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10 Tips For Dealing With Grief During Addiction Recovery

Addiction impacts thousands of individuals and families across the globe; the disease is often devastating and may go undiagnosed in many cases. For individuals suffering from addiction, experiencing grief or trauma from an unexpected loss or trauma can easily trigger an addictive spiral that can pose a danger to themselves as well as their loved ones.

Addiction is defined as a disease where people’s brains crave specific substances or activities that may be detrimental to their health. This can result in serious substance abuse that can create more cravings and bodily reliance on specific substances. People recovering from addiction and grief often suffer from alcohol or drug abuse.

Addiction recovery is a challenging process, as the disease not only impacts the afflicted individual but carries lasting repercussions for their families and friends as well. Suffering a loss during addiction recovery can exacerbate one’s inclination to turn to their addiction. Addiction can destroy families and friendships and these struggles can be easily exacerbated by grief, loss, and trauma. 

What Types Of Grief & Trauma Can Trigger Addictive Episodes?

There are a variety of scenarios that can trigger addictive spirals. These triggers most likely differ depending on each individual. Certain scenarios might seem minimal to some individuals while others may be triggered into an addictive episode due to them.

LOSS OF A LOVED ONE

Some people may relapse into addiction after the loss of a loved one. Unexpected loss can be extremely difficult for individuals to manage and navigate through. The brain deals with loss and grief in very different ways, but people struggling with addiction may struggle even more to deal with their emotions in a healthy way and seek out additional help when needed. 

MILITARY SERVICE OR MILITARY DEPLOYMENT

Addictive episodes may also be triggered by military combat or post-traumatic stress from military service. It is also possible that people who suffer from addiction may struggle with the military deployment of loved ones. Current or past military combat can take immense tolls on the mental health of service members and their families. Due to potential trauma that was experienced during these periods of service, many people with addiction may struggle to manage these emotions and feelings in a healthy and safe manner. 

EXPERIENCING A CRIME

People battling addiction may also face addictive spirals after experiencing trauma such as being the victim of a crime. The mental strife and potential physical impacts of experiencing a crime can heavily impact the mental health of any individual. These emotions of stress, fear, and pain that often accompany experiencing crimes can easily trigger an addictive episode for some individuals. People suffering from addiction may also struggle to report or seek professional help after being the victim of a crime. 

DIAGNOSIS OF AN ILLNESS

Addictive episodes may also be preceded by the diagnosis of a serious illness. It is also possible for these episodes to be triggered if a loved one is diagnosed with a serious illness. It is easy to feel lost or hopeless after hearing such serious and potentially devastating news.

The diagnosis of a serious illness is known to negatively impact the mental health of both the patient and their loved ones. The patient may feel as though they are powerless and begin to feel exhausted by the overwhelming prospect of mental, physical, and financial distress that may accompany the illness. 

What Are The Different Stages Of Grief?

There are five main stages of grief that are commonly described when trying to navigate the loss of a loved one. These five stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Loss is different for every human being, and the impacts of grief can be felt for long periods of time after the loss of a loved one. The impacts of grief can be especially challenging for recovering addicts or those struggling with addiction. Unfortunately, grief and substance abuse often go hand-in-hand with one another, as everyone has strategies to cope with grief. Substance abuse and grieving can be difficult things for people to come to terms with, so mitigating their impact can be a challenge. 

Grief impacts each person differently, but these unexpected emotions can take extreme tolls on those recovering from addiction. The mourning and grieving process look different for every human being and the five stages of grief as outlined in this article and other literature are just basic guidelines that explain the complexity of the process. The stages illustrate that grief is an extremely deep and complex emotion that has countless layers to it. When struggling with addiction, any step of the grieving process may lead to a triggering of old addictive tendencies and substance abuse. 

DENIAL

Denial is the process in which a person refuses to accept that they have lost a loved one. This is most often a shock response in relation to receiving tragic news. This is especially prevalent in instances where the loss of a loved one is unexpected. In these scenarios, there is no time to mentally prepare for the loss of a loved one. Because of this unexpected nature, it is common for family and friends to deny the loss initially. 


