When A Family Loses Someone to Addiction

The opioid crisis is all over the news, and if it hasn’t touched someone you know, you may be among the lucky few. Many families who lose someone to addiction are reluctant to talk about how their loved one died because of the stigma. Recently, one family took the bold step of shining a light on this crisis through the obituary of their beloved family member, a young mom named Madelyn Linsenmier.  

Beginning with an expression of the family’s sadness at her loss and pain at the inevitability of it, the obituary described Madelyn as a born performer with a “singing voice so beautiful it would stop people on the street.” It also referred to how, at the age of 16, Madelyn began attending a performing arts high school and soon tried OxyContin. 

“It is impossible to capture a person in an obituary, and especially someone whose adult life was largely defined by drug addiction,” the obit read. “To some, Maddie was just a junkie; when they saw her addiction, they stopped seeing her. And what a loss for them. Because Maddie was hilarious, and warm, and fearless, and resilient. She could and would talk to anyone, and when you were in her company you wanted to stay. In a system that seems to have hardened itself against addicts and is failing them every day, she befriended and delighted cops, social workers, public defenders, and doctors, who advocated for and believed in her till the end. She was adored as a daughter, sister, niece, cousin, friend, and mother, and being loved by Madelyn was a constantly astonishing gift. 

“If you yourself are struggling from addiction, know that every breath is a fresh start. Know that hundreds of thousands of families who have lost someone to this disease are praying and rooting for you. 

“If you are reading this with judgment, educate yourself about this disease because that is what it is. It is not a choice or a weakness. And chances are very good that someone you know is struggling with it, and that person needs and deserves your empathy and support.” 

It was a brave move for Maddie Linsenmier’s family to tell the truth so plainly in an obituary that has shed a lot of light on the issue of opioid use. If you know a family who has lost a loved one to drug abuse, they might not have the same courage to talk about it but they may still need your help. There are several ways you can be there for someone who has lost a family member to this horrible epidemic: 

  • Listen without judgment. People grieving this kind of a loss may feel stigmatized. They may also be wrestling with feelings not just of sadness but of anger and even guilt. The best thing you can do is to provide an ear and a comforting shoulder.  
  • Help in practical ways. When people are grieving, they still need to eat, their houses still get dirty, and their children still need care. Look for ways you can jump in to help and offer before they ask. 
  • Say their loved one’s name. Don’t shy away from sharing memories of the person they’ve lost. Speaking the name aloud lets them know their loved one is not forgotten and is remembered with affection.  
  • Remember the person for who he or she was rather than dwelling on the reason for the death. This kind of death is not the whole picture of the person, which is why Madelyn Linsenmier’s obituary is so moving. Her family painted her not as a disappointment or a drug addict but as a wonderful, talented, loving and beloved individual.  

Mountain View Funeral Home, Memorial Park & Crematory has been supporting families in our community since 1915. If you or someone you know has lost someone, we can help. Call us at (253) 948-9895 for more information or visit our Grief and Healing webpage.

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