Coping With Grief While in Recovery
August 22, 2019
Everyone experiences grief at some point in his or her life. Loss is a natural part of life, as people pass on and things of importance can leave us. Many people grieve the loss of someone or something and then move on with their lives. Others, however, can become trapped by grief, struggling with the process of recovering and suffering deep depression or anxiety.
Whether you bounce back from grief quickly or grapple with it for a prolonged period of time, having to deal with grief can be stressful, overwhelming, even exhausting. If you are in recovery and experience grief, you can face several challenges that someone not in recovery might not go through, due to the nature of your disease. It can therefore take specialized attention and a different set of coping skills to get through your grief without compromising your recovery.
What is Grief?
Grief is a deep sorrow often caused by someone’s death. Losing a friend, family member, or other loved one triggers grief, which is a normal response to such a loss. Everyone experiences grief in their own way and hopefully establishes methods of overcoming the pain caused by grief. This can come from inner reflection and personal strength, consulting a therapist, or a combination of the two.
Symptoms associated with grief include:
- Intense sorrow and pain
- Inability to focus on things outside the loss
- Trouble accepting loss
- Bitterness about the loss
- Feeling that life is meaningless
- Inability to enjoy life
- Problems trusting others
For some, normal grief can turn into complicated grief, where the usual symptoms plus the following occur:
- Trouble executing daily routines
- Isolating from people and previously enjoyed activities
- Inability to stop blaming oneself
- Feeling that life is not worth living
- Wishing to have died along with the loved one
It is possible that grief can lead to thoughts of suicide. If you or someone you know is struggling with grief and suicide is under consideration, reach out for professional help.
How Does Grief Affect Recovery?
A person experiencing grief can suffer tremendously, to the point where the idea of living without the lost loved one becomes unbearable. When grief occurs to someone in recovery, there develops an increased risk for relapse, making both one’s addiction and the grief much worse.
When a loved one is lost, it can be hard for anyone to cope with it. Sadness and uncertainty of the future makes one’s outlook on life blurry and dismal, leading him or her to look for ways to alleviate the pain. Grieving in recovery can test one’s limits, constantly triggering him or her to use again in order to numb their emotions.
Grief is a huge threat to recovery because of this, because when the loss of someone makes life feel like it is not worth living, efforts to maintain sobriety seem unimportant. Any and all efforts to stay sober during this time are extremely important, as relapsing can lead to a downward spiral of use.
Even if a person does not relapse in the face of grief, that grief can still impact his or her recovery. In general, recovery is not easy, especially when someone is new to it.
It takes a great deal of effort to consistently maintain sobriety and evolve in recovery so that the risk for relapse is minimal. Sometimes even the slightest thing, such as a stressful event at work or an argument with a loved one, can tip the scales in one’s recovery, never mind the experience of deep loss. The work a person must do in his or her recovery can multiply when grieving, making life more stressful. That stress can impact one’s work performance, relationships, ability to uphold everyday responsibilities, and other areas of life.
When experiencing a major loss that can trigger grief, those in recovery should do what they can to manage the feelings surrounding that loss so that recovery is preserved.
How Can I Cope with Grief While in Recovery?
Coping with grief while in recovery is critical to your wellbeing. Fortunately, there are several ways you can do this, including but not limited to:
- Ask for help and support by contacting friends, family, a counselor, and even those professionals who helped you in establishing your sobriety
- Increase the number of meetings (such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meetings) you attend in an effort to lean on your support system as much as possible until you are feeling able to stand on your own again
- Identify and accept your emotions so that you do not let them fester and trigger negative behaviors that could lead to a relapse
- Practice good self-care by continuing to engage in activities that bring you joy, eating well, getting enough rest, and spending time with others who play a positive role in your life
- Learn more about grief so that you can understand the process of it, which can help encourage you to go through the motions of it without resisting it and making things more complicated
Whatever you do, whether it’s reaching out for support or spending time reflecting on your own emotions, do it. The best part about recovery is that you have developed skills that can help you get through difficult times. Your involvement in your recovery connects you to a network of supportive individuals who can continue to encourage your grieving process until you are ready to begin moving on.
Get Help By Calling JourneyPure in Louisville Now
If you are in recovery but are struggling with the loss of a loved one, reach out for help right now. There is no shame in admitting that you cannot go it alone. The majority of people who lose someone are not able to get through it on their own, as support during this time is vital.
Contact JourneyPure in Louisville now to find out how we can help you.
Michelle Rosenker is a content writer where she gets to exercise her journalistic skills by working with different addiction treatment centers nationwide. She has 10 years of experience in the field of addiction treatment and mental health and has written content for some of the country’s most prominent treatment centers and behavioral hospitals. Through her writing, Michelle is proud to continually raise awareness about the disease of addiction and share hope for the future. She lives next to the ocean in Massachusetts with her husband, two young children, and faithful dog.