ANGER

Anger is classified as the second stage of grief. Once the stage of denial has passed, it is common for family and friends to feel anger at the loss of a loved one. Depending on the nature of the loss, the anger may be directed at a variety of sources. However, the root of the anger stays the same.

This feeling illustrates the anger that family and friends feel regarding the loss of a loved one. This may manifest in anger at the world, anger at religion, or possibly anger at those that were potentially involved in the death of the loved one. Anger itself is a very strong and sometimes harsh emotion. However, it is important to remember that it is normal to feel anger after losing a loved one. 


BARGAINING

Bargaining is the third stage of grief.  This is the stage of grief where people begin to question the role that they may have played throughout the loss process. During the bargaining period, it is common for people to feel guilty about failing to carry out actions they believe may have prevented the loss or reduced suffering. These are usually irrational beliefs that are founded on the sadness of the loss.

It is sometimes easier to try to blame ourselves for tragedy than accept that loss is out of our control. The bargaining stage may also involve religion if family and friends make pleas to save their loved one or manage the loss they are experiencing. 


DEPRESSION

The fourth stage of grief is depression. This is often the most well-known stage in the grieving process. This stage is extremely challenging as the true weight of the loss usually settles in for the bereaved. This stage is where extreme sadness and pain are most common and serious.

Family and friends usually understand at this point that the loss is final and their loved one is no longer coming back. This realization leads to feelings of despair and loneliness. These feelings can lead people to lose interest in the outside world. This emotion can be extremely challenging to overcome and live with. 


ACCEPTANCE

The fifth and final stage of grief is acceptance. This is the stage of grief in which the family and friends of the loved one truly recognize and acknowledge the loss of the loved one. They begin to accept that their loved one is gone. It is important to note, however, that this stage does not imply that all sadness and depression from the loss is gone. The loss of a loved one is a pain that stays with you for life.

Acceptance does not mean that the pain associated with the loss is gone completely. This acceptance can allow you to live your daily life without soul-crushing pain, but there will always be some sadness when it comes to the loss of a loved one in your life. 


The impacts of grief are serious and long-lasting. The complexity of the emotion can leave many people feeling overwhelmed and lost. However, in order to manage grief in a way that can lead to healing and acceptance, it is important to acknowledge its various stages.

There is no easy way to manage grief, however, accepting the emotions as they come and understanding that the healing process is different for each person can allow you to make progress toward living after the loss of a loved one or the death of a friend. However, learning to accept these emotions and manage feelings of loss and sadness can be very challenging for recovering addicts. To escape these feelings of loss, they may resort to carrying out their old addictive tendencies. 

The Possible Effects Of Grief On People Recovering From Addiction

As mentioned above, grief is an extremely complex emotion that people must experience in order to heal from the loss of a loved one. While the grieving process is painful and may seem daunting and long, the emotions that are experienced during this time are important if people are to carry on with their lives. The loss of a loved one can leave people feeling hopeless and adrift, and these emotions can fade with time as the grieving period progresses. Recovering from a loss in addition to recovering from addiction can be tremendously challenging. However, people suffering from addiction may get lost in those hopeless and overwhelming emotions after the initial loss and turn to substance abuse in order to numb the pain they feel. 

Grief is not a quick or simple emotion, and the complexity of those feelings can mean that people continue to feel the sadness and loss of a loved one forever. However, the feelings of hopelessness fade with time as people learn to accept the loss. However, it can be easy to forget the process and get swept up in the hopeless fear and sadness that accompanies loss. Forgetting that time heals the wounds left by the loss of a loved one can hinder one’s ability to heal from that pain, and this may trigger an addictive episode. 

POSSIBLE RELAPSES FOLLOWING AN UNEXPECTED LOSS

A recovering addict may suffer from an addiction relapse after the loss of a loved one. Losing an important person may make recovering addicts feel as though they are all alone and have no one to support them anymore. These emotions can make recovering addicts feel hopeless and sad. The emotions that accompany grief can be very overwhelming and some individuals may rely on the abuse of substances to manage or numb those emotions.

If some recovering addicts wish to avoid relapsing with their previous addictive substance, they may turn to other negative behaviors or substances in order to try to cope without completely relapsing. However, this can be extremely dangerous as they may develop a new addiction to a different behavior or substance that may also be dangerous to themselves or those around them.

