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Loss and Grief: How to Manage the Fallout in Recovery

A man in recovery struggling with his grief over the loss of a loved one.
Learn how you can manage your grief during addiction recovery today.

“Grief is like the ocean; it comes on waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.”- Vicki Harrison

Experiencing the loss of a loved one can cause waves of grief, pain and sadness you couldn’t have ever prepared for. These emotions can be so heartbreaking and deafening that all you want to do is grab a drink or get high to block out what you’re feeling. Between all that grief, though, is hope and healing.

As mountainous as grief and loss may seem to overcome, addressing your emotions and allowing yourself to feel can help you process. There are also healthy ways to manage your sorrow without resorting to substance abuse.

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The Link Between Grief and Addiction Recovery

Emotionally stressful situations – like losing a loved one – are one of the leading causes of relapse. Part of what makes grief so dangerous for those in recovery is how quickly the stress and anxiety can set in. Every part of a loss, from the shock of the news to the sadness of having to say goodbye and learn to live without them, causes negative thoughts and emotions that can trigger alcohol or drug use.

Another challenge with grief is that it’s not always predictable. One minute you may be going about your day normally, then the next you’re struggling to hold it together because a smell or object reminds you of your loss.

The ups and downs of grief are a stark contrast to the routines you’re encouraged to practice in recovery. Fortunately, you can make grief management part of your daily recovery routine to keep you living a heathy, sober life.

3 Ways to Manage Grief During Addiction Recovery

1. Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the practice of being more in tune with the present moment. This is a particularly important practice for managing grief, as it can help you address any negative or stressful thoughts you have and let them go before they affect your behaviors. If you haven’t already, work guided mindfulness meditations into your daily schedule. This activity can help you process your grief and feel better.

2. Don’t Shut Out Your Feelings

The cascade of emotions you feel from your loss can be difficult to face. In fact, you may want to ignore them all together. However, grief is a normal and necessary part of life that you need to make room for in your mind. Addressing your feelings is your brain’s way of processing what happened so you can heal and move forward. If you struggle to process on your own, have a friend or therapist available when you need them. Verbalizing your feelings can help you manage your grief and lower your risk of relapse.

3. Plan for Your Grief Triggers

Whether it’s an activity, a family meal or a familiar scent, there are a variety of situations that can trigger your feelings of grief. The good news is you can plan for these triggers once you’re aware of them. Start by creating a list of these triggers and share them with your loved ones. Then, determine healthy coping strategies (meditation, exercise, etc.) that can keep you grounded when a trigger strikes. Don’t hesitate to turn to a recovery support group when a wave of grief is particularly challenging to manage.

Find Healing from Your Grief at The Raleigh House

At The Raleigh House, we know how devastating the loss of a loved one can be for your addiction recovery. While grief may convince you that you’re alone, remember that we’re here to help. At our wellness lodge for addiction and mental health treatment just outside of Denver, we use a personalized approach to treatment. You’ll experience and participate in both evidence-based treatments and experiential therapies to help you address your grief and heal.

If you’re struggling with your recovery or have recently relapsed, we can help you get back on track. Contact our admissions team today to get started.

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