William Feigelman Ph.D. and Beverly Feigelman LCSW: Drug and Alcohol Deaths

The authors of Devastating Losses, William and Beverly Feigelman join Drs. Gloria and Heidi Horsley to discuss drug and alcohol related deaths. They lost their son to substance abuse and have committed their lives and careers to helping others prevent such losses or heal from them. The Feigelmans took a narrative and wove it into an immense amount of research. Beverly is a social worker, William is a professor at a private college, and they share their story of how their son took his own life after struggling with substance abuse.

Healing losses with service is one of the best tools a griever can use. “They have one foot in the professional world and one foot in the personal world—they’ve lived it,” says Dr. Heidi Horsley. Vanessa McGann, clinical psychologist also joins the group to talk about support groups and networks for suicide loss. The Feigelmans lost their son 11 years ago. He was in his 30s when he died, had just become engaged, and, as far as his parents knew, was on a positive track.

Using Life in a Positive Way

For the Fiegelmans, helping others to navigate these waters became their natural calling. Beverly specialized in substance abuse for several years, both in a private practice and as an adjunct teacher. “Death by suicide just grabs you, and you’re not prepared in any way,” she says.

No matter what warning signs there might have been, or even if a loved one had been professionally treated for substance abuse, nobody expects it. Suicide loss is also a disenfranchised loss. Parents experience two losses: the loss of their child and the loss of their role as a parent. Professionally, Beverly also had a third loss (her career), which led to a snowball effect of grief.

William Feigelman

More Articles Written by William

William Feigelman, PhD, is Professor Emeritus and Adjunct Professor of Sociology at Nassau Community College (Garden City, New York), where he has taught for more than 44 years and still teaches part-time. Author and co-author of seven books and more than 40 journal articles, he has written on a wide variety of social science subjects including child adoptions, youth alcohol and drug abuse, problem gambling, tobacco use and cessation, and intergroup relations. Since 2002, after his son Jesse's suicide, Dr. Feigelman has focused his professional writings on youth suicide and suicide bereavement. This work has appeared in Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, Death Studies, Omega: Journal of Death and Dying and Illness, Crisis and Loss. He is a member of the American Association of Suicidology and the Association for Death Education and Counseling, a frequent presenter at bereavement conferences in the U.S., Canada, and Japan, and a co-facilitator of a survivors' support group


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  • Lillian Wischik says:

    I lost my son to drugs and alcohol. He stole a car and crashed into a pole and died. His girlfriend was in the car and survived. They were both drunk. I was not notified of his death until almost three weeks later. His girlfriend was not told he was dead on the street the police told her he ran away. After not hearing from him after calling the police my daughter called the morgue and there he was. Long story short drug addicts dont matter to the authorities. They didnt even care that he had a loving family that loved him very much.

    • William Feigelman says:

      Thanks so much for taking the time out to share your especially sad story of losing your son and being demonized in the process. Please accept my deepest condolences to you and your family on the loss of your beloved son. It is almost beyond comprehension to see public officials acting so indifferently to an individual’s death to not notify next of kin and to provide misinformation to your son’s girl friend at the death scene. Of all occupational groups, the police should be familiar with alcohol and drug related problems that lead to untimely deaths–why they behaved so badly in this case could be an issue to investigate further, if you have the stamina to pursue this. In any case, thanks again for sharing this sad example of drug-death related stigma that still haunts our society.