AVOIDING FAMILY & FRIENDS

People that are suffering from addiction and facing a possible relapse may begin to avoid their family, friends, and support groups. The feelings that accompany grief can derail the progress that a recovering addict may have been making in terms of managing their addiction. The feeling of losing that control can lead to negative self-perception for that individual.

Fearing the potential disappointment and worry from their family and friends, these individuals may begin to withdraw from their closest groups while they are struggling with a relapse.  This behavior can be extremely dangerous for the individual struggling with addiction, and it is always important to watch and see if someone may be withdrawing emotionally and physically from their family, friends, and support groups. 

EXPERIENCING SEVERE MOOD SWINGS

A person struggling with a potential addiction relapse may also experience and showcase some extreme mood swings when they are dealing with grief after the loss of a loved one. The countless emotions that accompany the loss of a loved one can be overwhelming and disconcerting for any individual experiencing loss. However, these emotions can be extremely difficult for recovering addicts to process and deal within a safe way.

The overwhelming nature of loss and grief can lead some recovering addicts to experience severe mood swings. These may look different for each person, however, noticing extreme shifts in behavior and mood might signal that a person is struggling with a potential relapse. 

STRUGGLING TO TAKE CARE OF THEMSELVES

A person recovering from addiction and experiencing the loss of a loved one might also struggle to properly take care of themselves. In these instances, the grief from losing someone close may impact their ability to focus on hygiene and self-care. In these instances, their minds may be solely focusing on the hopelessness, fear, and sadness that come with an unexpected loss.

People recovering from addiction may struggle to eat properly or cook for themselves. Struggling to get the proper nutrition can have detrimental effects on any person, especially those who are recovering from addiction. They might also struggle to get enough sleep to manage their emotions in a healthy and safe way. The feelings of loss and sadness may prevent them from falling asleep which can have negative impacts on their mental health and overall safety.

Those struggling with both loss and addiction may also find it difficult to pay close attention to their personal hygiene. It may be challenging for them to bathe, and brush their hair, or teeth. These are all activities that can heavily impact your mental health and self-image but may become increasingly difficult to carry out after experiencing a loss. 

10 Tips For Dealing With Grief During Addiction Recovery

While the prospect of working through grief or trauma may be terrifying and overwhelming for many recovering addicts, there are a variety of ways to deal with these emotions and scenarios in a healthy and safe way. Acknowledging their emotions and not isolating themselves from their family and friends are both extremely important when managing grief and pain in a healthy way. People who are recovering from addiction should remember that they are not alone and having thoughts of relapsing does not mean that they are bad people or failures.

Dealing with a loss during addiction recovery can be particularly challenging, but it is important to find solace in others during this time. A loss during addiction recovery could trigger a relapse for someone as a relapsing addict may use their addiction to mitigate the pain they feel from their loss. For some, addiction recovery may be an uncomfortable process, and they may look for ways of coping with addiction recovery. Addiction is a lifelong disease that poses a daily struggle for many. With its perpetual nature, it is very normal to experience high and low points and working through addiction with a valuable support system is a sign of strength, not weakness. 

TIP 1: SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP

After an unexpected loss or traumatic experience, those recovering from addiction should make sure to seek out professional help if possible. Grief and trauma are very complex emotions that can easily overwhelm people with feelings of hopelessness and loss. It can be easy to get swept away by these potent emotions and lose sight of healthy coping mechanisms.

Coping with an addiction is no easy task, and these challenging events may push some people to relapse into their old addictive habits that could be dangerous for themselves and those around them. To minimize this threat, seeking professional help from therapists can offer valuable support to individuals suffering from addiction. 

TIP 2: MAINTAIN A HEALTHY BODY & MIND

Another important way to manage grief and trauma while struggling with addiction is to maintain a healthy body and mind. Remember not to lose sight of caring for yourself during recovery. Exercising and practicing healthy mental activities can help people manage the emotions they experience after the loss of a loved one.

