeply care about.  I'm grateful to share that both of my children have families of their own now and are doing really well.  I also feel confident that if they run into tragedy again, they are much better prepared to deal with it, and know where to find support if they need to.

My personal loss of Joshua, has placed me on a journey of healing which includes supporting others as a BALM Family Recovery Life Coach.  I have found meaning and purpose through the tragedy that my family has endured.

 If there is a parting message for other parents who may have teenage children grieving a sibling, or close friend..... Take the time to really listen to them and be present with them. Try not to burden them with your fears.  If this is a struggle for you, I would encourage you to seek professional support for yourself, as you will discover a new way to be there for them, when they need you the most.  

To learn more about the BALM Family Recovery One Year Program, visit the program page or Call Karen at 1-888-998-2256 Ext 5

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