How to Manage Grief During Recovery

Experiencing grief after a loss is normal and everyone processes those feelings differently. However, when you are in recovery, there are a few things you must avoid when grieving – drinking or using drugs – and when you are in crisis, it can be one of the most difficult times in your life to stick to those principles. Here are some tips to help.

Reach out for Support

If you are struggling with staying sober due to grieving, do not delay in reaching out for support. Though your first instinct may be to curl up at home or avoid contact with anyone, fight that instinct and immediately connect with your therapist or another substance misuse treatment professional, preferably one who you have been working with and who knows you. You may benefit by:

  • Talking about how you are feeling and focus on getting help to function in day-to-day life.
  • Sharing about the person you lost or how a tragedy is affecting you.
  • Brainstorming about ways to handle specific issues that are difficult.
  • Just getting out of the house, making it to therapy, and being with someone else for an hour.

It is important to connect with other people regularly and be active in an aftercare program. A sponsor, a friend, a family member – check in from time to time as you begin to process your loss.

Stages of Grief

Though everyone’s experience with grief will vary, there are generally certain emotions, or stages, that people often encounter in the process. These commonly include:

  • Denial: It is natural to first respond to news of a tragedy with denial. “It can’t be that bad. The news must be wrong.” Avoiding discussion of the topic in an attempt to process it more slowly is often one of the first stages of grief.
  • Anger: When it becomes clear that it is impossible to deny the loss, anger is often the next reaction. Why did it happen? Who is to blame? The bearer of the news is often in the line of fire, as are others who are close.
  • Bargaining: Trying to figure a way out, how to fix the situation, or how to prevent it from happening again is normal as people try to regain control over their lives.
  • Depression: Grief and sadness can manifest in a number of different ways. People may worry about how they will go forward in light of the loss and how their lives will change. Internally, they may also struggle with saying goodbye to their loved one.
  • Acceptance: In time, most people will come to accept the passing of their loved one. Though they may never truly “get over it,” they will learn how to live with it. For others, however, this stage does not come easily. It is then that treatment is recommended.

Signs of Prolonged Grief Disorder

Prolonged Grief Disorder can occur when the initial phase of intense grief symptoms does not pass within a few months. For those who continue to live in a state of heightened grief for months on end, it can mean a diagnosis of complicated grief disorder. Signs of complicated grief can include:

  • Inability to focus on anything but the passing of their loved one.
  • Intense persisting pain over the loss.
  • Difficulty accepting that the person is gone.
  • Feelings of numbness, bitterness, hopelessness, irritability, and/or an inability to connect with others.
  • Inability to trust others or to enjoy spending time with others.
  • Talking about suicide or not wanting to live without the person.

Treatment for Co-occurring Disorders

Those who continue to drink and use drugs regularly and heavily in response to a trauma or loss are at risk of accidents under the influence, including accidental overdose as well as the development of a substance use disorder. This can further exacerbate the underlying grief issue, making it necessary to seek treatment for both problems at the same time.

If you are struggling with addiction after the experience of trauma, and looking for rehab near Miami, reach out to Recovery First today to find out how we can help.

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