It may be difficult for some to motivate themselves to move their body or practice mental exercises such as meditation. In these instances, it can be helpful to enlist friends and family to act as accountability partners. Finding a group of people that can help motivate you to exercise and practice healthy coping mechanisms can assist in the healing process. These activities can also help to minimize the temptation of relapsing for many people recovering from addiction.

The practice of exercising does not need to be extremely intense. Just focusing on getting up and moving your body for a little bit each day is a wonderful way to manage the challenging emotions brought up by grief and loss. People experiencing loss or trauma while recovering from addiction can enlist their friends and family to go on walks with them or meditate together. These moments can help these individuals feel less alone. 

TIP 3: FULLY EXPERIENCE YOUR EMOTIONS; DO NOT NUMB THE PAIN

Recovering addicts might also feel the desire to numb their pain or disconnect from the emotions they are experiencing after loss or trauma. This behavior is quite normal; however, it can be extremely damaging for those individuals. Numbing or minimizing their emotions can halt the healing process.

The pain of losing someone or experiencing a traumatic event can lead people to seek to numb that pain through the abuse of substances such as drugs or alcohol. In these instances, while it may be hard, people recovering from addiction should fully experience the emotions that come with loss or trauma. By allowing themselves to feel that pain, they will be able to work towards a healthy form of healing. 

TIP 4: ANTICIPATE POTENTIAL TRIGGERS FOR ADDICTIVE EPISODES

Another way to deal with grief while suffering from addiction is to anticipate potential scenarios or events that might trigger an addictive episode. Developing an awareness of potential triggers can help people recovering from addiction avoid relapses. If you can anticipate a particular trigger, it can be easier to develop strategies that can minimize its impacts.

In some instances asking for the company from family or friends can serve as a healthy way to minimize and manage potential triggers. Preventing potential spirals is a key part of recovering from addiction. 

TIP 5: DON'T BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP

It is extremely important to remember that asking for help is never a sign of weakness. When it comes to addiction recovery, asking for help can truly save lives. There may be times when the pressure and challenging emotions may seem like they are too much. In these moments of pain, asking for help is so useful in preventing a potential relapse.

It can be difficult to ask for help when one is struggling, however, there are a plethora of trained individuals and loved ones that would be happy to help people struggling with addiction recovery. Experiencing loss and the grief that accompanies it can be one of the most difficult experiences in the world.

Finding the strength to ask for help when one is struggling is such a powerful tool in battling addiction. For those who know of a recovering addict, ensure that you are supportive of them by helping an addict during grief.   

TIP 6: USE A JEWELRY KEEPSAKE TO COMMEMORATE A LOST LOVED ONE

Sometimes the fear of forgetting a loved one or moving on after their passing can trigger some individuals into a downward spiral. These spirals can be extremely dangerous for those recovering from addiction. In order to prevent these spirals from occurring, it can be helpful to find a way to memorialize the loved one that was lost.

Jewelry Keepsakes offers a variety of jewelry pieces that can help an individual always remember their loved one. If you need help selecting the perfect piece of keepsake jewelry, the site has very helpful educational articles pertaining to this topic. 

Photo Jewelry or Other Photo Engraved Items 

Purchasing a photo pendant inlaid with the image of a loved one that passed away can serve as a perfect memorial keepsake. The ability to keep this photo necklace close can allow grieving individuals to feel connected with their loved ones. This jewelry for remembrance can help recovering addicts that are working through a loss. There are a variety of metal finishes to choose from and the customization options enable wearers to pick unique styles of the perfect jewelry for support.  

Jewelry Keepsakes also crafts beautiful color photo jewelry, photo-engraved money clips, and photo-engraved wallet cards. These items are the perfect gift for those that might not be interested in wearing a piece of jewelry for memories. These jewelry pieces still allow an individual to carry jewelry for memories of their loved one with them at all times. Photo jewelry that holds ashes and photo jewelry that holds cremains are some final ideas that are terrific options for those dealing with grief over the loss of a loved one.

Thumbprint Jewelry 

Thumbprint Jewelry is a tangible way to keep the memory of a loved one after their passing. Running your fingers along the ridges of a thumbprint keepsake such as a thumbprint ring will help you to feel connected to your loved one forever. If thumbprint jewelry is not your style, Jewelry Keepsakes also offers thumbprint coins. If you need help selecting one of these unique jewelry pieces, the Jewelry Keepsakes website offers additional information.

