DEAR SOMEONE ELSE’S MOM: Even though it happened over eight years ago, I still blame myself in part for my cousin’s death. We were super close growing up, but once we were both in college we did not see each other as often, more like just around holidays and at family events.
When he was in his junior year and living abroad, he died of alcohol poisoning. The local police ruled it accidental, but I know he had been really down over a breakup and missing home. And that is the problem. What if it was suicide? I knew he was having a rough time, and I did not do anything beyond indirectly telling his dad about it when I saw him on a visit home. It was a week before the death, and I knew my cousin was hurting and acting kind of off. At the time, or at least what I remember, his parents were a little concerned, but he had always bounced back from breakups in the past, and they thought he would pull himself out of his sadness again this time.
I cannot stop thinking that if I had done more, even if I had been more forceful about my worries with my uncle, my cousin might still be here. I miss him still and my guilt about not helping him makes it worse.
How do I get past the guilt? --- THINK i COULD HAVE SAVED HIM
DEAR THINK I COULD HAVE SAVED HIM: When someone dies under circumstances like your cousin did, it’s bound to haunt the survivors. All the “could’ve should’ve would’ve” speculations and regrets may not be avoidable, but they also do nothing to help anyone in the end.
Allow yourself to grieve for your lost cousin, without holding yourself responsible for his loss. Accidental overdoses are more common than any of us want to think.
Please consider pursuing grief counseling as soon as you can. I’ve seen the lasting effects on those who’ve had to deal with similar deaths, and such pain can lead to deep, lifelong scarring.