Thank you for bringing attention to the importance of the language we use to talk about substance use disorders and how it impacts people’s access to treatment and support (“Our View: Opioid stigma is adding to death toll,” Dec. 14). This issue also affects people grieving a loved one’s death from overdose.

At the Center for Grieving Children, the number of families who contact us because of an overdose death has tripled in the last four years. Too often these families are made to feel that their grief is not legitimate. This can take the form of shame, where the grieving person does not want to acknowledge the death publicly; avoidance, where others do not mention the person who died or ask after the survivor; and blaming, where others fault the family member. It is possible that children have a family history of instability or adverse childhood experiences leading up to the death.

Survivors of overdose death experience higher levels of distress and mental health problems and thus have an even greater need for support. Yet, little information and few resources are available, especially as relates to supporting children.

Given this backdrop, you can imagine how hard it is for surviving parents and caregivers to talk openly with children or to access grief support. Grieving children need to be able to talk honestly with a trusted adult, get questions answered, express their feelings and find ways to integrate the loss in order to heal. Shame and stigma can prevent that from happening and add unnecessary challenges to an already terrible situation. Nonjudgmental, supportive language and actions that promote understanding and compassion will go far to help the many who are grieving.

Please call the Center for Grieving Children at 775-5216 if you or someone you know needs our support.