Jewelry Made from Ashes

Having cremation keepsakes can help anyone dealing with a loss cope with their emotions. Whether it be cremation necklaces, cremation rings, cremation keychains, or cremation bracelets, Jewelry Keepsakes offer cremation jewelry for anyone struggling with the loss of a loved one. Rings made with cremations are a subtle way to carry the memory of your loved one, as these rings made with ashes are not flashy. If you would like to learn more about cremation jewelry, helpful articles can be found here.

Creating jewelry for ashes to keep your loved ones near and dear, this jewelry for cremains provides special ways to cope with a loss. Jewelry made from cremains will help you to feel like your loved one is constantly with you despite their passing. Obtaining jewelry to hold memories will not take away the pain from a loss, but it will help individuals to cope. 

Memorial Coin 

For some people, jewelry simply isn’t their style, but they may still want a cremation keepsake of some sort to help them cope with the loss of a loved one. Photo engraved coins or memorial coins may be a terrific option for such people, as these items are subtle yet special.

TIP 7: SURROUND YOURSELF WITH FAMILY & FRIENDS

When dealing with grief after losing a loved one, recovering addicts should remember to surround themselves with family and friends. The loss of a loved one can feel very isolating which may cause some people to relapse.

In order to prevent these dangerous coping tendencies, keeping busy with family and friends can prevent these emotions and feelings. Spending time with family and friends can allow people to remember that they are loved and supported. These emotions may help them healthily cope with the loss. 

TIP 8: FIND A NEW HOBBY

Loss and grief can be debilitating at times. These feelings may cause people to lose all interest in their previous hobbies and activities. This lack of interest can be alarming to some and may trigger negative spirals. To prevent this, it may be helpful to pick up a new hobby.

It is common for interests to change after loss and finding a new hobby can help recovering addicts manage their emotions in a healthy way. It can also be healing to find someone to participate in new hobbies and activities with. These shared experiences can distract an individual from the addictions they struggle with. 

TIP 9: GET OUT IN NATURE

Nature is known to have healing properties that can improve your mental and physical health. After a loss, it can be extremely beneficial to get out into nature and breathe some fresh air. Taking a walk or a hike can help people to cope with loss as they can enjoy the scenery and wildlife. Nature has a calming effect on many and these relaxing emotions can help people who are recovering from addiction. 

TIP 10: JOIN A THERAPY GROUP

Joining a group that focuses on recovering from addiction can really help individuals manage their addictive tendencies. Groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous can help recovering addicts feel less alone. These settings can help show people that they are not alone in their struggles. This can help negate feelings of hopelessness and loneliness.

Understanding that others are facing similar struggles can help motivate people to keep striving toward healthier habits that can offer safer coping mechanisms. These groups can help people navigate their emotions and deal with grief in a safe way. 

How To Help A Recovering Addict With Grief Or Trauma

If you know someone recovering from addiction that is dealing with grief or trauma, there are a variety of ways in which you can offer them support. Addiction is a lifelong battle and providing those recovering from addiction with love and support is a key part of the healing process. 

CHECK IN ON THEM

If you know someone who is dealing with addiction and grief simultaneously, make sure to check in on them regularly. Individuals recovering from addiction may feel very alone or isolated while they are dealing with grief or trauma. It is important for those in their lives to regularly check in with them. This behavior can help show these individuals that they are not alone. This simple action can help prevent addictive relapses that may prove to be quite dangerous. 

ENCOURAGE HEALTHY HABITS

When offering support to a person that struggles with addiction while they are experiencing grief, it is very important to encourage healthy habits. After going through a loss, it can be easy for some people to slip back into their old habits. These addictive habits can have lasting negative impacts on those individuals and those close to them. Posing as a positive role model utilizing healthy coping mechanisms can help those dealing with addiction. If they are able to see that there are a variety of healthy ways to manage their emotions, this may prevent them from relapsing. 

