Grief is one of the most unique and challenging things in any human experience. It’s often associated with the loss of a loved one or someone close to us, but it can also be experienced during any major life shift, such as the loss of a job or the end of a relationship. Within grief, one may experience not only sadness but anger, anxiety, fear, and even more complicated and confusing emotions, like relief. No situation that causes grief is the same as another so the experience is unique for all individuals. How can we best care for ourselves and our recovery when grieving?
Awareness and Honesty
It’s important to take into account the nature of the loss that precipitated grief, but also to be aware that the closeness of a relationship or the reasons behind the loss may have little bearing on the experience. Of course, if say, a parent or someone very close passes away it might be assumed that the grief will be difficult to manage but grief can also feel big for individuals in seemingly smaller situations. It’s important not to step into thinking that the grief is disproportionate to the event, and allow space to feel exactly how it is in the present. Take into account any co-occurring mental health challenges such as depression or anxiety that could be triggered by grief and take care to manage each. Without awareness of the severity of one’s feelings, grief can begin to interfere with daily life and become mental illness in and of itself. If you’re experiencing loss and resulting grief, especially as an individual in recovery, it’s important to find the people you can speak openly and honestly with about it, be that family or friends or a mental health advocate.
How to Safeguard Sobriety in Grief
Due to the complex and often overwhelming nature of grief, it’s important to consider recovery as a priority. Grief is an experience that should not be shouldered alone, though isolation may be the first thought when in pain. There are ways to connect to your recovery and keep yourself safe from the triggering aspects of the grieving process.
Connect to Your Community
The community you have built in recovery and the strength of connection can hold you up through difficult times. If you find yourself wanting to isolate yourself from the world, try to do the opposite and reach out, even if just to a few close and trusted people in your support network. Be authentic in your feelings and allow those in your life to be willing to give you space to process in ways that are best for you.
Seek Outside Help
While recovery programs and support networks can help, they are not a solution that works in every situation. Seeking professional help via a grief counselor or speaking with your own therapist about what you’re experiencing can be life, and recovery, saving if you are suffering during the grieving process. There are also therapy and support groups that specifically seek to support those that are grieving where you can meet others who might understand the unique challenges you are facing and help you feel less alone with your pain.
Find Coping Mechanisms that Work
For most in recovery, substance use was a coping tool that worked because it helped us to feel numb to negative emotions. It may be normal to wish to have a way to shut down painful feelings but this “solution” does not work for us today, but finding ways that help you cope that aren’t harmful to you can help. Writing and other forms of expression, ways to memorialize or connect to a loved one that has passed, or other emotional outlets can all help aid you as you make your way through the grieving process. These can also be useful to turn to when you find feelings of grief that come up as time goes on.
Have a Plan
Have a plan for when things become too much to bear. If you feel overwhelmed or triggered by your feelings of grief, have a plan of action for what you can do. Have a trusted friend, or two, that knows with very little said that you need support and love. Have a plan for when you must complete tasks associated with the event that is the source of your grief, such as dividing an estate, planning a memorial, or even cleaning out a desk. Make sure those closest to you are aware when you are in these situations so that they can be there with you or be with you after you complete them.
Grief may be something that stays with you always and comes and goes in waves. Your experience will be unique but others may have been through something similar. Allow those in your support network to show up for you in your time of need and process through things in a way that feels as safe and free from triggers as possible. You can make it through and do so with your recovery intact, allow the connections in your life to hold you up in times of grief.
Ashley Addiction Treatment is an innovative treatment program located on Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay. Ashley provides support for professionals seeking help with addiction. We are able to help people with co-occurring disorders and offer confidential treatment programs to meet your needs. Please reach out to us today at 800-799-4673.