The Grieving Process of Opioid Overdose Bereaved Parents in Maryland

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Virginia Tech


In recent years, the opioid epidemic in the United States has garnered attention on a federal and local level due to the increasing number of fatal overdoses. This study aimed to explore the experiences of parents who have an adult child who has passed away from an opioid overdose. This study used the Double ABC-X model of family stress theory. Bonadaptation versus maladaptation of each parent was discussed across a multitude dimensions. Qualitative semi-structured interviews were conducted with six parents living in the state of Maryland who each had an adult child, age 18+, die from an opioid overdose 2 or more years prior to the study. Data was analyzed using thematic analysis. Themes that emerged were as follows: the grieving process, support vs. stigma, experiences with state and local services, parental guilt, shame, and unanswered questions, coping mechanisms, and post-mortem life changes. While overall adaptation levels varied among participants, all participants reported positive and negative outcomes related to their experience of grief and loss. Implications for clinical practice and intervention are discussed. Researchers also make recommendations for future research.



opioid, overdose, death, parent, child, grief, bereavement, family stress theory