DO NOT JUDGE THEM

If you know someone that struggles with addiction and is also dealing with grief or trauma, make sure not to judge them. These times are extremely challenging And offering judgment instead of support can be damaging to their ability to navigate these issues. Therefore, it is important to offer support and showcase positive behaviors that may help them adjust their own actions in order to deal with their emotions in a healthier manner.

Judging their actions and behaviors can lead to feelings of resentment and may form a barrier within the relationship. Judgment rarely works as a means to motivate an individual to choose healthier coping mechanisms. Instead, judgment may lead these individuals to relapse and take up their old addictive habits. Times of loss and trauma are already quite difficult and judgmental behaviors can just make these times even more challenging. 

BE PATIENT

Remember to be patient with people recovering from addiction while navigating loss and grief. Recovering from addiction alone is a very tiring and difficult task. Experiencing grief and trauma can make the journey even more challenging. It is so important during these difficult times to be patient with those suffering. Patience and support can help these individuals choose healthy and safe coping habits that will not steer them in the direction of addiction. 

EDUCATE YOURSELF ON ADDICTION & RECOVERY

It is very useful to educate yourself on the disease of addiction and the road to recovery when wanting to support someone that has suffered from addiction. It is a common misconception that addiction is a simple choice that one may partake in, however, few realize it is an actual disease that heavily impacts the brain and decision-making abilities. By educating yourself on the topic of addiction and recovery, you are better able to offer support to those that are suffering from addiction.

Communicating your support and understanding to those suffering from addiction and grief can help them to feel less isolated and depressed during these moments of loss. Feelings of isolation can be a large struggle for those dealing with grief and addiction and offering insight and support can help minimize those emotions. 

SET HEALTHY BOUNDARIES

Whenever working with people that are recovering from addiction, it is immensely important to set up healthy boundaries. It is important that the individual recovering does not develop an unhealthy codependence with you during the grieving process. It is also important to avoid enabling those that are recovering from addiction. It is great to offer support and assistance, however, setting firm and healthy boundaries is also an important part of a healthy recovery for those dealing with addiction and grief. 

Communicating your support and understanding to those suffering from addiction and grief can help them to feel less isolated and depressed during these moments of loss. Feelings of isolation can be a large struggle for those dealing with grief and addiction and offering insight and support can help minimize those emotions. 

Grief During Addiction Recovery Frequently Asked Questions

What are some habits that indicate an addictive personality?

A couple of examples of addictive habits include excessive alcohol or drug intake or difficulty relinquishing a habit.

Where can I seek help for an addiction?

Confide in close family or friends that can offer you a support system and seek help from a therapist or other professional if needed. 

How can I cope with grief while also recovering from an addiction?

Experiencing grief while you are going through addiction recovery can be overwhelming, but sharing your feelings instead of keeping them bottled up is among the best ways to deal with grief during addiction recovery. 

How can I sustain the memory of my loved ones?

Jewelry Keepsakes has an assortment of excellent, meaningful jewelry pieces that will help you keep your loved ones near and dear. 

How can I prevent myself from developing an addiction to drugs or alcohol? 

Educating yourself on the drawbacks of such addictions is among the best things that you can do for yourself. Surrounding yourself with supportive friends and family that will be positive influences is also a helpful tidbit. 

Keeping Focused On The Path To Recovery During Times Of Grief

Addiction is a disease that affects many individuals and their loved ones. Addiction can be extremely debilitating, and ending the addiction cycle can be a challenge. Coping with a loss can trigger recovering addicts to spiral downward and revert back to old habits in order to cope or numb themselves from the pain. However, there are a variety of ways to healthily manage grief and loss whilst avoiding relapsing into addiction.

There are also a plethora of ways in which families and friends can offer support to those in their lives that may be struggling with both grief and addiction. While recovering from addiction is a long and tiring process, developing proper coping strategies and seeking professional help can make the process easier and less isolated. The loss of a loved one can be a devastating process, however, wearing a memorial necklace or coin necklace with the picture or fingerprint of a loved one can help the wearer feel less alone.

January 11, 2023 by Jeri K. Augustus

Works Cited

Patterson, J. (2020, January 13). Cremation process guide 2022: What you need to know. Cremation Institute. Retrieved November 24, 2022, from https://cremationinstitute.com/cremation-process/