Dealing with Grief in Recovery
Dealing with grief, in general, is difficult and emotional. Dealing with grief in recovery is a particularly trying and even risky period for someone.
Dealing with Grief in Recovery: Grief Defined
When you experience the loss of someone or something that you have an emotional bond with, you will experience grief: the emotional, physical, behavioral and social suffering and distress as a result of that loss.
Loss can refer to many different things. A break up in a relationship, death of a loved one, or even significant and radical life changes such as moving, changing jobs, or even undergoing an operation can trigger a grief response. Lastly, a major health diagnosis, usually one that requires a lifestyle change, can also cause you to experience grief.
That being said, your first experience dealing with grief in recovery was probably giving up your addiction. By realizing that, it should be encouraging; it’s proof that dealing with grief in recovery is totally possible.
Dealing with grief and loss in recovery, although painful, can be one of the most significant experiences when it comes to encouraging personal growth as well as securing a strong foundation for relapse prevention, upon which you can build as you progress in your program as well as draw for strength as a well of personal experience and triumph.
It’s said that, “Pain is the touchstone to all spiritual progress.” Therefore, once you walk through the pain of loss and grief, feeling at times like it will likely kill you but, instead you survive it – and are able to do so without a drink or drug, you then know you can get through anything without having to relapse. And, after all, isn’t that what recovery and sobriety are all about? Learning to cope in healthy ways with life on life’s terms without the need to pick up a drink or drug.
Ways of Dealing with Grief in Recovery
Working a program of recovery, especially one that is based on a 12 step fellowship, means building a spiritual foundation in sobriety. A program like that is specifically designed to lend support, aid with relapse prevention, give relief, and ultimately character growth – all of which will help you when dealing with the intense emotions that accompany grief: feelings such as shock, anger, despair, sadness, depression, loneliness, guilt, remorse, fear and anxiety.
Throughout the stages of grief during recovery, it’s important to lean on your sober support system as much as possible and this includes your sponsor, friends, family, therapist, and whomever else you trust.
Be aware that it’s not only easy but tempting to isolate when you are experiencing grief and remember that this is especially dangerous for recovering alcoholics and addicts. Make sure to continue your practice of prayer and meditation, and maybe even step it up a few notches while you are going through the grieving process. Lastly, remember that our secrets keep us sick so, no matter what you’re feeling or how dark your thoughts, share share share.
Intense and sudden grief in particular can lead to the reemergence of PAWS symptoms as well as those related to Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD or PTSS). Seeking outside help is something which is spoken about in the Big Book – whatever arsenal you can gather in order to secure your footing in sobriety, do it! That said, seeking counseling, therapy, specialized treatment for PTSD, such as EMDR, which accelerates the healing process and helps you to process your grief-related emotions. Again, whatever it takes to help you on your journey to a place of emotional acceptance.
Lastly, it’s important to realize the physical toll that grief can take on you. Being emotionally drained tends to result in neglecting our physical health and needs. This neglect of needs, especially during times of grief only serves to increase our stress as well as make the healing process that much more difficult, which can further compromise recovery and sobriety. Be conscientious of getting plenty of nutritional support, rest, and exercise. These are important to recovery, in general, but especially when dealing with grief in recovery.
Have you been confronted by a loved one about the unhealthy ways you deal with stress, loss, and grief? Do you feel like you simply can’t deal with these without drinking or taking drugs? If so, there is help available. Call us toll-free at 1-800-777-9588 to speak directly with an Addiction Specialist. We are available 24/7 and can any questions you may have. You are not alone. Many people find it increasingly difficult to cope in healthy ways due to the stress of daily life: balancing work, family, and finances, in particular.