Facing the loss of a loved one is always difficult. Even under the best of circumstances, dealing with the heavy emotions and shock, when it was not an expected death, can be destabilizing. Grief can hit us very hard and in quite unpredictable ways.
Losing someone special presents a period of high-risk to someone in addiction recovery. Facing grief and loss in recovery can trigger powerful emotions, which can in turn spark the need or desire for a substance to help soothe the pain. These emotions, such as sorrow, guilt, and even denial and anger, are intense. To protect recovery, it is important to use some helpful coping skills to help manage the pain experienced by the tragic loss of a loved one.
How to Grieve a Loss While in Recovery
Learning healthy ways to grieve a loss during recovery can prepare you for the day that such a sad event occurs. As we all realize, this is the part of life that no one likes, but which we must all face. Managing the intense emotions in recovery is tricky. Resilience will be put to the test. Without relying on old habits of using a substance to numb the pain it can be difficult to endure this period.
The grief journey is highly unique to each person. Someone in recovery will put into use many of the same skills they learned in treatment. Acknowledge your emotions instead of stuffing them and allow yourself the freedom to grieve. People in recovery are fortunate to have a support network that they can lean on during the trying days after loss. Connect with your recovery group, schedule some time with your therapist, and keep a journal as you wind through the grief process.
Three Tips for Grieving
While there is no right or wrong way to grieve, there are some actions you can take to help the process not consume you. The goal is to resist succumbing to relapse. During a difficult or traumatic life event it takes some concentrated effort to be able to navigate the aftermath while keeping sobriety intact. Some tips that can help you through include:
- Defend Your Grief Process. Too often there is outside pressure from people in your life to get over it already. They may make comments that, while not aiming to do intentional harm, can pressure you to move through the stages of grief in a certain acceptable time frame. It is unfair and unrealistic for someone to try to rush your grieving process. Take whatever time needed to process through your emotions and the stages of grief.
- Spend Time in Prayer or Reflection. The loss of a loved one brings to mind thoughts of the spiritual realm. Regardless of how you practice your spirituality, whether through a formal religious belief system, through meditation, or via nature, seek solace in your Higher Power. This helps bring about a sense of peace and serenity during a trying time and can help you manage the sense of loss.
- Practice Self Care. The aftermath of loss can take a toll on someone. It upends your daily life for a while as you slowly regroup after losing the person you cared for. By taking care of yourself you will also protect yourself from a relapse. So, get regular exercise, keep a regular sleep schedule, read encouraging books or articles about surviving loss, eat nutritious foods, and don’t hesitate to splurge on a massage if that helps to soothe you.
The intensity of the grief process depends largely on how close the person was to you. In the event it was someone very dear, such as a spouse, a child, or a parent, it is important to be aware of the signs of depression. If you are having a difficult time and suspect you are experiencing depression, contact a grief therapist who can help you through this difficult period.
Ashley Addiction Treatment, formerly Father Martin’s Ashley, is a nationally recognized nonprofit leader in integrated, evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders and is accredited by The Joint Commission. We offer both inpatient and outpatient programs, holistic addiction treatment, drug detox, relapse prevention plans, family wellness programs and a variety of other services tailored to each patient’s needs. Our driving principle — “everything for recovery” — reinforces our mission to heal each individual with respect and dignity, and reflects on our ongoing commitment to meet new challenges. For information about our comprehensive programs, please call (866) 313-6307.