Families Use Obituaries to Talk About Addiction

speaking-out-on-addictionTraditionally, when families lost a loved one to addiction there were efforts made to sweep the cause of death under the rug – a byproduct of the stigma that has long surrounded addiction. Many families justify the behavior by saying to themselves, ‘let’s remember them for who they were, and not what they succumbed to’ or ‘it’s nobody’s business.’ While each family has the right to grieve in their own way and have their loved one remembered in the way they choose, in a time when countless families across the country have a loved one fighting a battle with prescription opioid and/or heroin addiction, it may be time for families to speak out.

When families lose a love one to accidental overdoses, they may help save the lives of others by acknowledging the cause of death. As was the case with the family of a young man named Ryan Bossie, 27, from Caribou, Maine, who lost his fight with addiction this past January, The Bangor Daily News reports.

The Bossie family chose to open his obituary with, “Ryan Douglas Bossie, 27, died January 30, 2015, in Portland after losing a hard-fought battle with addiction.”

Ryan had struggled with his addiction for more than half of his life, having survived six previous overdoses, according to the article. The first draft of the obituary only stated that Ryan had died, but Andrew Bossie, 31, Ryan’s older brother, explained the reason for changing their words.

“I just said I don’t think we should be ashamed of this,” said Andrew Bossie. “It’s better than sweeping it under the rug and I think if it helps someone else, then fantastic.”

“It was truly a struggle,” added Bossie. “I hope that by including that maybe it helps someone else just a little bit, that their story has a different ending.”

The state of Maine, like many others on the east coast, has been hit hard by the heroin scourge. More people, 176, lost their lives to drug overdoses than car crashes in 2013, the article reports.

Ryan’s obituary was felt by many, and the family still believes they made the right decision when considering that people have reached out to the Bossie family.

“It was not only a public dialogue with Ryan’s obituary, but it was also a very personal dialogue that existed between Ryan and those closest to him in his life,” Bossie said.