Coping With Grief While in Recovery
The loss of a friend or a family member can be painful — doubly so if the loss comes when you are in recovery from substance abuse. Grief can be a big trigger to use or drink again, but don't forget how much effort you have put into recovery. The potential for relapse is real, but you are stronger than your cravings.
In this article, you will learn more about grief and find suggestions for dealing with it.
The 5 Stages of Grief
Denial: This natural defense mechanism occurs when you aren’t ready to acknowledge the loss or death of a loved one. Denial can delay the most intense feelings of loss, which can be beneficial as it allows grief to settle in more slowly.
Anger: After denial comes anger, which may be directed at close friends or family, even though they haven’t done anything wrong. It may be directed at the universe or a higher power for taking that person from you. You may feel hurt or betrayed. Your anger is genuine and should be expressed safely and healthily, so you don't bottle it up until it explodes. Anger will fade with time and getting the emotions out will help you heal.
Bargaining: In this stage, you might try to change the circumstances surrounding your grief. You might say things like, “I'll do this," or “I won't do that,” if your loved one can be returned to you. This can be especially dangerous for someone in recovery since the thing you might offer to remove from your life is substances, and when the other end of the deal doesn't pan out, it can be tempting to turn back to drugs or alcohol. It might also take the form of thinking that if you can just get one more hit, one more drink, you'll feel better. Be aware of these thoughts and keep yourself accountable, so you don't undo your recovery progress.
Depression: It’s common to feel overwhelming sadness or loneliness when you begin to fully cope with the damage caused by the life-changing effects of losing a loved one. This depression is the fourth stage of grief. This period can be especially difficult if you are already struggling with addiction, as depression can be triggering.
Acceptance: At this point, the reality of the situation has settled in, things are healing, and you can accept the loss of your loved one. You might still experience regret, tension, stress, or sadness, but you are moving towards a new reality. Continue to reach out to friends or family during this period of grieving.
Dealing With Grief: 5 Effective Strategies
Take time to grieve: Take some time to grieve and work through your feelings. Repressing your emotions does not make them go away. One of the best ways to recover from grief is to sit with your feelings for a while and understand them. Then you can figure out how to move on from there. This process will take time and patience. Be kind to yourself, love yourself, and you will notice your grief fading over time.
Be in positive company: Surrounding yourself with positive people is really important during this period. While processing loss, you might want to isolate yourself, but this is not the solution. Talk to people and communicate where you're at in the grieving process. Whether it’s a short coffee date, walk in the sunset, or long chat, seek out people who can help you navigate your new reality. It will help you gain some much-needed perspective and clarity.
Ask for help: If there were ever a time to get a little extra support and care, this is it. Don’t shy away from help, even if it’s for simple things like grocery shopping or gardening. Take people up on their offer when they ask you to let them know if you need anything. Be specific when asking for help, and make sure you express your gratitude to those who were there for you when you needed them the most.
Focus on your goals: Make short-term achievable goals or milestones and celebrate when you achieve them. Setting small goals for yourself can make you feel a burst of pride when you complete them, helping you out of a negative headspace. Choose goals that resonate with who you are, maybe something creative or mentally stimulating. This may be something small like meditating every day for 30-minutes, making a piece of art, chipping away at a big cleaning job, or running a few miles.
Do something creative: The best way to work on yourself is to work where your interests lie. Get your creative skills and emotions flowing by picking up a new hobby, ideally something that allows for creative expression. This could include simple tasks such as journal writing, painting, drawing, crafting, cooking, or gardening. Doing things that allow you to create something is a great way to work through your feelings of grief in a constructive way that gives you something to show for it in the end.
Self-care: Take care of yourself and your needs. Grief can be exhausting, so be sure to get plenty of rest. Eat a healthy, balanced diet. Plan trips or vacations. Meet with your friends or close family. Do what you love to do.
Grief Can Take A Lot Out Of You
When you're recovering from a substance use disorder, grief can be a huge stumbling block and trigger cravings to use or drink again. You are stronger than these cravings, and the loss of a loved one does not mean you have lost progress on your recovery journey. If you are struggling with substance abuse compounded by grief, at The Edge Treatment Center, we can help you work through those emotions and get you on track to long-lasting recovery through our flexible and effective treatment plans. Call us today for help at (800) 778-1772.