Handling Grief During Recovery

People are connected by many different things. Sometimes that includes a shared interest, hobby, activity, mutual relationship, and in many cases, shared tribulations. One thing that connects every person in the world to each other is death. While it may sound morbid, death is something that everyone has in common. Everyone eventually experiences it for themselves and undoubtedly endures the loss of loved ones along the way. 

Despite the morbidness of this topic, it is possible to find different ways of handling grief. The grieving process can be destructive for those who have not learned how to deal with it healthily. It can be comforting to know that many people are going through or have gone through the same thing. 

One thing that not everyone can relate to, though, is the effect of grief on addiction recovery. Treatment will teach coping skills and relapse prevention techniques, but there is almost no way to practice or predict how the grieving process may affect your recovery. Ultimately, those in this scenario should not be afraid of the threat grief poses to recovery. Instead, they should learn how to handle it when it presents itself. 

Understanding Grief and Coping With Loss 

There is generally no right or wrong way to grieve; however, there are healthy coping methods and those that are not so healthy. No one can predict how their mind or body will react to losing a loved one. StatPearls defines one’s reaction to grief as a “natural and universal response to the loss of a loved one” and that grief “is not a state but a process.” Grief can become an acute experience, though can lead to prolonged sadness, insomnia, or in more severe cases, heart attacks. 

The Five Stages of Grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, though these stages can manifest through different thoughts, feelings, and actions. Certain factors affect that response, like an individual’s personality, cultural and religious background, or history with mental health. The goal of the grieving process is the same regardless of these factors—to learn how to let go, accept their loss, and continue living their life. 

How Grief Can Affect Recovery 

Since grief is a natural and emotional response to loss, it is important to remember how to handle triggers and temptations that may arise for those in recovery. The first stage of grief is denial, which is a natural coping mechanism that prevents one’s feelings from overwhelming them. When that denial turns into anger, or even later on, depression, people may be tempted to turn to substance use to cope with their feelings. Hopefully, during treatment, individuals can learn the tools needed to handle intense emotional distress situations. If not, grief can put an individual’s recovery at risk as they begin turning to old habits to soothe the pain of loss. 

For some, grief leads to addiction or substance use disorders (SUD). Research indicates a significant connection between depression, complicated grief, and SUD. The effects of excessive alcohol consumption or substance use on the brain cause individuals to be unable to handle emotional pain and distressful situations. 

In addition to the inability to accept loss or even the trauma inflicted by a loss at certain stages of life, addiction becomes the only way people feel they can handle their grief. By learning healthy coping techniques, people can find acceptance without using drugs or alcohol and maintain a life free of addiction long after mourning their loved ones.

Healthy Ways to Mourn Loved Ones 

While grief may be a natural emotional response to loss, past experiences can affect how a person mourns. If they never learn to handle emotional distress healthily, they will struggle with grieving no matter the loss they are experiencing. Healthy grieving includes learning to accept the loss, acknowledging all emotions experienced during that loss, and making changes in one’s life to account for the finality of what one has lost. This process may be a solitary road for individuals to experiment with several self-care methods, whether it is journaling, exercising, or practicing other holistic approaches to self-care. 

Other methods of self-care are communal or require assistance. For complicated grief posing other health risks or risks to an individual’s recovery, seeking counseling or spiritual guidance may help. Some may find comfort within their support networks or from others experiencing grief. Whatever the method may be, practicing healthy grieving is the only way to ensure a mourning process that will not be detrimental to a person’s recovery or mental health

If an individual is currently in a state of grief and feels the threat to their recovery or the beginning of a struggle with addiction, it is important to seek help immediately. The Lakehouse Recovery Center has the methods and means to help anyone on their path to recovery.

Grief is the natural and emotional way we handle the loss of loved ones, opportunities, or even objects of significant value. Understanding grief and learning to cope with loss healthily is essential for ensuring that grief does not threaten our mental health and recovery from addiction or substance use disorders (SUD). For many, though, the inability to healthily cope with loss, trauma, or situations of intense emotional distress can either lead to addiction or cause a relapse for those in recovery. By learning healthy grieving skills, you can go through the stages without experiencing regression and in a way that allows you to find acceptance and peace with what you have lost. If, for whatever reason, you are currently in mourning, struggling to handle loss healthily, and fear for your recovery, please do not suffer in silence. Call the Lakehouse Recovery Center today at (877) 762-3707. We can help you continue your path to recovery.