More Families Using Obituaries to Raise Awareness About Addiction

By May Wilkerson 03/17/15

Families suffering from the loss of a loved one to addiction are using their tragedy to help others avoid their own.

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More families of those who die from addiction are choosing not to let stigma cloud their discussion of their loved one’s death. The obituary of Ryan Bossie, who died this past January, avoided the vagueness most commonly used with deaths related to mental health.

Instead, his family, from Caribou, Maine, opened his obit with the line: “Ryan Douglas Bossie, 27, died January 30, 2015, in Portland after losing a hard-fought battle with addiction.”

The obit also included details about his life, like the fact that he loved skateboarding and “participating in moose hunts” and “chillin'” with his loved ones. But the opening line has been described as “groundbreaking” for signaling that Bossie died from an overdose related to his addiction.

“It’s better than sweeping it under the rug,” said Ryan’s brother, Andrew. “I just said I don’t think we should be ashamed of this.”

More and more families are choosing a similar tact, using obituaries as a way to raise awareness about drug addiction and overdose.

The Ohio family of Alex Hesse, who died at age 26 from a heroin addiction, took similar action, using his obituary to express the pain they had experienced in losing him.

Both families hoped that their openness might help others to prevent similar loss. Said Andrew: “I hope that by including that [in the obituary] maybe it helps someone else just a little bit, that their story has a different ending.”

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May Wilkerson is a writer, comic and Managing Editor @someecards. Co-host of the podcast Crazy; In Bed w/alyssalimp. She is also the top Google result for "insufferable lunatic." Follow this insufferable lunatic on Twitter.