Grieving is a normal process that occurs when experiencing the death of a loved one, or even just a person you knew. When experiencing & talking about grief, it’s important to note that it is different from chronic depression. Grieving in general can be difficult, and especially difficult when trying to maintain recovery from addiction. We understand that grief can cause issues in maintaining sobriety and we want to help provide our clients with different resources that can help them overcome those temptations and obstacles. When life gets tough, it’s imperative to know that sobriety is still maintainable.
What Is Grief?
Grief is the description of the cognitive, emotional, functional, and behavioral responses to death. It can also be used to describe different types of losses such as the loss of opportunities, the loss of someone’s youth, and the loss of functional abilities. There is not a simple answer to describe what constitutes ‘normal grief’. There are different forms of grief: uncomplicated grief and complicated grief/ bereavement-related depression.
Grief varies in duration and intensity. The intensity and duration of someone’s grief is determined by many different variables, including things such as an individual’s personality, their attachment style, their genetic makeup, their unique vulnerabilities, etc.
It is important to realize that:
- Grief is not a state, but it is a process
- The grief process typically starts with the attention to the loss, and then precedes with the painful reality of death (this can come in fits)
- There is a broad spectrum of emotional, cognitive, social, and behavioral disruptions of grief
Sometimes professionals will label grief as a pathological disorder instead of understanding that grief can be a period of time and not actually depression. Grief exists on a spectrum. On one side, there is bereavement. Bereavement can be one of the most painful experiences that an individual will ever face. It comes with things such as shock, guilt, regret, anxiety, anguish, anger, etc.
On another side of the spectrum grief is not always about pain, as you may experience some positive feelings such as relief, joy, and happiness (please note that it is not bad to feel these things but it’s just another form of grieving.
Tips for Managing Grief in Addiction Recovery
Like stated previously, we should understand that grief is a process and there are many different stages that a person goes through to help them accept the loss and significantly reduce the risk of relapse. These different stages of grieving include:
- Denial: Sometimes we may just try and dismiss the reality of our loss. It can be painful and can be accompanied by feelings of shock, numbness, and disbelief.
- Anger: We may try to blame ourselves, something, or others for this loss or the situation that we are in. We may even feel guilty because of this. It is important to understand that we are not the reason for this loss or situation. Guilt is a powerful feeling that can lead to relapse within our sobriety.
- Bargaining: We may start to use statements such as “What If….?” or “If only I had….,” this can lead us to once again feel guilty. It can also make us relive the past instead of being within the present.
- Depression: Feeling worrisome about reality, work, family, friends, Etc. We start to fill out heartbreak and sadness for the loss that we have encountered. We may even start to feel empty, physical and emotional pain, etc.
- Acceptance – This does not mean that you agree with the death, and this may not even be a sign of happiness, but a time where we can start to accept reality and develop new adaptations to our life. This is when we start to move on. This doesn’t mean you forget your loved one, but it means that you start to accept the loss that you have experienced.
Grief can be a major trigger of a relapse. It is important to try to reduce as much guilt as possible. Going through these different stages within the grieving process may be difficult, but it’s important to realize that this situation is not your fault. Instead of blaming others for the situation, it is important to lean on them and to support one another throughout this grieving process.
We understand that this feeling of loss can be completely overwhelming, so it is important to seek medical help or a counselor when feeling like you may relapse or that life is getting too hard. Finding how your heart can heal is so important and it looks different for everyone (such as crying it out, praying, seeking out support, etc). Relapsing is not a way for your heart to heal, the only thing that relapsing will do is take you back a few steps on your recovery process and it’s not worth it. Seek out a loved one or a professional if you are feeling like you may relapse again to get the help you need.
Let Atlanta Recovery Place Can Help You
Here at Atlanta Recovery Place, we want to help walk our clients through the grieving stages while helping them through the addiction recovery process. We pride ourselves on being able to best support anyone seeking treatment for addiction. Please give us a call today to learn more about our services and how we tackle substance abuse head on!