Dealing With A Client Death

Client death addiction grief

Dealing With A Client Death

Dealing With grief

I recently lost a client due to overdose. This grief is still very new, dealing with the death of a client from addiction. It was my first client in private practice but not the first client lost to addiction since I became a therapist. This grief is something that never gets easier (grateful for that) and never becomes normal (more grateful for that). The first client I ever lost still has me from time to time returning to the bargaining stage. I will catch myself going online to find an obituary to make it more real. I will experience anger, guilt, fear, self-doubt, denial, and sadness. Sometimes experiencing an overwhelming sense of loss and emptiness.

Unconditional Positive Regard

I find being a therapist a very unique and strange thing. To meet a complete stranger and have love and compassion for that stranger, to want to be in the corner and support them in their fight, is a strange reality. I will often wonder how someone I have worked with in the past are doing. Have they remained sober? Are they still replaying trauma tapes? Have they been armed with the tools they need to be successful? Did I give them enough time or too much time? Was I compassionate when I needed to be and confrontational when necessary?

Stages Of Grief

Finding out a client has overdosed, died, or been killed brings up so many more questions. I look to blame myself, as many family members and friends also do. I review what I could do better or differently in the future. I think about the family members and friends that I met with or heard about and how this may be impacting them. Sometimes I get angry with myself, the person who passed away or their family/friends as part of my grief process. I think anger is easier for me to process than the sadness.

Feeling Alone

I found that being in private practice and losing a client has been very different. In treatment, the staff would talk about that client and process the death together. I did not feel as alone in the process and I had other around me for support but are also going through the same thing and knew the client. I was grateful for my supports in private practice but it was not the same thing. I am still in my grief as I write this, so I can not tell you how it ends. What I have noticed so far is less of a sense of closure so far. A deeper sense of sadness and emptiness when I think about it. A greater sense of ‘did I do or not do something’.

Grief and Addiction

Working with addiction population I have noticed a very strong increase in the number of overdoses over the years. Almost every single one of my clients have also had to deal with this issue. Grief and addiction are almost synonymous. I know that this is not the last time I will feel this but in writing this, it gives me a sense that maybe I can help someone else who experiences this or even gain feedback and support from others who have had the same experiences.

In My Prayers

I continue to pray for my clients both present and past, living and deceased. I continue to pray for their family and loved ones. I chose to remember their hearts, their smiles, and their pain. I want to hold a little of that grief forever to honor them but not enough that it alters me for the worse.

If you or your loved one is struggling with addiction, please feel to contact me at or at my website. There are also more resources and treatment locator at SAMHSA

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