Grieving widow uses casket photo to share powerful message about addiction

Sep 14, 2015 at 11:15 a.m. ET
Image: Kzenon/iStock/Getty

We all grieve in different ways, but would you ever consider posting a photo of your deceased loved one on Facebook? That's what one woman did after her tragic loss, but her reasons for sharing the photo might surprise you.

More: How to help a friend cope with grief

Eva Holland is a mom to two young kids who recently lost her husband, Mike, to a heroin addiction. Rather than keep Mike's cause of death quiet, Holland decided to speak out about his struggles with addiction, the magnitude of his loss and the grief her family is feeling.

She did this by taking a photo of herself and her children standing beside her husband's open casket and sharing it on social media with a powerful message.

A woman standing with her children near her husband's open casket

In the photo's caption, Holland details her relationship with her late husband and the way addiction tore its way through their lives. They were together for 11 years, and Mike had just completed a stint in rehab last year, from which he emerged "a new man." His most recent battle with heroin and prescription drugs, Holland writes, began with "a single pill for a 'tooth ache' which inevitably lead him back down the road of addiction instead of staying the coarse [sic] of recovery."

Despite his struggles, Holland says Mike was a loving husband and father who "never would've imagined his life would turn out this way." She writes, "I'm sure this photo makes a lot of people uncomfortable. It may even piss a few people off but the main reason I took it was to show the reality of addiction. If you don't choose recovery every single day this will be your only way out."

More: The latest in addiction and recovery information

The photo may seem jarring or upsetting to some, but it's actually an incredibly brave and necessary statement about the power of addiction. Too many people still see addiction as a choice or think it can't happen to them or someone they love. Holland's photo is a stunning reminder that it can happen to anyone and does so every single day.

According to Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, nearly 23.5 million Americans are addicted to drugs or alcohol. That's one in 10 people over the age of 12 — or to look at it another way, roughly the population of Texas. Even more staggering, only about 11 percent of those who suffer from addiction ever receive treatment.

When it's a parent who's addicted to drugs or alcohol, the effects on families and children can be devastating. The American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress say children of addicts can suffer birth defects, abuse or neglect. They're at a higher risk for psychological disorders, eating disorders, behavioral problems and addictions of their own. Plus, they have to deal with emotional effects — confusion, guilt, shame and fear — of having a parent with substance abuse problems.

More: How addiction in the family can affect your teen

Addiction is very much a disease, and as those abysmal figures show, it's one we're not doing nearly enough to treat. If someone you love is struggling with addiction, there are places you can go for help. You can make use of services like Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous, call the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services addiction helpline at 1-800-662-HELP or even visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services webpage for a comprehensive list of certified addiction treatment centers.

Millions of people struggle with addiction, but as Holland bravely showed, you don't have to stay quiet about it. Support and help are out there. If we can keep sharing our stories, eliminating the stigma that surrounds substance abuse problems, and supporting those who need help the most, maybe we can save lives before it's too late.