Losing a friend to drugs

Jamie was at university in England when he found out his friend had died of a drug overdose in Northern Ireland. He struggled to grieve the loss of his friend from a different country where no one knew her. He talks about how visiting Northern Ireland, and opening up to friends and family, helped him to process his grief.

Jamie lost a friend to a drug overdose during the pandemic. He discusses the challenges of grieving from a different country and what helped him through his grief.

Video transcript

Hi, I'm Jamie, and today I'm going to be talking about losing my friend to drugs. I am 20 years old and at the time of putting this video out it's been about a year and a half since I lost my friend.

It was in early October 2020 whilst I was getting ready for a night out, that I received a phone call from my cousin at home in Northern Ireland, to tell me that one of my friends had died of a drug overdose. I initially thought she was joking, because I had spoken to my friend the previous day. But after my cousin repeatedly told me that it was true, I still was unable to believe it.

When I realised she was being serious, I was sure that she must have got it wrong. My friends, who I was supposed to be going out with came in to my bedroom, to tell me that a taxi had almost arrived. I literally did not know what to say. I explained that one of my friends might have died and they were very supportive and they offered not to go on the night out. I didn't want to ruin their night so I said no.

I then tried contacting a few of my friends from home, but they were on the phone to other people. After multiple attempts, I decided that I needed to know if it was true. So I called my friend's mom. I will never forget that phone call, hearing her heartbreak. Hearing that it was true.

The few hours that followed are foggy in my memory, as it consisted of talking to friends who were terrified like I was, and telling people who didn't know yet. I dreaded ending a phone call as it would mean another phone call talking to someone else and hearing their hearts break too – it only made it more real. I began piecing together the story, discovering how she had died. And although I wanted to hear it whenever I heard the circumstances and details of how my friend had overdosed, it allowed me to paint a picture in my head that I really didn't want.

This all happened within the pandemic and at the time, the rules in Northern Ireland meant that the funeral would only be immediate family. I didn't travel home from England immediately. I saw no reason to do so when I wasn't going to be able to attend the funeral. Over the next few weeks, my flatmates were really kind and offered to help in any way that they could. But I found it really, really difficult to grieve my friend or people who didn't know her.

I realised soon after that I needed to be home around people that did, even if the pandemic was going to limit that. Returning home was really helpful to process what happened. I was able to see some of my friends. Others unfortunately, couldn't make it home because of the pandemic. I count myself as very lucky that I did.

My family have always been there for me when I needed them, providing me with a safe space to deal with my grief and at first I thought it was better if I dealt with things on my own. Two of my Auntie's who I'm very close with have lost their closest friends in recent years. And with their help, they encouraged me to be more open about my loss. I know not everyone has families that they are close to, but honestly, just speaking to a friend, a lecturer, colleague, no matter how brief will help. It helped me. I also exercised a lot. I went on long walks running, as well as listening to music, writing as a way to express the things I didn't want to talk about.

In the months that followed, I learned that grief is different for everyone. I was able to openly talk about the loss of my friend to anyone who asked as a way to cope with the loss. There was a time in which I couldn't comprehend why other friends wouldn't want to talk about it openly. As I say, I have learned everyone processes things differently now.

And now we're in 2022 I'm doing much better than I was last year. I make sure to continue to talk about the loss of my friend, to my family, to her friends and to people she never knew, never forgetting her. But knowing that life goes on. I said earlier in the video that when I initially found out about my friend, I found it so difficult to believe it. Now, a year and a half later I am still in shock at how one of the most vibrant, loving people I had in my life isn't anymore.

But even with my disbelief, I have found a way in which I can grieve for a loss. I know many of my friends are still trying to find their footing. We are all aware that grieving isn't an overnight thing. We have to work together. All of us have gone through something that no one our age should have to. And it will and it has changed who we are.

I hope this video allows for those who experienced loss in the pandemic, or at any point to know that they are not alone.

University support icon

See what support is available at your university

Page last reviewed: March 2022