Facing Loss in Recovery

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crying woman grieving in church with partner

At some point in our lives most of us will suffer the loss of someone or something that we love dearly and will then have to navigate through the pain and grief that follows. Dealing with loss is difficult enough for anyone, but for someone in recovery this can be especially challenging. The flood of emotions can be so overwhelming that the situation may become dangerous and place one at a very high risk for relapse.

An onslaught of emotions such as anger, guilt, anxiety, sadness, and depression are all common during this period. But did you know that grief can also include symptoms that manifest in physical, behavioral, and even cognitive changes? Just knowing and understanding the stages of grief can assist us in coming to terms with the loss, reducing the risk of a potential relapse. According to Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her book On Death and Dying, there are various stages or phases associated with grief.

Denial: This stage is an instinctive form of defense in which we seek to reduce the devastating emotional turmoil of a loss.

Anger: In this stage, we try to find a way to blame someone, anyone, even ourselves as a way of coping. Beware: the feelings of guilt that can occur can be a powerful trigger to many people in recovery during this vulnerable time.

Bargaining: This stage finds many of us asking ourselves “what if” and “if only I had…” Unfortunately, it is thoughts such as these that can keep us struck in the past as we continue to dwell on these questions over and over.

Depression: In this stage, we tend to experience pain, sadness, and feeling lost. This tends to be the bleakest period for many people.

Acceptance: This is considered the last phase of the process, where we begin to move forward and acknowledge the reality that someone is truly gone.

Grief is not an inherently linear process and many people find themselves switching back and forth through the various phases. One important thing to remember while in recovery is that sobriety requires honesty. So, it is imperative that we remain honest with how we are feeling. Recognizing our true feelings helps our grieving and allows us to work through our pain. Talking to others about how special this person was to us, writing a good-bye letter, or even making a simple luminary as a tribute can help us to sit with our feelings. Sharing how we really are with our support systems can also help us process grief.

How much time we need to grieve is different for every individual. We must be patient with ourselves and take the time we need to experience, acknowledge, and accept what we’re feeling. Dealing with loss is a deep and intimate experience that requires us to move through it in healthy ways, which will allow us to make peace with the loss and gain closure.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, Mountainside can help.
Click here or call (888) 833-4676 to speak with one of our addiction treatment experts.