Dealing with Death and Grief in Addiction Recovery

4.2 min read|833 words|Categories: Addiction & Substance Use, Grief & Loss, Mental Health|

For someone in recovery, one of the most critical tools needed to prevent relapse is the development of coping strategies. These are practices that decrease stress, help a person manage emotions and decrease the risk of relapse. 

Grief is also an occasion that everyone will need to implement coping strategies. Even those who feel they are mentally strong often suffer following a loss, and will need to utilize tools to manage strong emotions.

Whether you’re facing addiction recovery or grief, you’ll need to use coping skills to get you though. Most importantly, if you’re struggling with both grief and addiction recovery, learning how to handle your feelings will be pivotal to healing.

What is coping?

Everyone has coping strategies, but some of them are negative. In fact, using substances is a common coping strategy. It’s used as a means to self-regulate, although the effects are harmful. The key to a successful recovery is building up strategies that are productive, healthy and can be easily implemented.

How do I learn coping skills?

In treatment, you’ll learn how to build useful habits that promote sobriety. For example, you’ll learn to identify the emotions and physiological experiences that precede cravings. There are always common threads that underlie triggers and urges to use.

You’ll also start to identify and name triggers. These are physical stimuli in the environment or thoughts or feelings you experience that make you feel like using substances. Triggers from your past will surface throughout your recovery, and they may be anything from seeing an old friend you used to use with or a feeling of sadness.

Here are triggers that you may be familiar with, and some you may not have noticed:

  • Seeing drugs or alcohol
  • Visiting a place you once used substances (such as passing a bar or visiting a family member’s house)
  • Experiencing a setback such as a job loss or breakup
  • Mental health issues
  • Dealing with stressful situations
  • Anger
  • Loneliness
  • Worthlessness
  • Boredom

These events and emotions are all potential hazards to relapse. Foremost among them are experiences of death and grief. Even those who feel their coping skills are sturdy are often put to the test when the death of a loved one occurs.

How will coping skills help me in dealing with death and grief in addiction recovery?

If you’re currently facing a loss, it’s important to know that grief is a normal and natural reaction to the death of a loved one. Everyone grieves in his or her own way, but all emotions are valid during this time of transition.

Regardless of how your emotions manifest, finding coping skills that work for you can help you move through the stages of grief at your own pace and come to a new sense of normal that feels respectful to your lost loved one but also prioritizes your own wellbeing.

When you build coping skills that are effective for you, here are all the benefits you can expect:

  • Meaningful and positive memories with your loved one
  • Process the experience of death (especially for accidental or tragic deaths)
  • Find moments of enjoyment during difficult times
  • Maintain supportive relationships
  • Understand and identify emotions
  • Grow in self-awareness
  • Better understand the emotional experiences of those around you
  • Learn to be in control of your emotions

Coping can make the difference in whether distressing events control your emotions, or you do.

What coping skills can I focus on building when I’m facing a loss?

When you’re facing a loss, addiction recovery, or both, there are some skills that will be particularly useful to help avoid emotional and substance use relapse. Here are some recommendations:

  • Breathing exercises
  • Mindfulness
  • Self-talk
  • Exercise
  • Journaling
  • Attending therapy
  • Engage with social support
  • Meditation or prayer
  • Reading
  • Finding hobbies
  • Spending time outside
  • Walking
  • Puzzles or brain teasers
  • Cleaning
  • Cooking
  • Listening to music
  • Self care

While some of these activities may seem trite at first glance, the point is to either distract yourself long enough to bear through an urge, or embrace and confront difficult emotions. Coping strategies may do either, depending on the person. 

The best coping is that which is recommended by a professional who knows you personally. A counselor, therapist or addiction specialist can give you unique advice while you bear through the hard feelings of grief and addiction recovery.

In addition to coping skills, what more can I do to heal from grief and addiction recovery?

While coping skills are an essential part of managing heavy emotions and learning how to be in charge of your feelings, it’s not everything. There are other essential components of long lasting recovery, like therapy, lifestyle changes, medication and social support.

Find the help you need to achieve true healing in the midst of grief or an addiction with Pyramid Online Counseling. Regardless of what life throws at you, you can learn to handle sorrow and find peace. Make intrinsic change that will last for a lifetime, get help now.

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