Dealing with the death of a friend or family member while in recovery can be a traumatic experience. Grappling with grief and loss can trigger cravings for the very substances you’ve been recovering from. In addition to that, grief can greatly impact your mental health, increasing your risk of anxiety and depression. Grief can also make you feel angry and frustrated. If you’re not careful, the combination of overwhelming pain and emotional stress can compel you to use drugs and alcohol as a way to numb your pain. Fortunately, grief and loss counseling can help you process loss in a healthy way and help support your recovery journey.
Even though grief is a natural response to the pain and sadness that accompanies loss, research shows that some forms of grief can trigger substance use and increase the risk of addiction. This happens because people grieving a loss often turn to addictive substances to try to rid themselves of the ongoing pain associated with their bereavement and mourning.
Consider the following statistics:
But self-medication isn’t the only reason people abuse substances while they grieve. Other common reasons include:
Dealing with the overwhelming pain of loss can leave you feeling disoriented and lost, but luckily, grief and loss counseling can help you cope with your pain in a healthy, productive way that supports your recovery and maintains your sobriety.
As the name suggests, grief and loss counseling is a type of therapy designed to help you cope with the loss of a loved one. In addition to helping you develop strategies for coping with your loss, a grief counselor can help support you as you move through the stages of grief.
Grief therapy won’t make you forget about your loss or allow you to bypass the pain of loss, but grief counseling can help you:
Grief and loss counseling benefit the addiction recovery process by helping people effectively deal with difficult emotions without relapsing. Here’s how:
Grieving evokes a wide range of powerful and intense emotions. Those emotions can include sadness, disappointment, frustration, anger, relief, surprise, shame, confusion, and loneliness. In 1969, Swiss-American psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross observed that grief could be divided into 5 distinct stages. Grief can be different for everyone so not everyone experiences all 5 phases and you may not experience them in this particular order. The stages include:
Grief and loss counseling can help you effectively manage all of these emotions, helping you realize that you don’t need drugs or alcohol to cope with challenging life situations.
Most people experience loneliness and isolation after a loss. Unfortunately, these emotions can also trigger cravings for drugs and alcohol. Luckily, your grief counselor can create a safe, non-judgemental space for you to fully express your emotions. Your grief counselor might also invite some of your family members to attend sessions with you and show you various ways to support each other. Knowing that you are not alone can motivate you to find comfort in your support system rather than drugs and alcohol.
Experiencing grief is painful. Recovering from addiction is challenging. Life includes painful moments and challenging situations. Grief counseling can teach you how to cope with difficulty without using drugs or alcohol, which can help you maintain long-term recovery. Instead of suppressing your feelings, grief counseling can teach you how to express and deal with your feelings in a way that can lessen your risk of relapse.
Here at Genesis Recovery, we are proud of our community-oriented program. Grief, of any kind, is painful, but experiencing loss doesn’t have to end in relapse. Our faith-based community can help uplift your spirit in the most trying times. Don’t try to cope with loss on your own.
Contact a member of our team today if you’re in need of a supportive, loving recovery community.